I first began to be aware of the growing crisis facing our oceans as an undergraduate student in Canada. At the time, alarming signs were appearing that warned of the considerable impacts humans were having on our seas: the FAO had just released its first report on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture, showing that many major fish stocks and fishing areas were overexploited; the centuries-old Atlantic cod fishery had just collapsed, providing a stark example of the consequences of overfishing; and scientists were revealing significant large-scale, historical changes in marine ecosystems, ranging from collapsing coastal ecosystems to the disappearance of formerly widespread species.
It was clear what a tremendous challenge lay ahead, if we were to tackle the extensive effects of human pressure on marine ecosystems, and this challenge has driven me throughout my scientific career. My work has covered a broad range of issues, including exploitation and trade of threatened fish species; population dynamics of exploited fishes; threats to the world’s coral reefs and the vulnerability of countries that depend upon them; and the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, on North Sea fish distributions, and on fishing-dependent countries. After 15 years of studying and documenting problems such as these, I joined Oceana – where I now have the rewarding opportunity to translate science into policy action for threatened marine species. In the face of large-scale threats such as overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change, such changes in policy are critical for safeguarding the future of our oceans.