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[Text appears on screen: One in five people enjoy fishing for fun. But what’s the catch?]

[Music plays and image changes to show Mibu]

Mibu Fischer: I’m Mibu, and I’m a marine ecologist. I gather and analyse natural resource information to help our communities better understand how to sustainably use their marine environment.

[Image changes to show Mibu seated at a desk and working on a computer]

Research has shown that one in five people go fishing for fun and this has a much bigger impact than many people realise.

[Image changes to show a boy casting out his fishing line and then changes to show a man fishing]

Technology has evolved, fishers are now more advance with their fish finders and GPS and fancy boats and reels, and as a result they can now target species that they never were able to.

[Image changes to show a boat moving along the water and then changes to show a man fishing]

One example of this is Southern Bluefin Tuna, which is critically engendered, and what we’re finding is that recreational fishers are twice as likely to catch Southern Bluefin Tuna than the commercial fishers who target this species.

[Image changes to show Mibu entering a cold room and opening boxes of stored samples. Mibu then starts to document things by hand on sheets of paper]

[Image changes to show Mibu talking with a colleague]

So with our research we are gathering accurate information on recreational fishing data, so that we can give that information to decision makers and they can make informed decisions about these fisheries.

[Image changes to show Mibu walking barefooted along a trees root and then changes to show Mibu walking along the water shore with two dogs]

Science isn’t just a western endeavour, we can also utilise what is known as traditional ecological knowledge. So indigenous people within Australia and around the world have a wealth of information about the animals and plants, and how they interact with each other and the seasons. So into the future I’m really looking forward to an integrated approach where western science meets traditional knowledge.

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Meet Mibu

A descendent of the Noonuccal, Ngugi and Gorenpul clans of Quandamooka (Moreton Bay and its southern bay islands, including parts of the adjacent mainland from the Brisbane River down to the Logan River), Mibu Fischer’s childhood affinity with the sea developed into scientific endeavour in her adulthood. Spurred on by a passion for keeping Australia’s ocean ecosystem thriving for future generations, she is researching sustainable marine resources, through a variety of techniques both at home in Australia and in the South Pacific.

In 2009 you started at CSIRO as an Indigenous Cadet – how has your heritage contributed to your interest in marine biology?

I grew up with a strong cultural connection to the land and sea. My mother’s family – Quandamooka people – live on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) where the traditional relationship with the land is very much alive. We spent every weekend and school holidays there as children and a deep love and appreciation for the bay and the ocean grew from that experience.

Recreational fishing isn’t an obvious area of interest for a marine scientist – what drew you to it as an area for specialisation?

Sustainable practices and how to preserve our quickly-changing natural world for future generations is one of our principal goals but also one of our greatest challenges, not only as scientists but also as members of society.

Additionally, fishing is an enormous part of Australia’s cultural identity and has been for thousands of years. For example, today, one in five Australians say they enjoy fishing for fun. With a rapidly increasing population, especially along our coasts, we need to ensure that all Australians can continue to enjoy the social, health and sporting benefits from our finite marine resources.

Unlike commercial fishers, recreational fishers don’t have to record what they catch, where they fish, and how long they fish for. We have many species of fish in Australian waters that are simultaneously targeted by commercial, recreational and indigenous fisheries, for example Spanish mackerel, but we have little idea how many are being caught each day recreationally.

How does your research as a marine scientist contribute to alleviating this growing problem?

Australia has one of the largest fishing zones in the world – it covers 14 million square kilometres, which is about twice the size of our land mass.

Without research we put ourselves at risk of losing entire species of fish, simply because we wouldn't realise there was a problem until it’s too late. Conducting research is expensive, especially given Australia has one of the largest fishing zones in the world. Part of my research aims to develop cost-effective methods for collecting reliable fisheries data that can be used to better assess our popular recreational species.

What projects have you worked on that brought your research into the everyday life of those interested in fishing?

We developed an interactive map using data that CSIRO has collected for more than a quarter of a century. Here our research is transformed into interactive data where someone can see how a certain species has fared over time.

With this kind of education at a community level and an institutional level we hope we can use our research to keep the balance of our ocean ecosystems.

Facts & figures


  • The top three Aussie seafood exports are lobster, pearls and abalone
  • 80 per cent of our marine life is unique to Australia
  • Our ocean industries generate $42 billion each year
  • Our fishing zone covers 14 million square kilometres.

Our impact in fisheries

  • Our work leads to replenished fish populations and improved economic performance of fisheries – good news for ecosystems, and the commercial and recreational fishing industries
  • The value of our management policies for Australian fisheries is estimated at $495 million/year.

Find out more

Ask Mibu a question or get the very latest news, stories and breakthroughs that will help you, your family and Australia.


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