Saturday, November 17, 2001

Experts examine
how climate
affects fisheries

Scientists from around the world
attend a workshop in Honolulu

By Helen Altonn

An unusual mix of international scientists meeting in Honolulu have outlined approaches for looking at how climatic changes may affect fisheries and national economies.

About 50 oceanographers, marine and fisheries biologists, social scientists and others attended a four-day Pacific Climate and Fisheries Workshop that ends today at the East-West Center.

Claude Roy, with the French Research Institute for Development, said the meetings reflect interest in taking knowledge gained over the past decade by oceanographers and climatologists and applying it to fisheries. "I think that's pretty good news," he said.

Juergen Alheit of the Baltic Sea Research Institute in Germany, a discussion leader during the workshop, worked almost six years in the Peruvian Fisheries Institute for a German organization. He said Peru's large anchovy fishery is characterized by big population swings.

He said he saw many people at the Honolulu meetings that he has been in touch with almost 20 years, and they are all puzzled about the large population swings of species like anchovies and sardines in Peru and Chile.

When populations fall it seriously hurts fisheries and causes great economic problems for the countries, Alheit said.

Fishing and overfishing may be a contributing factor, he said, but it is also believed climate variability is involved.

Rather than short-term fluctuations during El Ninos, he said, "I'm talking about changes in fish population abundance on a decadal scale."

The meetings here are the first in a series planned over the next two or three years to bring diverse scientists together to attack the problems, Alheit said.

Roy said he moved into biology and ecology of fisheries after training as a physical oceanographer.

"Right now, after 20 years' experience, I feel I'm sitting in between physical oceanography and biology," he said, describing efforts to translate knowledge from each field to the other.

Those who met here want to work together, he said. "The downside of it is, maybe we still don't really know how to talk to each other. How do we exchange ideas and share questions between each other? How do we find a common language? That is the big problem we have to face."

The workshop was not designed to provide a rapid answer, but to bring the scientists together and develop a project to tackle the questions, said Roy, who is also working on a French-South African project at the University of Cape Town.

Primary sponsors of the gathering were the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, a U.S.-Japanese program based at the University of Hawaii, and the International Pacific Research Center.

Lorenz Magaard, IPRC executive associate director, conceived the meeting and was instrumental in obtaining funds to support it.

Alheit noted that he went to University of Kiel, Germany, as a young marine student on the Baltic Sea after studying marine biology in Britain.

"I didn't know anything about the Baltic Sea, but there was a famous textbook on the Baltic Sea by Lorenz Magaard.

"He left before I arrived. I thought a lot about him 25 years ago. Only two days ago, I had the privilege of meeting him."

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