Rashid Sumaila, PhD, and Daniel Pauly, PhD, both of the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, have been named 50th laureates of the Tyler Prize, an international award that recognizes individuals who have made inspiring and notable contributions to the environmental science, health and energy domains.
The award, established in 1973, urges key environmental concerns to the forefront by recognizing those whose work and passions are devoted to areas of environmental need.
Sumaila is the Canadian Research Chair (CRC) in Interdisciplinary Ocean and Fisheries Economics. His research specializes in bioeconomics, marine ecosystem valuation and global analyses of fisheries. Sumaila is a figurehead in marine research, with various publications in worldwide environmental journals.
Both scientists have been recognized for their ongoing research and policy work to ban overfishing, an increasing environmental concern that threatens ocean health, food security and global warming.
“[We] must move faster. Overfishing increases global emergencies such as climate change, biodiversity loss and food insecurity – particularly for already vulnerable communities, such as Indigenous Peoples and populations in the Global South,” Sumaila says in a Tyler Prize interview.
Fish are an integral part of the world’s oceans, which in turn produces 50 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen. This year, the Tyler Prize honours the work of two scientists protecting the ‘lungs of the planet.’
Both Laureates, long-time colleagues at UBC, stated their intention to use their Tyler Prize to spread an urgent and evidence-based message: all fishing on the high seas should be banned.
“Creating no-take marine reserves is something we must do. Banning fishing in the high seas, which is the area outside the 200-nautical-mile zones of maritime countries, will create a critically-needed ‘fish bank’ for the world,” says Sumaila.
“If we don’t stop overfishing, we will lose marine stocks essential for food security and biodiversity, and the ocean’s ability to effectively regulate global temperatures,” added Pauly.
Pauly is the founder and principal investigator of the UBC research initiative Sea Around Us and notes that the carbon value of the fish in the high seas is 10 times the value of fish taken each year and sold for human consumption.
“A high seas fishing ban is one of the most effective ways to reverse the damage inflicted on the ocean through decades of unsustainable overfishing, mostly at the hands of wealthy Western countries,” says Pauly.
Sumaila added that support for a high seas fishing ban continues to grow – and that the closing of Antarctica’s Ross Sea in 2016, which created the world’s largest marine protected area – serves as a valuable model.
“More than 190 countries committed to the 30×30 agreement at the Convention of Biodiversity Conference of the Parties (COP15) in December  to protect 30 per cent of their land and waters by 2030, so there are good signs of progress,” he says.
But Sumalia also underlines the urgency in taking action.
“Banning fishing on the high seas – it’s good for biodiversity, it’s good economically, it’s good for global food security,” he says.
For more information visit: www.tylerprize.org/laureates