The world is facing an alarming conflict in
natural resource management: continuously increasing demand
and declining supplies.
The situation is especially acute in the area of marine fisheries,
where two-thirds of the world’s fisheries are heavily overfished
or entirely depleted. Within the United States, 96 commercially
important species have been declared overexploited and a majority
of Hawai‘i’s coastal fisheries are depleted.
Traditional methods of restoring fisheries — limiting the
catch, size, or season when you can catch them — are not
enough to restore these threatened fisheries to health. Natural
recovery can take 50 to 100 years for a depleted fishery to return
to sustainable levels — and that simply is not fast enough.
But speed is not the only issue. The challenge for marine scientists,
fishery managers, and aquaculturists is to respond to this growing
demand for fisheries and aquaculture products in a manner that
sustains our natural resources. And that is where the Fisheries
and Environmental Sciences Department of OI fit.
Unlike in the other departments at Oceanic Institute, our s
is devoted not to aquaculture, but to fisheries ecology research.
Our goal is to foster the responsible use, preservation, and
restoration of living marine resources. By understanding more
about fish — how well they survive, how fast they grow,
how fast they move to other locations, and how quickly they mature — researchers
like the ones in our department can ascertain how to protect
and preserve fish in the wild.
OI has the facilities and environment for conducting large-scale
experiments with fish bred in captivity. But breeding fish in
captivity is only one part of the equation; successfully returning
them to the wild is another. My fellow scientists and I work
to ensure the healthy fish they are releasing will survive and
their habitat will be safeguarded. This two-pronged research
seeks to uncover the dynamics of the fishery and evaluate the
effectiveness of stock enhancement technology for restoring it.
As challenged as we are by intense local harvest and habitat
loss, our team knows that stock enhancement can act only as a
component of an integrated management strategy that also includes
the licensing of fishermen, improved data collection, enforcement
of existing fisheries regulations or changes to these regulations,
and the establishment of marine protected areas.
Investigations on several fronts comprise the multi-dimensional
work being done each day by our eight scientists who make up
OI’s Fisheries and Environmental Science Department and
account for the innovative approaches to environmental management
for which we are widely known.