CSIRO scientist wins highest global award for fisheries research

December 18, 2003

An Australian scientist has won the highest accolade in the world for ecological research, the prestigious Japan Prize.

Dr Keith Sainsbury, a CSIRO marine ecologist and mathematical modeller received the Prize for his international efforts to conserve fisheries and marine ecosystems.

The award relates to food production based on sustainable ecosystems, a concept that Dr Sainsbury and colleagues have championed in both theoretical and practical ways for more than 20 years.

The Japan Prize is awarded in several scientific disciplines, also recognised by the Nobel Prize. However, in the field of ecology there is no Nobel Prize awarded. Recent Japan prize winners include Drs Mandelbrot and Yorke for creation of the Chaos Theory, and Dr Berners-Lee the acknowledged as the father of the Internet.

"What this Award achieves is recognition that Australia has a great science base to guide fisheries sustainability and the integrated management of human impacts on marine ecosystems," said Dr Sainsbury.

"The Australian Government took the initiative in management of its own fisheries resources and is setting standards to ensure domestic sustainability while advocating the case at the United Nations for sustainable fisheries and biodiversity protection more generally and on the high seas.

"The marine ecosystems of the world are the last great frontier.

"Australia has been a global leader in its oceans and resource policy-making and its support for oceans science to ensure the seafood meal we have today is not at the expense of the seafood meal we may have tomorrow," he said.

Referring to the announcement CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Geoff Garrett stated "It's fantastic to see our scientists recognised internationally for their outstanding contributions to world science.

"Dr Sainsbury's Prize is a tribute not only to him and his research, but to the value placed upon such work in Australia. On behalf of CSIRO I congratulate Keith on this significant achievement."

A senior scientist at CSIRO Marine Research, Hobart, Dr Sainsbury is also Chair of the Technical Advisory Board of the London-based Marine Stewardship Council, which assesses the sustainability of fishery resources and makes available an EcoLabel to fisheries that pass so that consumers can recognise sustainable seafood products. The early fisheries to receive the MSC EcoLabel were the West Australian rock lobster and New Zealand hoki fisheries, while stocks presently under assessment include the world's largest fishery, Alaskan pollock.

Most recently Dr Sainsbury, 53, headed a research team to develop and apply the scientific basis for multiple-use planning and management of marine ecosystems in Australia Exclusive Economic Zone, including the North West Shelf region and Australia's South East. This emphasis on understanding and managing fisheries and other human uses of marine ecosystems is a major reason for his being awarded the Japan Prize.

"We need to look at our fisheries as just one element of the marine environment, and to sustainably manage the combination of all the human uses of the marine environment - uses in the catchments, on the coasts and in the oceans.

"This is what is necessary for truly sustainable development and continued enjoyment of our coasts and marine environment by future generations. And while we still have a great deal to learn about the oceans we already have good scientific tools to help identify management strategies to achieve this.

"Australia's Oceans Policy is a start in this direction, and one that we need to continue to develop" Dr Sainsbury said.

The research team was also responsible for the scientific input that resulted in declaration of large marine protected areas around Macquarie Island and the Tasmanian Seamounts Marine Protected Area off southern Tasmania.
More information:

Don Michel CSIRO Marine Research, 61-036-232-5478, mobile: 0419-314-434

CSIRO Australia

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