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.