Science

The one that got away: Tracking big fish in a bigger ocean

Dr. Joe Scutt Phillips

Date: 

Friday, 9 November, 2018 -
14:00 to 15:00

Where: 

Climate Change Research Centre Seminar Room, Level 4, Mathews Building

Hosts: 

Climate Change Research Centre

Type of event: 

Seminar

We will examine some of the key behavioural factors underlying the considerable increase in the catch of tunas over the last three decades, and what the most recent electronic tagging data and population models may suggest regarding just how many fish are left in the sea.

Tracking the movement of wild animals has been the habit of humans since we first began to exploit their behaviours for the production of our food. Our understanding of these movements relied on where and when we could hunt, alongside our knowledge of the underlying behavioural and environmental mechanisms driving species' distribution. Modern day marine capture fisheries are the last of these wild food production systems that are still exploited by humans, and while our objectives in tracking these animals may not have changed, the technology with which we do so has.

Using tropical tunas as an example, in this talk Joe reviews some of the methods used by fishers to track their target species in the Pacific Ocean, alongside the technology that we as scientists employ to support the management of these resources into the future. We will examine some of the key behavioural factors underlying the considerable increase in the catch of tunas over the last three decades, and what the most recent electronic tagging data and population models may suggest regarding just how many fish are left in the sea.

Biography: 

Dr Joe Scutt Phillips earned his PhD in Marine Ecology at the University of Southampton, spending the majority of his time working at The Pacific Community in New Caledonia, providing scientific advice for a variety of Pacific fisheries stakeholders. Prior to this, Joe worked as scientist for a number of government organisations in the UK and island states in the South Pacific, focussing on climate change impacts and artisanal fisheries. He recently finished a postdoctoral research fellow position in the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW, working on relating tuna distribution to changing behaviour and habitat. He now continues this work at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and The Pacific Community in New Caledonia.

Joe’s research centres on ensuring the sustainability of exploited fish populations by examining their in situ behaviour as they interact with conspecifics, the species they prey upon, and those that would predate them. This is largely focussed on top ocean predators, and he combines the use of individual level data with simulation modelling to improve our understanding of the connectivity and vulnerability of these animals, as well as help us design better monitoring programmes for the future. Broadly, Joe is interested in complexity in ecological systems, and how it emerges from a community of interacting animals.