Community Colloquium: Leah Gerber

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



Leah Gerber

Associate Professor, Arizona State University

Visiting Associate Professor, the Bren School

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Whales, Fish and Sanctuaries: improving the use of science in decision-making"

Hosted by Frank Davis and Steve Gaines



Science and international politics play complicated roles in the global arena of whale conservation and the management of the resources of the world’s oceans. The International Whaling Commission (IWC), charged with the global conservation of whales and the management of whaling, introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 because of the widespread depletion of whale species and stocks. In spite of a dearth of scientific data to quantify stocks recovery, every year a heated debate takes place at the IWC's annual meetings about the future of commercial whaling. I will discuss my role as an external scientific reviewer for the IWC to assess two issues: 1) the efficacy of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary (SOS), and 2) the role of whales in depleting fish stocks. In 2005, I was appointed by the IWC Scientific Committee to review the SOS and to evaluate how marine reserve theory might be integrated into the IWC sanctuary program. Our review and ongoing model results indicate that IWC Sanctuaries in their current form are not ecologically justified, regardless of the status of the current moratorium on commercial whaling and the potential application of the revised management plan (RMP). More recently, whaling countries have introduced a new argument for resuming whaling by blaming whale populations for the decline in commercial fish stocks. In 2008, I was commissioned by the Lenfest Ocean Program of the Pew Charitable Trusts to examine the scientific evidence for the assertion that whales deplete fisheries. Results for a wide range of assumptions about whale abundance estimates, feeding rates, and fish biomass indicate that culling whales does not increase commercial fish biomass. On the other hand, small changes in fisheries management produce significant increases in fish biomass. The question of "who is eating our fish" should be considered in a larger context (with respect to foreign fleets, ecosystem collapses, and climate change). These examples highlight the importance of data and models (not ideology) as the basis for discussions about managing whale and fishery interactions.



Dr. Gerber is a population ecologist and marine conservation biologist interested in articulating science-based policies for sustaining the health of the world’s oceans. As a population ecologist, she works at the interface of behavior, population ecology, and demography of long-lived marine species. As a conservation biologist. she regularly serves on review panels and recovery teams to ensure that basic research is applied in relevant conservation settings. Dr. Gerber is the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award and a Pew Charitable Trust Award.  She is an editor for Conservation Letters, and has authored more than eighty peer-reviewed publications. She earned a master's degree in marine affairs (1993) and a PhD in ecology (1998) from the University of Washington. She spent three years as a postdoctoral researcher at NCEAS before joining the faculty at Arizona State University in 2001, where she is an associate professor in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Science.  Currently, Dr. Gerber is a visiting associate professor at the Bren School. 


NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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