Abstract: Anyone trying to communicate about sustainability quickly runs into difficulties. The most common definition, “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” first appeared in the World Commission on Environment and Development’s report, Our Common Future. This concept has been adopted for fisheries with a focus on supporting food security now and into the future. The institutions supporting this notation of sustainability require massive amounts of information in order to ensure that we take the maximum amount of seafood from the ocean without harming the long-term productivity of the fishery. However, high precision monitoring is costly, requires analysis and storage of massive datasets, and can delay decision making. I argue that this mammoth effort has provided us everything we need to create a system that is precisely unsustainable. By focusing on one aspect of sustainability our institutions have marginalized ecological and social aspects of seafood sustainability and hampered the development of corresponding data development. Ultimately, the value of information underlying truly sustainable fisheries is determined by a dialogue among those with diverse values and institutions that fairly and equitably considers those values.
Biography: Phillip Levin is the lead scientist of The Nature Conservancy, Washington and a Professor-of-Practice at the University of Washington. Levin is a conservation scientist who is interested in bridging the gaps between theory and practice in conservation, and developing modeling and statistical approaches to inform conservation and management of ecosystems. The main focus of his current work is developing interdisciplinary tools to inform conservation of marine, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. Prior to joining the Nature Conservancy and University of Washington, he was the Director of Conservation Biology and a Senior Scientist at NOAA Fisheries in Seattle, USA. He has published over 200 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and technical reports, and edited the recently published book, “Conservation of the Anthropocene Ocean: interdisciplinary approaches for nature and people”. His work has been featured in such news outlets as The New York Times, Aljazeera, CNN, NPR, PBS, the BBC, MSBNC, The Economist, among others. Levin received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of New Hampshire in 1993 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina.