Fishing for solutions
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Brett Favaro next to CSAR's Flume Tank

Brett Favaro wants to improve the sustainability of fisheries around the world. Newfoundland and Labrador’s fisheries culture and deep connection to the ocean make it a more ideal location to communicate the importance of marine work than in his home on Canada’s west coast.

Favaro joined MI’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR) as a research scientist this February. His interest in the centre was sparked by the close connection to his Ph.D. work which involved the research, development and assessment of bycatch reduction technology for commercial fisheries.

During his Ph.D. and post-doc, Favaro was encouraged by his supervisors and mentors to apply sound science to conservation issues, and when necessary, to engage in political or policy processes using his peer-reviewed research. He now employs a multidisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems, which includes not only the research, but also places importance on understanding environmental policy.

“In an ideal world, science should provide the information that underpins policy- environmental and otherwise. That can’t happen if science is kept in the confines of academic journals,” explained Favaro. “That’s why it’s very important to consider the politics and policies surrounding environmental issues. Understanding the policy landscape allows us to identify gaps that can be informed by science. When we fill those gaps with peer-reviewed work, we can advocate for the evidence in a constructive manner.”

After his Ph.D. Favaro became a 2013 Liber Ero Fellow where he began a research program on evidence-based solutions for reducing the impacts of commercial fishing on bycatch and benthic (sea bottom) habitat in the Canadian Arctic, which he now brings to CSAR. He now has a strong team of collaborators in Victoria and Vancouver as well as at MI. The strong linkages MI has with the community will facilitate buy-in into any project that is focused on Arctic fisheries.

“As the climate changes, we are likely to move northward with our activities,” explained Favaro. “Some of the major questions that I and my future graduate students will aim to tackle in the coming years are- where are we going to move first?; what new opportunities will there be to build sustainable industries in these regions?; how can we use science to assist in this process?; are there areas that need special protection, and if so, how can we identify those areas so that we can build prosperity while protecting the environment?”

Favaro always maintains the same approach to any applied research project he undertakes. His method begins with identifying relevant questions that, if answered, would contribute substantially to the ability to fish sustainably. He then identifies relevant partners and stakeholders, conducts the research, publishes it and then, advocates for the evidence.

Reducing benthic (sea bottom) impacts is a particular area of interest for Favaro. He expects to conduct productive research involving trawl gear, due to the importance of trawls in the NL fishery. In time, Favaro will be supervising graduate students and mentoring them through applied fisheries conservation projects at CSAR.