World-renowned UBC fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly is the subject of a new biography

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      UBC professor Daniel Pauly, probably the most-cited fisheries scientist on the third of the planet not covered by saltwater, is the subject of a new biography.

      The book, titled The Ocean's Whistleblower, came out September 21 and was written by David Gremillet, an oceanographer and a research director at the Paris-based French National Centre for Scientific Research.

      In a September 24 UBC release about the book—published by Greystone Books and subtitled "The remarkable life and work of Daniel Pauly"—the scientist said that he originally studied science as an "escape" from his early life.

      "What’s important is that this biography not only talks about my difficult youth as a biracial person in Switzerland and Europe, which is a tear-jerker, but it would have been shallow, so it also talks about my research," Pauly said in the release.

      "Given my background, science was a place where I could grow, where I could be. I escaped into science because where I grew up, there were many reasons for me to spiral into a dark place; the family that raised me were petty criminals."

      Pauly was not available to speak when the Straight attempred to contact him on September 24.

      The ocean researcher whom the New York Times called in 2003 "an iconoclastic fisheries scientist...who is so decidedly global in his life and outlook that he is nearly a man without a country" was born in post-Second World War Paris, the son of a French woman and a Black American soldier.

      Daniel Pauly as a young boy.
      Daniel Pauly/Sea Around Us

      He grew up as a de facto servant for a family in Switzerland, then "escaped" as a teenager to Germany, where he completed high school at night and completed a master's degree and PhD in fisheries biology.

      "During those days," Pauly said in the UBC release, "I went to high school every weekday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. after a full day of work. By the end of the 4-year course, of the 115 students that started, only 15 of us remained and we made it not because we were smarter, but because we didn’t think about it. The people who asked themselves every evening, ‘should I go or not?’, didn’t make it."

      After 15 years in Manila, Philippines, working on fish population studies at the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, Pauly became a professor at UBC and directed its Fisheries Centre for five years.

      Daniel Pauly conducting fisheries fieldwork in the Philippines.

      As principal investigator for the university's Sea Around Us research intiative for the past two decades, Pauly has authored hundreds of scientific papers; has been profiled in such prominent publications as the New York Times, Science, and Nature; and has authored and coauthored several books, including 2019's Vanishing Fish: Shifting Baselines and the Future of Global Fisheries.

      He has been credited with exposing unsustainable, unreported, and illegal international fishing practices that have had a mostly unreported and deleterious effect on the world's collapsing fish stocks.

      Along with fellow researchers, he has also conducted groundbreaking research on the effects of climate change on the world's fish stocks.

      His entire adult life has, essentially, been taken up by studying both global fish populations and the impacts of the world's fisheries on marine ecosystems, and his research, modelling and software tools, teaching, and fish databases are widely regarded as having advanced the cause of  fisheries research worldwide.

      For a science-oriented, first-person account of his life in fisheries reasearch, see this 2016 article in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

      He has also been the recipient of numerous prestigious scientific and other honours and awards, including the French Chevalier de la Légion D’Honneur.