Field Samples: Adding Inland Fisheries to the Total Global Catch

Field Samples is a Q&A with aquatic researchers. Today graduate student, Etienne Fluet-Chouinard, talks about attempts to get better measurements of inland fishery catches. . Etienne will give a public lecture on his work today at noon in the Water Science & Engineering Lab as part of our weekly Wednesday seminar.
Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get here?    

Etienne Fluet-Chouinard.
Etienne Fluet-Chouinard.

I’m Etienne. I grew up in the province of Quebec on the bank of the Ottawa River, across from the Canadian capital. After my master’s at McGill University in Montreal working in global hydrology and wetlands, I wanted to branch into global applications of freshwater ecology. It was around that time that a paper co-authored by (CFL professor) Pete McIntyre was published in Nature on the subject, and so I am now working on similar topics in his lab for my PhD.
Pretend we just boarded an elevator and you only have one-minute to tell us about what it is you’re presenting on at seminar.
The vast majority of inland capture fisheries occur in low income countries where small scale artisanal operations where it contributes to local economies and food security. Because catch data collection is complicated by landing sites being far apart and remote, the national statistics (for example tons of fish harvested per year-1) provided by country members to the UN’s FAO are believed to gravely underestimate actual catch. In fact, scientists think the count is off by about 40% and in some cases, much more. Extrapolating what we know from local inland fish catch to the world with statistical models can help to offer a point of comparison for nationally reported catch.
Why should someone not in the field of freshwater sciences care about your work
Local fishing practices, like this set-up in Thailand, supply important protein to surrounding communities. But adding up the total catch is difficult. Photo: Aaron Koning.
Local fishing practices, like this set-up in Thailand, supply important protein to surrounding communities. But adding up the total catch is difficult. Photo: Aaron Koning.

What can be measured can be managed! And getting the catch numbers right is a first step. By addressing limitations of national statistics, we hope that inland fisheries can be better considered when decisions about water resources are made. And that could help protect not only these unique ecosystems and fish species, but also the people who depend on them for food.
What question did you answer or do you hope to answer? What other questions might your work lead scientists to ask?  
Beyond the objective of managing fisheries sustainably, I think there is an interesting underlying question on what are the environmental factors that determine productivity across regions of the world.
Getting a handle on the true value of inland fisheries opens the door to a number of ‘what-if’ scenarios, including future scenarios of changing demographic, climate change and diet-shifts.
Tell me about one funny, memorable, exciting or awesome moment from your work either in the field or in the lab.
Students on the Sapelo trip see what they can catch in the Georgia surf.
Students on the Sapelo trip see what they can catch in the Georgia surf.

I unfortunately do not spend much time in the field. I got my first real experience in fish ecology during the Sapelo field course. In Sapelo, I studied the Mummichog, about which I can remember the useless but interesting fact that the Mummichog was the first fish to go in space!
Where do you hope to go from here either with this work, or, literally, after your time at Hasler Lab?
After graduating from the CFL, I’m hoping to continue my global scale research either in academia or for international organization, taking what I’m learning from the ecologists of the CFL and scaling it up to the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *