The Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship was established in 2007 to honor the memory of Steve Berkeley, a dedicated fisheries scientist with a passionate interest in integrating the fields of marine ecology, conservation biology, and fisheries science to improve fisheries management. Through this fellowship, Steve’s legacy lives on by supporting graduate student research in marine conservation. As we announce the Berkeley fellowship recipients and present the future calls for applications for the fellowship, we revisit Steve’s life and also get updates from previous fellows on how the award impacted their research and careers.
Steven Berkeley’s Marine Conservation Legacy Lives On
By Susan SogardSteve was born and raised in Queens, New York. As a city kid, he was embedded in the rich cultural world of New York City and loved classical music and opera. He became an accomplished musician himself, primarily on the bassoon, and later played professionally with the Miami Philharmonic Orchestra. Although his parents’ lives revolved around art and music, they also loved fishing. Steve’s lifelong passion for fish and fishing was launched by his early experiences catching cod and fluke on party boats off Long Island. He fished at every possible location and at every opportunity and was delighted with every successful catch, from tiny trout in alpine lakes to giant tuna in offshore seas. In later years, as his conservation consciousness prevailed, most of those fish were released unharmed. Steve began his career in academia, as a research scientist at the University of Miami. He worked on a range of subjects and species, including ichthyoplankton ecology; population dynamics of clupeids, halfbeaks, and Swordfish; and fisheries management aspects of penaeid shrimp. He then moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to work directly in the management arena as a staff biologist with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, where he developed management plans for Swordfish, billfish, and sharks and participated on numerous international scientific and management panels for these species. In 1993, he returned to academia as a research scientist, first at Oregon State University and later at the University of California in Santa Cruz. His research interests on the West Coast focused on ecology and life history of long-lived species, in particular rockfish and Sablefish. He was deeply concerned with the evidence of continuing age truncation in heavily fished species, a pattern that clearly countered the bet-hedging advantages of a long life span. His research on maternal effects in rockfish demonstrated the importance of maintaining large, old females in a population and validated, for rockfish, the importance of marine reserves as the most viable management approach to protect age diversity in long-lived fishes. As an avid fisherman himself, Steve focused not on shutting down fisheries but on determining ways to ensure continued production and accessibility to commercial fishers. Throughout his career, he worked closely with fishermen around the country, gaining their respect and listening carefully to their suggestions for improving fishing practices. He fished commercially for Swordfish and sharks in Miami and later involved Swordfish captains in research projects. On the West Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, he collaborated with numerous commercial fishermen on one of his ongoing interests, reducing bycatch. These projects involved both basic ecological studies of life history and behavior in an effort to reduce where and when fish are vulnerable to capture as well as practical development of gear modifications. Steve effectively melded research with management applications throughout his career. Some of his key advisory service included the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the Scientific and Statistical Committees of both the North Pacific and Pacific fishery management councils, and panels addressing marine ecosystem-based management and integration of marine protected areas with fisheries management. Reflecting his concerns with declining fish populations, he worked closely with several nongovernmental organizations in later years, providing both advice and review of fisheries-related programs. He was one of the few people I know who was equally comfortable in the sometimes divergent arenas of university research, commercial fishing, fisheries management, and conservation groups. I believe that this reflected his genuine interest in having these groups work together toward common goals.Steve with a chinook salmon caught in Monterey Bay. Credit: S. Sogard. Steve was an active member of the American Fisheries Society since 1991 and served as president of the Marine Fisheries Section from 1998 to 2000. He was also a member of the founding Board of Directors for the Fisheries Conservation Foundation. Steve directly advised several graduate students over his career and served on numerous committees for others. He was demanding of his students but perpetually fair, expecting their dedication to the research at hand but also respecting their individuality. When it was clear that he was losing the battle with cancer, we met with our lawyer to go over his affairs. When she asked him about his estate, he quietly said he wanted it to go to supporting graduate students. Despite the pain of that time period, I had to smile, recognizing and admiring how like him it was to want to give students some help during potentially difficult financial times. With his estate and generous donations from his family, friends, and other AFS members, we established the Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship in late 2007. It brings me tremendous satisfaction to honor Steve’s wish and I know it would delight him immensely to know that we are able to provide this award on a continuing basis. All of the selection committee members have been extremely impressed with the quality of the applications we have received since the fellowship’s inception. In every year, we have had a very tough job of deciding among so many outstanding candidates. The future of marine conservation research is clearly in good hands. POSTSCRIPT: More details about Steve’s career are available in his obituary in the September 2007 issue of Fisheries. ::_ You also might like to read Howard William’s article: Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Recipient Updates – His Marine Conservation Legacy Lives On