How can we have fish tomorrow? Ask the past
5th January, 2010
Dismissed initially as a good storyteller but nothing more, environmental historian Poul Holm has mapped the history of marine animals in such detail that it is having profound impacts on our current understanding of the oceans
When Danish historian Professor Poul Holm began attending fishery conferences his message attracted interest, but also a large slice of scepticism. The fishery scientists thought his ideas made for a good yarn, nice for an after dinner talk, but they cut no ice in the serious business of fishery management.
Holm wanted to talk about historical catch data, and what it implied about the condition of today's fish stocks. But, whilst his ideas won the misty-eyed attention of older marine biologists, keen reminisce about times past, Holm was told that his data were simply too anecdotal to be considered proper science.
'You will never be able to do this in a consistent way that will convince anyone that it is anything but loose ideas,' he was warned.
But Holm proved his critics wrong. In just the last two or three years fishery science heavyweights have begun standing up at conferences and praising his data. Holm’s HMAP (History of Marine Animal Populations) project was seen to have 'shifted the baselines', repositioned scientists' ideas of what an un-fished marine ecosystem might look like.
A decade of history
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