April 26, 2011

University of Washington Professor Tim Essington Awarded 2011 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation

Project to Evaluate Ecological and Economic Trade-offs of Fisheries

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Timothy Essington, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, has been awarded a 2011 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. His project will compare the economic value of fisheries that target small, schooling ocean fish and squid to the ecological and economic tradeoffs of removing these important prey species from the food web.

"Our oceans will give us the greatest economic return if we keep their valuable components in place," said Dr. Essington. "The Pew Marine Fellowship will be used to research ways to quantitatively assess the trade-offs presented when we harvest these animals instead of keeping them in the ocean to feed large fish, marine mammals and seabirds."

The Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation is a prestigious program that gives recipients U.S. $150,000 for a three-year scientific research or conservation project designed to address critical challenges facing our oceans. Dr. Essington will work with an economist to develop models for considering both economic and biological data for small, schooling fish and squids that play a central role in the food web as prey for larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals. He will then use these models to assess the ecological and economic impacts of existing fisheries that target these species. The goal of the project will be to create new quantitative methods for evaluating the trade-offs of fishing for smaller fish that managers can apply across comparable fisheries.

Small fish are used by people largely as ingredients for animal feed. Currently, small schooling fish account for nearly 30 percent of ocean catch that gets landed on docks, while squid make up around 40 percent of landings. However, there is a growing movement toward a more holistic or "ecosystem-based" approach to fisheries management, which emphasizes the fundamental role that small fish and squid play in the food web. This approach suggests that small fish and squid should be managed less for direct human use and more for the use of the ecosystem, including their supporting role as prey for larger, more valuable fish. Dr. Essington's research will develop quantitative methods to identify, measure and resolve the ecological and economics trade-offs in fisheries.

"More sustainable management of our oceans means greater long-term economic opportunities for those who earn their living from the sea," said Joshua S. Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. "Dr. Essington's project will allow fishery managers to make better decisions that benefit fishing and other ocean uses such as wildlife viewing and conservation."

Dr. Essington earned his doctorate in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on how human activities affect ocean food webs in various ocean ecosystems and finding ways to minimize these effects. He is also a principal scientist with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, which seeks to better understand the impacts of climate change on regional fisheries and their surrounding ecosystems. He has served on multiple boards, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Board Ecosystem Science and Management Working Group and the Scientific Steering Committee for a joint U.S. National Science Foundation and NOAA research program.

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has awarded 119 fellowships to individuals from 30 countries. The Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation fund science and other projects that address critical challenges in the conservation of the ocean, including communication of project information to increase awareness of global marine issues. Through a rigorous nomination and review process, an international committee of marine specialists selects Pew Fellows based on the strengths of their proposed projects, including their potential to protect ocean environments. Unique and timely projects led by outstanding professionals in their fields are chosen annually, targeting individuals who are mid-career. The program is managed by the Pew Environment Group, based in Washington, D.C.

More information about each of the 2011 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation, including photographs and a video about the recipients, is available at www.pewmarinefellows.org.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands and promote clean energy. www.PewEnvironment.org

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SOURCE Pew Environment Group