Gabby Lout at the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico

Advancing environmental justice by making fisheries more equitable

By

Ashley Richards

Growing up in Arizona, Gabrielle “Gabby” Lout was fascinated with the ocean.

“Not having the ocean right in my backyard magnified my interest and wonder about it,” said Lout, a Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology doctoral student at ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society in the College of Global Futures. “It was something so different than the desert, but the marine environment can be just as harsh and even more unpredictable.”

Lout spent summers with her family on the beaches of Florida. Her grandfather taught her about the ocean and listening to the energy of the Earth. She knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue marine conservation. After earning her Bachelor of Science in marine and conservation biology in Seattle and her Master of Arts in global leadership and sustainable development in Hawaii, she returned to Arizona. She wasn’t planning to go straight into her PhD, but when she came across an ASU research assistant position working in small scale fisheries, she was drawn to the HSD program and the type of research she could do.

“I'm interested in the complexity between social and natural sciences, and the social issues that are present in conservation, specifically fisheries,” Lout said.

She is now focusing her research on human rights in the seafood industry and will continue her work as a Global Human Rights Hub Graduate Fellow

“It’s exciting to be acknowledged for this less-known and advancing field around human rights, the ocean and conservation,” Lout said. “It’s an opportunity that lines up with my research, and I believe it will be pivotal in my development within the human rights space.”

The fellows program is part of the new Global Human Rights Hub, which brings together ASU faculty members and graduate students researching global human rights issues. The hub will highlight the important work that graduate students are conducting and provide a network of scholars to help students develop their research and knowledge on human rights.

“The field of human rights is incredibly interdisciplinary,” said Associate Professor Heather Smith-Cannoy, director of the Global Human Rights Hub and Lout’s mentor for the program. “We think that there is high value in finding ways to connect faculty who are working on these topics with graduate students. Lout’s work will contribute to a field of critical concern: environmental justice. Her work forces us to think specifically about human rights abuses at sea and how nonsustainable practices can harm marine ecology and human rights. We think she will be a future leader in the field.”

In the program, Lout will also highlight her current research in a series of blog posts.

“One project I’ve been leading in Guyana with Conservation International is looking at the marine ecosystem and sustainable fisheries, and focusing on social well-being and livelihoods,” Lout said. “I’ve been working with local stakeholders and fishing cooperatives to identify social risks and areas of improvement, which will then inform fisheries management of ways to be more inclusive and equitable.”

Lout is also leading a project for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on decent work in fisheries in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago to identify ways to improve working conditions for fishers. ASU and the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology program have helped her further her research.

“Being surrounded by peers and faculty that are working on such diverse issues has pushed me to think differently. I have been so impressed and appreciative of the vast opportunities at ASU and have felt supported to pursue work that is not cookie-cutter or linear.”

After she graduates, Lout wants to continue working in the nonprofit sector.

“I think everybody wants to make an impact and a difference, regardless of how small or large it can be. The ocean and the natural world are changing so rapidly, and social issues are becoming more complex. I want to give small scale fisheries and marine conservation the attention they deserve and make an impact any way I can.”