Daniel Pauly

Daniel Pauly

Daniel Pauly
Born (1946-05-02) May 2, 1946
Paris, France
Residence Canada
Nationality France
Fields Marine biologist, fisheries scientist
Institutions UBC Fisheries Centre
University of British Columbia
Alma mater University of Kiel
Doctoral advisor Gotthilf Hempel
Known for Shifting baselines
Fishing down marine food webs
Sea Around Us Project
Ecopath with Ecosim
Notable awards International Cosmos Prize (2005)
Volvo Environment Prize (2006)
Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology (2008)

Daniel Pauly is a French-born marine biologist, well known for his work in studying human impacts on global fisheries. He is a professor and the project leader of the Sea Around Us Project at the UBC Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia. He also served as Director of the UBC Fisheries Centre from November 2003 to October 2008.


Pauly was born in Paris, France. He grew up, however, in Switzerland in what was called a strange "Dickensian" childhood where he was forced to stay as a live-in servant to a new family. For the first 16 years of his life, Pauly lived an inward life as he was mixed race in an all white town, finding solace in books/reading and model construction. At 16 he ran away and put himself through high school in Wuppertal, Germany after one year working with disabled people for a local church-run institution. His work led to a scholarship to the University of Kiel.

It was at the University of Kiel where Pauly decided on fisheries biology. He said he wanted to work in the tropics because he felt that he would "fit in" better there. He also wanted to devote his life to an applied job where he could help people.

He did a master's degree at Kiel University under Gotthilf Hempel on "The ecology and fishery of a small West African lagoon".[1] Pauly then spent two years conducting trawling surveys as a member of a German-Indonesian project aiming at introducing this relatively new gear.[2] He began to write on tropical fisheries management; later his emphasis switched to global fisheries trends and conservation.

Arguably, some of Pauly's best work appeared in his Ph.D. dissertation at Kiel University in Germany, again under Hempel, in which he established strong relationships between the surface area of gills and the growth of fishes and aquatic (gill-breathing) invertebrates.[3]

Daniel Pauly in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about his work.

After his Ph.D., Pauly worked for 15 years at the International Center for Living and Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), in Manila, Philippines. Early in his career at ICLARM, Pauly worked in the tropics and developed new methods for estimating fish populations. Pauly helped to design, implement, and perfect methods using length-frequency data instead of the age of fish to estimate parameters of fisheries statistics such as growth and mortality.

Later, he helped develop two major projects: ELEFAN and FishBase. ELEFAN (ELectronic Length Frequency ANalysis) made it possible to use length-frequency data to estimate the growth and mortality of fishes. FishBase is an online encyclopedia of fish and fisheries information comprising information on more than 30,000 different species. Both projects received worldwide attention and through multiple upgrades and additions, are still prominent in fisheries biology.

Through the 1990s, Pauly’s work centered on the effects of overfishing. The author of several books and more than 500 scientific papers, Pauly is a prolific writer and communicator. He developed the concept of shifting baselines in 1995 and authored the seminal paper, Fishing down marine food webs, in 1998.[4] For working to protect the environment, he earned a place in the "Scientific American 50" in 2003, the same year the New York Times labeled him an “iconoclast”. Pauly won the International Cosmos Prize in 2005, the Volvo Environment Prize in 2006, the Excellence in Ecology Prize and Ted Danson Ocean Hero Award in 2007, the Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology and Environmental Sciences in 2008, and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2012. In 2015, Pauly received the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in Science.

Pauly has written several books, including Darwin's Fishes (Cambridge University Press), Five Easy Pieces: How Fishing Impacts Marine Ecosystems (Island Press) and Gasping Fish and Panting Squids: Oxygen, Temperature and the Growth of Water-Breathing Animals.


To date, he frequently expresses opinions about public policy. Specifically, he argues that governments should abolish subsidies to fishing fleets[5] and establish marine reserves. He is a member of the Board of Oceana. In a 2009 article written for The New Republic, Pauly compares today's fisheries to a global Ponzi scheme.[6]


Select publications


  1. Pauly, D. 1973. Investigation on the ecology and fishery of a small West African Lagoon. M.Sc. Thesis. In German with an English summary
  2. Malakoff 2002
  3. Pauly, D (1998) Why squids, though not fish, may be better understood by pretending they are In: Payne AIL, Lipinkski MR, Clarke MR and Roeleveld MAC (eds). Cephalopod biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution. South African Journal of marine Science 20: 47-58
  4. Pauly D, V Christensen, J Dalsgaard, R Froese, and F Torres Jr. (1998) Fishing down marine food webs Science 279: 860-863.
  5. AAAS (2007) The last wild hunt – Deep-sea fisheries scrape bottom of the sea
  6. Aquacalypse Now, The New Republic, September 28, 2009


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