Public Visibility Plan

The American Fisheries Society (AFS), in order to promote conservation of sustainable, productive, and stable fisheries and aquatic ecosystems; to re­establish natural aquatic habitats and the diverse, natural biological communities associated with such habitats; and to identify the most effective, scientifically based management strategies and techniques for both natural and human­altered habitats, acknowledges its responsibility and declares its role as an active source of scientifically credible, substantive information about fish and fisheries for the public. The Society will address this role through its international information and education outreach efforts as well as through regular intra­society communications. In particular, the Society will maintain a committee dedicated to advancing the public visibility of fisheries professionals and their consensus fisheries conservation and enhancement goals. This committee will convene as appropriate at the direction of the president and Governing Board to examine the Society’s public communication and outreach needs; advise the AFS on the use and priority of suitable messages and appropriate media; and evaluate the efficacy of public outreach in building public confidence and support for the fisheries profession and the application of objective, scientifically based fisheries policies and practices.


  • Increase the visibility and understanding of the fisheries profession and its importance in protecting and enhancing the fisheries resources of North America, including the resources’ significance to the public welfare and to national and local economies.
  • Increase the influence of fisheries science in biological, social­cultural, political, and economic decisions and policy making related to fisheries resource management and use.
  • Promote activities that further enhance public perception of the AFS as a professional and objective organization by advocating fisheries decisions that incorporate and balance all pertinent biological and socioeconomic considerations.
  • Increase public appreciation and understanding of the social, economic, and environmental benefits resulting from scientifically managed fisheries.

Action Areas

I. Public Awareness and Education

Statement: Promote public awareness of fishery professionals and the unique role they can play in developing objective fisheries “best management” plans based on balanced considerations of all pertinent biological, recreational, agricultural, and other socioeconomic factors.

Discussion: The general public’s awareness of fishery professionals is limited, and increased visibility will help build appreciation of their importance in managing, protecting, and enhancing fisheries resources. The AFS should further increase its visibility as a credible professional organization to further the social status and importance of fisheries scientists. This effort should focus on the unique message and role fisheries science plays in the development of protective, sustainable management plans. In its outreach and communication endeavors, the AFS should strive to ensure that its public policies and promotional efforts be data­based, balanced, and scientifically valid.


  • Develop an information plan to make various publics aware of the biological and sociological values of fisheries resources and their wise management by publicizing fisheries statistics that document their importance (e.g., data documenting the value of fish as a healthy food group; recreational fishing’s role in healthy aquatic ecosystems; economic importance; and pertinence to interjurisdictional and international matters). Responsibility: Divisions/Sections/Chapters and 1996 Visibility Committee (ongoing).
  • Recruit “sponsors” or “messengers” to promote the professional fisheries scientist’s message to the public. Consider appropriate industries, agencies, interest groups, and celebrities. The Surgeon General might be a good choice for health features. Responsibility: AFS president assigns to special committee. Divisions/Sections/Chapters (ongoing).
  • Support the AFS Education Section and other units in their outreach programs to promote a strong awareness of fisheries ownership among diverse publics, including youth. Responsibility: All units (immediately and ongoing).

II. Media Strategies

Statement: Increase media coverage of the fisheries profession, fisheries issues, and the AFS.

Discussion: Fisheries science and professionalism should include regularly communicating objective, science­based news to journalists. Less than 2% of journalists have science backgrounds. Therefore, it is important to develop the AFS as a source of science­based, politically neutral analyses for the media. Such efforts benefit the fisheries profession and resource in numerous ways, including attracting people into the profession, increasing public sympathy and commitment toward conserving fisheries resources, and publicizing important fisheries information to various users and stakeholders as well as promoting the Society.


  • Develop media packages on a timely basis acknowledging the existence of or need for data­ supported, scientific fisheries decisions and management plans. Responsibility: Divisions/Sections/Chapters, AFS headquarters (ongoing).
  • Track coverage in the media via outdoor magazines, newspapers, and requests from reporters that cite the AFS as a source; explore the possibility of establishing or contracting for a clipping service. A summary of the coverage should be compiled each year for the Governing Board. Responsibility: Visibility Committee, AFS headquarters (ongoing).
  • Develop training opportunities to help fisheries personnel and AFS leaders learn how to work effectively with the media. Materials used could include the AFS media brochure, media­related articles in AFS publications, expanded numbers of draft press releases for unit use, assistance in planning local media campaigns, and leadership media training. Responsibility: Visibility Committee, AFS headquarters, and Divisions/Sections/Chapters (immediately and ongoing).
  • Recruit coverage of newsworthy events that promote the conservation of fisheries resources, the values of fisheries science, and professionalism (e.g., position statements, officer elections, local sportfishing fairs for youngsters, National Hunting and Fishing Day, etc.). Incorporate with annual meetings. Responsibility: Divisions/Sections/Chapters and Arrangements Committee (ongoing).
  • Establish regular communication with members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, local outdoor media groups, and the Society of Environmental Journalists to provide them with scientifically accurate information on important issues and fisheries science matters. Responsibility: AFS headquarters with Governing Board oversight (ongoing).
  • Develop media plans for the annual Society meeting, Chapter AFS meetings, and other significant events (e.g., invite press coverage, issue press releases, etc.). Similarly, develop media plans (including time tables) that identify upcoming AFS activities and issues each year, and specify media responsibilities and time requirements so that staff and member schedules and work plans can be established at the start of the AFS work year. Responsibility: Visibility Committee, Arrangements Committee, AFS headquarters, and units (immediately and ongoing).
  • A budget for media activities should be appropriated by the Governing Board each year. This budget should be separate from the current marketing budget. The budget would cover press release mailings and other media activities. Responsibility: AFS headquarters with guidance of the Visibility Committee and Governing Board.

III. Policy and Legislative

Statement: Publicize executive and legislative decisions about fisheries resources that incorporate fisheries science as an integral component.

Discussion: Critical fisheries issues are often debated in public forums without reliable scientific information provided by credible professional fisheries scientists. The AFS can provide a science­based, uniquely credible perspective to local, state, U.S., and international debate about fishery­related issues. In so doing, we will raise the profile and credibility of the fisheries profession. The Society should further establish itself as a major source of scientific information and credible experts on fisheries issues, including making members available to testify at formal hearings and presentations. Procedures should provide for timely involvement and appropriate precautions to ensure that information presented reflects the position(s) of the majority of AFS members.


  • Ensure that AFS communications are scientifically accurate and reflect the position of the majority of members. Establish procedures for developing these positions at all levels (units and AFS headquarters). Responsibility: AFS Legislative Committee, Resource Policy Committee (ongoing).
  • Ensure formal and informal communication links are established with legislatures, agencies, and interest group representatives. Develop procedures to make sure contact is maintained on a regular basis. Responsibility: All units (ongoing).
  • Publish a periodic newsletter describing current fisheries issues and promoting scientific fisheries management and best­management practices as well as the fisheries profession; distribute to congressional, agency, industry, outdoor writers, and interest groups, etc. Responsibility: Divisions and Sections, as appropriate (ongoing). Fisheries Action Network, Development Department (Hooked­In and Fisheries Action Network newsletter) (ongoing).
  • Improve mechanisms for assuring that Society positions promoted publicly are representative of the clear majority of AFS members. Develop, distribute, and promote these public positions on fisheries issues of international, national, and local significance, emphasizing the existence of or need for science­ based assessments, and disseminate these positions to legislatures, agencies, and the public. Responsibility: Governing Board, Resource Policy Committee, Legislative Committee, Fisheries Action Network, and units (ongoing).
  • Distribute approved position statements, legislative briefing statements, and other information to the media. Responsibility: AFS headquarters, Visibility Committee, Resource Policy Committee, and units (ongoing).

IV. Fisheries Science Education and Credentials

Statement: Work with the Education Section toward adequate education and training in technical communications with the non­scientific community for undergraduate and graduate fisheries students.

Discussion: If the AFS is to do a better job of communicating with the public and Society members, then teaching fisheries students to communicate effectively on scientific matters should be a top priority. However, communication requirements and education vary from school to school. The Visibility Committee should work with the Education Section to identify minimum standards and provide assistance and leadership to teachers instructing fisheries students in communication.


  • Identify minimum academic standards for communication skills. Responsibility: Education Section (ongoing).
  • Identify and establish teaching practices (i.e., micro­theme approach, Brian Murphy, February 1995, Fisheries) that improve communications skills; distribute this information to instructors. Responsibility: Education Section (ongoing).
  • Establish an award system to recognize academic institutions and instructors who demonstrate excellence in communication education. Responsibility: Education Section and Visibility Committee (ongoing).
  • Establish an awards program to recognize outstanding student communicators (i.e., writing contests). Responsibility: Education Section and Visibility Committee (ongoing).

V. Recognition of Fishery Achievements and Success Stories

Statement: In cooperation with the Education Section, initiate an awards and recognition program to spotlight outstanding communicators in the fisheries profession.

Discussion: The AFS will recognize with special awards those individuals who have made an outstanding effort to communicate the value and scientific standards of fisheries science to the public. Giving awards to these communicators would thank them for their hard work while encouraging others to follow their examples.


  • Develop an awards program that recognizes individuals who do an outstanding job communicating the scientific base and value of fisheries science to the public. Responsibility: Visibility Committee.
  • Develop and distribute news releases dealing with special recognitions, conservation awards, etc., of all AFS members. Responsibility: AFS headquarters, units as appropriate (ongoing).

Members of the AFS Visibility Committee who worked on this document are Michael Smith, John Nickum, William W. Taylor, Douglas Wojcieszak, Steve Willis, Paul Shafland, Kristin Merriman­Clarke, and Amy Fink. Comments by AFS members on this plan are welcome

In August 1995, the Executive Committee approved this plan.

  • Original version, 1989, by Phil Janik, chair, Committee on Visibility of Fisheries Resources and Fisheries Science.