Preparing for the Challenges Ahead - 2012-2013 ANNUAL REPORT
The mission of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) is to advance sound science, promote professional development, and disseminate science-based fisheries information for the global protection, conservation, and sustainability of fisheries resources and aquatic ecosystems. The Society adopted a Strategic Plan for 2010–2014 with three overarching goals: (1) Global Fisheries Leadership—the AFS will be a global leader providing information and technical resources for the sustainability and conservation of fisheries resources; (2) Education/ Continuing Education—the AFS will facilitate lifelong learning through world-class educational resources at all academic levels and provide training for practicing professionals in all branches of fisheries and aquatic sciences; and (3) Value of Membership—the AFS will serve its members and fisheries, aquaculture, and aquatic science constituencies to fulfill the mission of the Society. The members of the AFS are drawn together by a common interest in pursuing this mission and the goals of the Society. Our challenge is how to carry out the mission in an ever-changing world.
THEME FOR THE YEAR The theme for the 2012–2013 year and the 2013 Annual Meeting in Little Rock is “Preparing for the Challenges Ahead.” Conservation laws, technology, and the questions being asked of fisheries professionals are changing rapidly, as well as the nature of the fisheries discipline itself. In the past 20 years, we have witnessed increased accountability requirements for those managing our fisheries resources, not only in the United States but globally, putting more responsibility on the shoulders of fisheries professionals. We have seen the Internet and associated social media become a mainstay in communications among fisheries professionals and for keeping us in touch with decision makers and the public in general. We have seen computational power and associated data storage requirements increase by orders of magnitude, along with the development and use of sensors to measure the environment and its biota. Today’s students (and many of today’s faculty) were not yet born when our astronauts walked on the moon, when we used transistors in our radios, and spun 45s on our record players. What’s in store for fisheries professionals the next 20 years? Will we be able to adapt to changes in everything affecting our lives and livelihoods? Will we be adequately prepared to do so?
The 2013 Annual Meeting will be held September 8–12 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Building on the theme for the year, the meeting will address the various facets of preparing for the challenges ahead. In the opening plenary session, Pamela Mace, Principal Adviser for Fisheries Science in the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, will present some plausible future scenarios to illustrate the potential state of marine fisheries. Dr. Mace will provide supporting arguments for the proposition that, if the world’s fisheries are to continue to provide food and livelihoods without compromising biodiversity conservation and other services, a concerted effort will be required to formulate, and develop the means to implement, a common vision that balances utilization and sustainability. The second plenary speaker, Kelly Millenbah, Associate Dean and Director for Academic and Student Affairs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University, will be characterizing fishery scientists of the future. She will touch on the importance of understanding the characteristics of the next generation of natural resource leaders (Millenials and NextGens) and the individuals with whom they will interact in pursuit of conservation, which is key to ensuring that they can meet the challenges of a new era in resources management.
WORLD COUNCIL OF FISHERIES SOCIETIES
The AFS continues to be an active member of the World Council of Fisheries Societies and participated in the 6th World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2012. The AFS Executive Director serves as the Executive Secretary of the World Council, and an AFS member, Doug Beard, is its current president. At the Congress, the AFS organized a session on natural and anthropogenic catastrophic events, their effects on fisheries and aquatic systems, and the management of such events. Officers of the AFS represented the Society at the annual meetings of the Japanese Society of Fisheries Science (JSFS) and the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI). Officers from those societies, as well as the Korean Society of Fisheries and Aquatic Science (KOFAS), will be attending our upcoming 2013 annual meeting in Little Rock. Additionally, formal memoranda of understanding have been signed with the FSBI and KOFAS, and one is also being developed with the JSFS, that foster exchange of ideas, resources, and people between them and the AFS.
Three special projects were initiated during the 2012–2013 year: (1) alternative models for AFS governance; (2) assessment of educational requirements; and (3) use of social media.
With over 30 people now serving on the AFS Governing Board and scores of AFS committees, it is an appropriate time to review the governance of AFS and determine whether it can be structured in a more efficient manner, especially in light of the growing use of Internet-based communications and virtual meeting technology. A special committee, chaired by Immediate Past President Bill Fisher, will be presenting several alternative governance models for the Governing Board to consider during its annual retreat at the meeting in Little Rock.
As a professional society, the AFS has a role to play in ensuring that people entering the future workforce will be prepared to tackle the issues that fisheries professionals will then be facing. In keeping with the annual theme “Preparing for the Challenges Ahead,” a special committee chaired by AFS 2nd Vice President Ron Essig will undertake several tasks over the coming years. First, the committee will assemble a list of North American colleges and universities currently offering under- graduate and graduate degrees in fisheries-related disciplines (e.g., fisheries science, fisheries biology, fisheries ecology, fisheries management, fisheries policy, and fisheries economics) and publish the list on the AFS website. Second, the committee will oversee a survey of major employers that will be hiring graduates with degrees in fisheries-related disciplines in the next 5–10 years to determine what coursework those graduates will be expected to have taken that would be most germane to the positions being filled. The survey results and an evaluation of their implications will be published in Fisheries. Third, when the list and survey are completed, the committee will compare the coursework expectations of the employers with the current coursework requirements of a selected subset of colleges and universities offering fisheries degrees. If the comparison indicates a misalignment, the committee will recommend ways in which an alignment can be made, which could range from giving simple advice to the colleges and universities to instituting an accreditation program administered by the AFS (or something in between).
Use of Social Media
Within the AFS, there are several fisheries scientists and students who are active players in the social media arena and who directly see the benefits of its use both on the professional level and at the organizational level. To stay relevant among its members, as well as within the fisheries science community, the AFS should review how it is currently using social media and how the media can be further used to meet the society’s goals. To this end, a third special committee, chaired by Julie Claussen, is developing recommendations for review by the AFS Governing Board on use of social media for internal communications among AFS subunits, as well as externally communicating scientific information developed by AFS members.
During the 2012–2013 year, the AFS was involved in encouraging the U.S. Government to take a more active approach to addressing the impacts of climate change on the world’s fisheries resources. The Society delivered its climate change policy in a letter to President Obama and encouraged him to take several immediate actions to understand and mitigate climate change effects and offered the assistance of the AFS in doing so. With the help of the External Affairs Committee and the Potomac Chapter, the AFS also sponsored a special briefing for Congressional staffers on the impacts of climate change on our marine and freshwater fisheries, as well as the communities and cultures that rely of them.
The AFS is the oldest and largest professional society for fisheries professionals. We continue to have a vibrant Society with a stable membership of about 9,000 people, representing a wide range of scientific and managerial disciplines organized into four regional divisions, 48 chapters, 55 student subunits, and 22 sections. Membership by students and young professionals is increasing, indicating sound recruitment into our ranks and the potential for growth into the future.
We are a fiscally sound Society that has weathered the economic recession. There is substantial promise for the future as we continue to pursue the mission of the Society.