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UC System Researchers Gather for Food From the Sea Summit

Attendees of the all-day summit at UCSB share research and voice strong support for a multi-campus collaboration

Christopher Costello, a UCSB professor of resource economics, speaks during Wednesday’s Food From the Sea Summit, where researchers across the UC System gathered to discuss ways to increase fishery productivity and more.
Christopher Costello, a UCSB professor of resource economics, speaks during Wednesday’s Food From the Sea Summit, where researchers across the UC System gathered to discuss ways to increase fishery productivity and more. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Just how many fish are in the sea, and what percentage people can eat, was the subject of an academic summit hosted Wednesday at UC Santa Barbara.

The all-day Food From the Sea Summit at the Marine Science Institute focused less on the actual numbers and more on the role of fisheries and aquaculture in global food systems.

Researchers from across the UC System added to the discussion by sharing existing research, aiming to develop a multi-campus research collaboration focused on food from the sea.

Because research is made more difficult due to missing information about fish yields, etc., speakers emphasized a need to work together across disciplines — not just ecologists but economists and human health professionals.

UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management professor Ben Halpern outlined a new joint initiative to understand and map the role of seafood in promoting human health, beyond basic protein needs.

The summit left plenty of time for questions and answers, starting a dialogue that would continue long after the event ended.

Chris Costello, a UCSB professor of environmental and resource economics at the Bren School, spoke about the global benefits of recovering wild fisheries using a term he’s familiar with: bio-economics.

Can more wild food come from the sea, and why hasn’t seafood production increased since it began flattening out in the 1990s?

sea summit
Researchers at Wednesday's Food From the Sea Summit at UCSB agreed that the path to finding more fish in the sea will require working together across academic disciplines. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

“People think that means we’ve hit the maximum sustainable yield,” he said. “I want to try to address that question.”

More fishing doesn’t necessarily mean more fish  — rules of nature that might need to include new fishery management regulations.

Costello showed pictures of fishing boats and catch on a screen. He has traveled to Peru, Cambodia, China and beyond to see whether researchers could model the impacts of reform regulations on individual fisheries before the protections were enacted.

If governments place more restrictions on where and when people fish, how would prices, costs or yield be impacted, Costello wondered aloud.

For example, in the United States — one of the only countries he said wasn’t over-fishing because of more stringent commercial fishing regulations put in place more recently — there will be way more fish in the waters 10 years from now because of those protections.

The status quo in U.S. waters is “recovery,” a first possible step to finding more food, he said.

Preliminary figures showed seafood productivity could increase under that model.

“I think it’s one of those rare trade-off challenges,” Costello said, referring to the combination of economics and fisheries.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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