Mary Fisher

I applied for the AFS International Fisheries Section Fellow Award for many reasons, including the opportunity to gain more conference experience, make professional connections, travel to the UK, and increase my involvement in the American Fisheries Society. But the major motivation for my application was that the theme for the FSBI 2018 symposium in Norwich would be “the sustainable use and exploitation of fishes,” with a broad range of topic areas across several fisheries sectors.

I recently defended my master’s degree on the population genetics of Pacific cod. My research focused on commercial fishery management applications for Pacific cod stocks around the Korean peninsula, and on broader evolutionary theory for a comparison between eastern and western Pacific cod populations. But for my PhD, I will be studying commercial fisheries from an entirely different angle: socioecological systems. As a result, I wanted to attend a conference characterized by a diversity of scientific fields and a manageable number of parallel sessions. This would provide the opportunity to present and discuss my master’s project while also learning about ongoing socioecological research and modeling methods.

It was immediately clear that the FSBI annual symposium would not just meet that requirement; it would exceed my expectations. Within the first day, we enjoyed an engaging keynote and morning session on recreational fisheries, a session and plenary lecture on the growing aquaculture industry, and a talk from Gary Carvalho on the application of molecular analysis to commercial fisheries management. And with all symposium attendees in the same room, we were consistently exposed to research beyond our own areas of expertise. As someone whose research background is rooted firmly in commercial fisheries, it was enlightening to attend recreational fisheries and aquaculture sessions, which introduced novel challenges and showed how similar methodology can be applied across study systems. Some of the most engaging presentations – such as those by keynote speakers Hans Georg Evers and Heather Koldewey – were on ornamental fisheries, an underrepresented sector at other fisheries meetings.

In this respect, the FSBI symposium provided an excellent juxtaposition to conferences like the World Fisheries Congress, where multiple sessions and expansive venues make it difficult to attend presentations, and connect with researchers, across disciplines and sectors. Yet despite its smaller size, we heard from a truly international suite of scientists conducting research globally, from the North Sea, to Mozambique, to Brazil.

As an early career researcher, the size and structure of the FSBI symposium also facilitated more genuine conversations with other attendees, from my fellow graduate students to established PIs, without the need for more structured networking events. I can also safely say that through the variety of evening events, I was able to make the most of my first time in the UK – from the historic setting of the banquet in downtown Norwich to the energy of the World Cup semifinal game at the UEA Square.

This experience would not have been possible without the generosity of FSBI and the International Fisheries Section of AFS. I must extend my sincere thanks to the FSBI Council members and President Iain Barber, the AFS International Fisheries Section Executive Committee and President Steven Cooke, the 2018 symposium conveners, Martin Taylor and John Pinnegar, as well as the Committee Chair and Deputy Committee Chair for the AFS-IFS Fellow Program, Charlie Waters and Jane Sullivan. And of course, I would like to thank the many inspiring scientists who attended the FSBI annual symposium and welcomed me to the UK. I hope to reconnect with you at other conferences and look forward to seeing more of your research in the future!

– Mary Fisher