According to Danylchuk, quantifying potential impacts gives stakeholders, including fisheries managers and government policy makers, ‘hard numbers’ that can form the foundation of conservation efforts.
From the Bahamas to India, Danylchuk's work is in high demand—global tourism and fishing industries have taken a huge hit due to dwindling resources and stakeholders are desperate for answers. For each new project that he starts, Danylchuk conducts field research within a given aquatic ecosystem and also works with stakeholders, helping to assess the priorities of each community and then develop feasible solutions. Danylchuk explains that every location presents a different set of variables. In taking a scientific approach to a divisive issue, he investigates the reasoning behind human decisions and what impacts they have on fish and other aquatic species.
“I don’t formally do human dimensions research, but it certainly is a part of the equation since fish conservation involves understanding the motivations behind why people want or need fish,” says Danylchuk.
“Quantifying potential impacts using the rigors of the scientific method provides an unbiased assessment of the value of catch and release, plus gives stakeholders, including fisheries managers and government policy makers, ‘hard numbers’ that can form the foundation of conservation efforts,” Danylchuk says.
Another focus of Danylchuk’s research is sustainable aquaculture. Damaging practices by commercial fisheries continue to have considerable impacts on marine ecosystems—over one quarter of United States fish stocks are overfished. Methods such as bottom trawling, an industrial fishing method that involves dragging a large, weighted net along the ocean floor, uproots entire ecosystems and results in significant collateral damage, or ‘bycatch.’ As wild stocks continue to be overexploited, and as stakeholders take steps to recover them, aquaculture will need to step in to help.
“Given the demand for seafood, we may need to turn to aquaculture to meet that demand, but not all aquaculture methods are created equal. Looking for sustainable solutions for growing fish and other aquatic life is imperative, otherwise we’re just not going to have fish to eat,” Danylchuk says.
Danylchuk is also a host and scientific advisor for Fish Navy Films, a film company dedicated to making documentaries on aquatic sustainability. Danylchuk and his colleagues have produced two films and are working on a third. The first film, Fish Meat, delves into the challenges of modern fish farming and looks closely at those who are doing it efficiently and sustainably. Raising Shrimp uses shrimp, the most popular seafood in the United States, as a case study for examining the global seafood industry and the potential perils of imported versus domestic products.
For Danylchuk, outreach is crucial, which is why he devotes so much time to public speaking and film production. His work is not fully realized until it reaches as many eyes and ears (and fins) as possible.
“It goes back to the individual—the types of information that we provide them and how empowered they feel to make a difference. If they can leave a film screening, presentation, or classroom just feeling a little more informed, then I’ve done my job,” says Danylchuk.
Amanda Drane ‘12
Banner image: Close up of bonefish just caught and soon to be released.