The OceanTuneIn Postdoctoral Project

To what extent have human activities altered biodiversity on the high seas?  

Can we use oceanic tunas, sharks and billfishes as sentinels of ocean health to track biodiversity change in the high seas?  

To what extent are tuna Regional Fisheries Organization (RFMOs) including ecosystem considerations into the management and conservation of tuna and tuna like-species and associated ecosystem?

In the OceanTuneIn postdoctoral project, I aim to tackle these questions using ecological theory, a wide range of quantitative tools such as meta-analysis and comparative methods, and through the synthesis of large scale data sets. 

This project is funded by the EU Marie Curie Actions (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IOF).

Main objectives

At a glance, in the OceanTuneIn project I seek to develop indicators for measuring biodiversity change in oceanic marine ecosystems using oceanic tunas, sharks and billfishes as sentinels of ocean health. I also aim to develop management guidelines of how to effectively use ecosystem indicators to assist in management decision-making using two tuna RFMOs (ICCAT and IOTC) as case studies. Last, I am working on a review to evaluate the performance of tuna regional fisheries management organizations in applying ecosystem-based fisheries management.

The Red List Index for oceanic tunas, sharks and billfishes

What is the state of marine biodiversity in the high seas? 

There is an urgent need to develop ecological state indicators to measure marine biodiversity change to support international treaties on biodiversity protection and fisheries governance, especially for the high seas. Oceanic fish species provide a unique opportunity for development of ecological indicators for a number of reasons: (1) sustain important commercial fishes worldwide and have a great wealth of data and knowledge, (2) widely distributed across the world’s oceans and large movement and large movement abilities, and (3) play an important role as apex and mesopredators in oceanic food webs. 

I am developing an ecological indicator to track oceanic biodiversity change using the IUCN Red List Index (RLI) and using oceanic tunas, sharks and billfishes as sentinels of ecosystem health. 

Some updates and activities:

May 2016 – Presented a case study for the Red List Index for highly migratory fish species for the Pacific Ocean at the International World Fisheries Congress, Busan, 

South Korea (Poster.pdf).

September 2016 – Presented the Pacific Red List Index for highly migratory fish species at the IUCN World Fisheries Congress, 

Hawaii United States 

(YouTube link: https://youtu.be/9iLq3Z83rqE)

Progress of tuna RFMOs in applying ecosystem-based fisheries management

To what extent are tuna RFMOs including ecosystem considerations into the management and conservation of tuna and tuna like-species and associated ecosystems? 

I am evaluating the progress of tuna RFMOs in implementing the ecological component of EBFM. I aim to establish a baseline of progress in implementing the ecological component of EBFM. We also seek to identify research activities and on-going examples of good practices that are currently facilitating the implementation of EBFM that ideally could be transferred and shared across RFMOs. At the same time, I aim to identify what are the main gaps and elements that are hindering progress and provide recommendations that ideally could speed up the implementation of EBFM. At the end, I hope to create discussion across the tuna RFMOs to inform the development of operational EBFM plans.

Some updates and activities:

During 2015-2016, I presented several versions of this work at the Working Groups on ecosystem and bycatch issues in two tuna RFMOs (ICCAT and IOTC). 

September 2016 – Last version presented at 12th Session of the IOTC Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch, Victoria, Seychelles (tEBFM_review IOTC.pdf).

December 2016 – I am excited to participate at Joint Meeting of tuna RFMOs on the Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management to be held in FAO Headquarters in Rome.

Develop management guidance and assistance to link ecosystem research to management decisions

Do we need a stronger link between the ever-expanding ecosystem research and fisheries management?

How can we increase the visibility and utility of important ecosystem data and research? 

Do we need better communication channels to communicate ecosystem science to fisheries managers and policy makers?

I am interested in testing and developing new approaches to link ecosystem research with fisheries management advice. I am planning to develop management guidance in the performance and interpretation of a selected set of ecological indicators to aid decision- makers and policy makers in their potential use. This will include the exploration of different statistical methods (e.g. multidimensional multivariate analysis) and visualization methods (e.g. ecosystem report cards) to integrate multiple sources of information across multiple indicators into a smaller number of grades to characterize the state of the different components of the ecosystem in question. Currently, I am working closely with the Working Groups on ecosystem and bycatch issues in ICCAT and IOTC to develop indicator-based ecosystem report card with the aim of testing this tool for linking ecosystem science to fisheries management and communicating the importance of ecosystem research to fisheries managers. 

Some updates and activities:

November 2016 – A potential template of an indicator-based ecosystem report card will be presented at the 19th Scientific Committee of IOTC to initiate the process towards its full 

development and use and start a dialogue between scientists and the Commission.July 2017 – An indicator-based ecosystem report card and selected list of ecosystem indicators will be presented and discussed at the ICCAT Working Group on Ecosystems and Bycatch.