Dirk Zeller

Professor, Director Sea Around Us - Indian Ocean, PhD (JCU), BSc Hons (JCU), BSc (JCU)

  • The University of Western Australia (M092), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


  • Source: Scopus
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Personal profile


I lead the Sea Around Us Indian Ocean research group (www.seaaroundus-io.org), which is an international partnership of the Sea Around Us research initiative that is co-located in the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada (www.seaaroundus.org). I direct and coordinate research, teaching and graduate training activities and engagements of the Sea Around Us associated with the Indian and Pacific ocean regions, and globally in collaboration with Prof Daniel Pauly (UBC) and Dr Maria (Deng) Palomares (UBC). I lead research on fisheries catch and effort data reconstructions and illegal and unreported fishing, first-order assessments of stocks, coral reef fisheries, ocean governance, fisheries policy and economics. I collaborate widely with colleagues around the world on Indo-Pacific Ocean and global fisheries issues and meta-analyses, with FishBase and SeaLifeBase on biodiversity (www.fishbase.org, www.sealifebase.org), with the Fisheries Economics Research Unit (UBC, feru.oceans.ubc.ca) on issues in resource economics, with the Changing Ocean Research Unit (UBC, coru.oceans.ubc.ca) on issues of climate change and fisheries, and with legal scholars on issues related to international maritime boundary law and the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

I have a background in tropical marine biology and fisheries ecology from James Cook University, Australia, and have professional interests in marine and fisheries conservation and global fisheries sustainability, strategic and global policy developments and resource economics.


Publications profile

I have an established publications profile with over 380 scientific contributions (Google Scholar h-index of 60, over 20,000 citations), and publish both in the primary literature (Nature, Science, PLoS ONE, Marine Policy, Marine Ecology Progress Series, Environmental Health Perspectives etc.), in books (e.g., Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries, https://islandpress.org/book/global-atlas-of-marine-fisheries) and in dedicated book chapters and research reports. I was co-awarded the 2017 Ocean Awards for Science, the 2012 UBC Innovative Dissemination of Research Award and the 2011 Ecological Society of America Sustainability Science Award. I collaborate with scientists in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Indian, Caribbean and Pacific ocean regions, and represent the global interest of the Sea Around Us at conferences and workshops throughout the world.



My research serves civil society, conservation and humanity. The research philosophy of the Sea Around UsIndian Ocean differs from most other research groups. Generally, our team does not collect field or experimental data, but rather complements, harmonizes and analyzes pre-existing databases, data sets and secondary information sources in novel, integrative and collaborative fashion. We also extensively undertake gap-filling of datasets as identified through our research. We do big-data research in fisheries and marine conservation science. In a manner of speaking, we operate as a ‘top-predator’ that uses novel and innovative ways to ‘consume’ and 'digest' large data sets and secondary data that are freely available around the world. My research focus is large-scale and global in nature, and I address strategic questions in support of international conservation goals.

Research interests

Global & Indian Ocean fisheries

Fisheries conservation

Impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems

Small-scale & large-scale fishieries

Strategic marine conservation issues

Funding overview

All Sea Around Us activities have been generously supported over the years by a large number of philanthropic organizations from around the world. The Sea Around Us has been strongly supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts (Philadelphia, USA) for many years, and our activities have more recently been funded by a range of foundations and entities, including the Paul G Allen Family Foundation, Vulcan Inc., the MAVA Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Oak Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Paul M Angell Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies through Rare, and the Minderoo Foundation. Overall, annual funding levels since inception of the Sea Around Us have been between US$1.0 and US$1.5 million per year.

Teaching overview

BIOL3305: Fisheries Science

BIOL5301: Big-data

ANIM3353: Wildlife Conservation and Management

ENVT3306: Marine Conservation and Management

BIOL4407: Marine Conservation and Fisheries Management

ENVT5509: Global Ecological Challenges

SCIE5304: Science Practicum

SCIE5505: Global Change and the Marine Environment


Future research

Global & Indian Ocean fisheries

Fisheries conservation

Impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems

Small-scale & large-scale fishieries

Strategic marine conservation issues


Previous positions

Senior Scientist & Executive Director Sea Around Us, University of British Columbia, Canada



External positions

Affiliate Faculty, University of British Columbia

1 Jul 2017 → …


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