The last big fish in the ocean

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Photo of Ransom Meyers. Author: David Hardie.

Molly Gatt

Algonquin College Journalism Program

In Finding Nemo, Nemo was the only clown fish to survive, even though his mother spawned thousands of eggs. Marine biologist Ransom Myers was the one who discovered that even though female fish spawn countless eggs each year, only three to five of their young will reach full maturity and reproduce.

Who knew that the son of a cotton planter from Mississippi would grow up to become a famous marine biologist and conservationist working on Canada’s east coast? Myers received his PhD from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1984. He became a faculty member of Dalhousie after working at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Myers assembled data on all species and created mathematical formulas to sort out the likelihood of a fish’s ability to survive until full maturity. He was an intense advocate for protecting the ocean’s creatures from extinction due to over fishing.

In 2003, his team revealed that 90 per cent of the world’s big fish – open-ocean predators and ground fish – were lost due to over fishing. These species were often scooped up before they could reproduce or even reach their full size. His work was praised by environmentalists, ecologists and other scientists.

Myers died from brain cancer in 2007. He fought for the world’s oceans up until the disease took his life. Myers was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2009.

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