August 9, 2022

Rashid Sumaila, FRCS

Professor in Interdisciplinary Ocean and Fisheries Economics at UBC

Rashid Sumaila is a Professor and Canada Research
Chair (Tier 1) in Interdisciplinary Ocean and Fisheries Economics at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. His research focuses on
bio economics, marine ecosystem valuation and the
analysis of global issues such as fisheries subsidies, marine protected areas, illegal fishing, climate change, marine plastic pollution, and oil spills. Sumaila has experience working in fisheries and natural resource projects in Norway, Canada and
the North Atlantic region, Namibia and the Southern African region, Ghana and
the West African region and Hong Kong and the South China Sea. Dr. Sumaila
received his Ph.D. (Economics) from the University of Bergen and his B.Sc.
(Quantity Surveying) from the Ahmadu Bello University. Sumaila is widely published and cited. He won the 2017 Volvo Environment Prize and was named a
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2019. His interest in the environment
started early in life when his grandfather used to say people should “walk as if
the ground feels pain” – this is sophisticated environmentalism! His specific interest in ocean and fisheries was picked in Norway. Sumaila enjoys exploring
novel ideas and mentoring future thinkers. He loves waking up each day thinking of how best to contribute to ensuring that we bequeath a healthy ocean to
our children and grandchildren so they too can have the option to do the same.
Sumaila’s research involve: (i) applying game theory to fisheries, to, for example, identify whether or not developing countries should give access to their
fisheries resources to foreign fleets; (ii) rethinking the nature of the discount
rates applied to natural resource projects, and formulating a highly original alternative (“intergeneration discount rates”); (iii) understanding the nature,
amounts and effects of government subsidies on global fisheries; (iv) documenting the employment in fisheries and competing uses of living marine resources; and, (v) estimating the multiple benefits that would be obtained globally by rebuilding fish stocks and setting up marine reserves, including the concept of the ‘High Seas’ as a large marine reserve or a ‘fish bank’ for the world.

Rashid Sumaila was introduced by Peter Delaney.

Transcription summary.

The ocean provides countless benefits to our planet and is vital for human livelihood. Producing half of the planet’s oxygen and absorbing over 30% of carbon emissions, the ocean regulates our climate, provides 260 million jobs, and is home to 95% of life on earth. We simply cannot afford to mess with this incredibly important ecosystem.

Despite how critical the ocean is to everyday life, humans continue to pummel it, mistaking its large size for infinite resiliency. Between overfishing, climate change, and marine debris and plastic, if we do not start fixing the harm we’ve already caused, there will be major consequences for all of humanity.

The fishing industry takes approximately 100 million tons of aquatic animals from the world’s oceans every year. While much of this fishing is profit-driven, many peoples around the globe rely on fish for nutrition and cultural and spiritual practices.

On the bright side, the ocean’s large size does not mean that we cannot protect it. Our speaker, Dr. Rashid Sumaila, is part of the OceanCanada Partnership, a research initiative to understand and address the threats facing Canada’s Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific coastal-ocean regions.

An interdisciplinary approach is essential to addressing the problems facing our oceans. Economists can’t do it alone. Biologists can’t do it alone. Oceanographers can’t do it alone. Anthropologists can’t do it alone. This intersectional perspective helps to better understand the problem as a whole, taking into account the ocean ecosystem, people’s psychology, and the economics of markets. Embracing a diversity of ideas and approaching the problem from as many angles as possible should result in betterinformed and well-rounded solutions.

The initiative got its initial grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for $2.5 million. As a condition of the grant, recipients have seven years to create a board that brings different perspectives together to co-produce knowledge. Their team comprises professors from six Canadian universities, the DFO, the Vancouver Port Authority, NGOs, and even a philosopher. They even have a filmmaking professor from the University of Winnipeg who not only helps to report their findings but document the process too. Their mission is to move past the theoretical and really impact policy to ensure that the ocean can continue to provide for future generations the way it has for us. By making their work relevant and applicable, they have been able to reach the ears of decision-makers.OceanCanada has presented to the US Senate, and Dr. Sumaila himself addressed a room with President Obama, John Kerry, and Leonardo Di Caprio on the economic benefits of rebuilding fish stocks.

OceanCanada’s dedication to mobilizing knowledge and information out of academic journals and into the ears of policymakers, businesses, and anyone who could possibly use the information in their work requires a multi-media outreach plan using visual tools and social media like Twitter, Google Ocean, an easyto-use partnership website, special TV series, op-eds, and video and radio documentaries in Canada and internationally. They have also taken a participatory approach with fishers, resource managers, and industry representatives to collaboratively develop their view on the future state of Canada’s oceans. One of OceanCanada’s big pushes is for the elimination of harmful subsidies. Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Dr. Sumaila’s organization show that, more and more, the industry continues to take fish from systems that are already overfished and depleted. As we continue to fish down the food web, fishers are now using 2.5 more fishing effort to catch the same number of fish. For example, a fisherman in Malaysia shared that his team used to be able to fish for six hours and fill their boat, but now they go out for a whole week and struggle to fill even half the vessel. The simple but effective Gordon Schaefer bioeconomic model clearly demonstrates how these subsidies induce overfishing. This increased effort also means that the industry is emitting 2.5 times more carbon than previously, aggravating climate change in addition to overfishing. OceanCanada argues that the majority of fishery subsidies undermine the Sustainable Development Goals by degrading the ocean while aggravating inequity. These harmful subsidies reduce fish biomass, damage ecosystem health, and cause food insecurity for millions of people. Their research indicates that 84% of the $35 billion global subsidies are allocated to large-scale operations as opposed to small-scale community or Indigenous fisheries. Most fishing vessels are owned and operated by men, exacerbating gender inequality. Youth also are disadvantaged because they don’t get hired onto the larger operations. Under the leadership of Dr. Sumaila and Dr. Shuhbauer, nearly 400 ocean experts signed a letter for the World Trad Organization (WTO) to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. In June, armed with this letter, the WTO adopted an agreement to prohibit harmful fisheries subsi-dies – a huge step forward for ocean sustainability!

Sumaila clarifies that he is not advocating for money to be taken away from the fishing community. He just wants to see that mon-ey allocated towards housing and feeding fishers, not towards further destroying nature. Fish could be a renewable resource if we can find a way to encourage the industry to slow down and fish more sustainably. Overall, policies and actions should be de-signed to eliminate negative feedbacks and promote positive ones.

Fish, microplastics, climate change, and even markets don’t rec-ognize borders, but our governments do. We need to act both locally and globally to protect the oceans. Our collaborative effort is necessary to ensure the health of our oceans and our planet for generations to come.

Eric Wickham thanked Professor Sumaila for his exelente presentation.