Internationally renowned fisheries researcher Dr. Ussif Rashid Sumaila has been recognized by the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco with the 2023 Albert I Grand Medal in the science category.
The medal is the most prestigious prize given by the institute for significant work in the physical and chemical sciences of the oceans. It takes the form of a medal in gilded bronze bearing the embossed profile of Prince Albert I, a pioneer of modern oceanography and founder of the institute.
Dr. Sumaila is a University Killam Professor at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Prof. Nils Chr. Stenseth from the University of Oslo (Norway) and the University of Agder (Norway) has also been awarded a 2023 Science Medal.
“This award is a reconfirmation of the importance of focus, hard work, determination and persistence,” says Dr. Sumaila. “If you just keep pushing in a collaborative fashion, ultimately your community—and in some cases even the world—will notice. I’m particularly grateful for this award because it underscores the vital nature of an interdisciplinary approach to economics.”
His interest in the environment started early in life, when his grandfather used to say that people should “Walk as if the ground feels pain,” which Dr. Sumaila believes is a sophisticated interpretation of environmentalism. His specific interest in the ocean and fisheries emerged during his studies in Norway, where he received his PhD (Economics) from the University of Bergen.
“Dr. Sumaila’s works are making immense impacts towards securing ocean health and the wellbeing of human communities through research, education and engagement at the highest level,” said Dr. William Cheung, professor and director of the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. “He is truly an inspiration for our students and colleagues at the University of British Columbia on many different fronts. The Albert l Grand Medal is another important and well-deserved recognition of his contributions to ocean sustainability.”
Dr. Sumaila is one of the world’s most innovative researchers on the future of the oceans. A Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Interdisciplinary Ocean and Fisheries Economics, he is also director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit and co-director of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded Solving the Sustainability Challenges at the Food-Climate-Biodiversity Nexus partnership. Among his other distinctions, Dr. Sumaila has won several prestigious awards, including the 2023 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the 2022 RSC Miroslaw Romanowski Medal for Scientific Work Relating to Environmental Problems. He is co-Editor in Chief of the Nature affiliated npj Ocean Sustainability journal, and serves on several journal editorial boards, including those of Science Advances, Environmental & Resource Economics, and Marine Policy.
His research integrates social, economic and fisheries sciences to build novel pathways towards sustainable fisheries. Focusing on bio-economics, marine ecosystem valuation and the analysis of global issues such as fisheries subsidies, IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing and the economics of high seas and deep seas fisheries, his work has challenged today’s approaches to marine governance, generating exciting new ways of thinking about our relationship to the marine biosphere. This includes his ‘fish bank’ concept for the high seas that has the potential to significantly advance ocean conservation on a global scale.
“Dr. Sumaila doesn’t just sit in his ivory tower thinking great thoughts—he directly impacts the realm he studies as well as making tangible impacts at the university,” said Dr. Allison Macfarlane, professor and director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. “He is working all the time towards a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. Rashid is a model for us all.”
Dr. Sumaila says he loves waking up each day thinking of how best to contribute to ensuring that we bequeath a healthy ocean teeming with life to our children and grandchildren so they, too, can have the option to do the same—achieving what he calls infinity fish.
He will receive the science medal in the presence of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco during a ceremony held at the Musée océanographique de Monaco on November 22, 2023.