Chief Scientist shares sustainable fisheries recommendations to worldwide audience

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Professor Michel Kaiser

Recent research into sustainable fisheries management by Heriot-Watt University’s Chief Scientist, Professor Michel Kaiser, has received global attention over the last few weeks, culminating in an international panel debate at the prestigious World Ocean Summit, hosted by the Economist from 1-4 March.   

Professor Kaiser highlighted key recommendations and innovations that could reduce the environmental impact of fishing and make it more sustainable.  

Firstly, as featured in his thought leadership piece in The Herald, Professor Kaiser argues that using mapping and trawling data more effectively could enable better planning and management of fishing that would reduce seabed disturbance and improve sustainability and biodiversity. Using data to better assess risks to the environment posed by fishing and re-building fish stocks can also reduce the overall time required at sea to achieve the same catches while lowering carbon emissions in the process. 

Furthermore, to fully realise full benefits of using data to improve life below water, as emphasised in a talk at Expo 2020 earlier this month, current barriers to accessing global trawling data due to national and international public policy need to be lifted to facilitate a shared understanding of fisheries data across the world. Only with these insights can scientists provide appropriate advice to inform both the fishing industry and Government agencies. 

Another key argument by Heriot-Watt’s Professor in Fisheries Conservation is to provide local communities and fisheries more control through the implementation of ‘use rights’ policies. In an APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on Fisheries and Protected Areas at the end of February, Professor Kaiser presented to over 120 delegates on how considerable improvements in fishing efficiency and preserving marine environments can be achieved by empowering fishermen to participate in the science and management decision making processes.  

“What we find is that when we give fishermen rights and ownership, and hence responsibility and involvement in management of fisheries, we see considerable improvements in fishing efficiency, quality of the marine environment, efficiencies in terms of CO2 emission reductions, and greater increases in profitability” he said.   

At the World Ocean Summit, which brought together speakers from business, science, government, investment and civil society, Professor Kaiser shared his expertise as part of an in-depth panel discussion on using technology to sustain fisheries along alongside representatives from the seafood, technology and wholesale industries.  

During the session he discussed the effectiveness of using data harvesting technologies and AI to speed up the transition to a wholly sustainable fishing industry, and recommended that world leaders act to adopt the latest innovations as soon as possible if targets to improve ocean health and accelerate a sustainable ocean economy are to be achieved by 2030. 

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