Dr. Peter Nelson

Fisheries Biologist


I am a biologist and a surfer. I grew up on, in and under the water on the west coast of the United States. The ocean that I grew up with is not the ocean we have today; while change is inevitable, at the very least we have to be cognizant of why and how these changes occur. The ‘very least’ however is not enough! Humans are now an integral part of most ecological systems, and, I believe, must learn to treat our involvement as a respectful collaboration or to modulate our involvement to the point where we are only observers. 

I have studied the fishes that aggregate beneath floating objects, what fish see and why they have the colors they do, and the movements of fishes as they transition from juveniles to adults, but I am curious about most things outdoors. I am good with numbers and looking for patterns that require statistics to find them, and I especially like conducting experiments that explore interesting questions regarding behavior or physiology.

Here in California, I work with fishermen to collect the kinds of information needed to manage fisheries and protect marine ecosystems. In the U.S., managers and scientists have told fishermen where to fish, when to fish and how much to fish for decades; sometimes this has worked but often the results have been poor. We are working now to make fishermen partners in the management process. Obviously, fishermen know the sea. They know that taking too much, too fast will result in scarcity. So, clearly, fishermen can and should be stewards of the ocean. Our seafood markets and our history of fisheries management make this difficult to achieve, but I think that we are beginning to make progress. I would be honored to help to contribute some of the science that we have acquired in the United States, as well as our experience involving communities in managing their resources. I expect, however, that I will learn at least as much from the people of Ulithi.