The 7th World Fisheries Congress in Busan, South Korea, was “one of those meetings you can tell is going well just by the buzz in the hallways,” as Felicity Huntingford, former president of the World Council of Fisheries Societies, put it in her toast at the gala dinner. With 10 keynote speakers, 36 oral presentation sessions in 12 concurrent slots, and hundreds of posters, there was a lot for more than 1,000 attendees to buzz about. Much of the convention center area of the city was decorated in congress banners and the Opening Ceremony was reported in Korean television news.
The meeting kicked off with AFS Past President (1990-1991) Larry Nielsen’s retrospective on the first World Fisheries Congress in Athens in 1992, making this the silver anniversary of the congress. He talked about the hurdles of organizing an international conference in the pre-Internet era and reviewed the predictions and assertions of those first congress speakers and whether they were realized almost 25 years later. Most of predictions were right on target, except for perhaps an underestimation of how much aquaculture would grow.
The Opening Ceremony included a traditional drum performance, followed by welcome remarks from the mayor of Busan and the Korean Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, along with a video message from Korean President Park Geun-hye. Much of the ceremony focused on a major announcement about a proposal to found a “World Fisheries University” at Pukyong National University in Busan, potentially under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The university would focus on fisheries management capacity building through training for students from developing countries, and the Korean government has proposed to fund the program at US$100 million over the first 10 years.
Besides Nielsen, other AFS members giving keynote talks were Terry Quinn on the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kenneth Rose of Louisiana State University, Mary Fabrizio of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (AFS Past President 2007-2008), and Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington. Among the talks by other keynote speakers, one of the most fascinating was Goro Yoshizaki’s story of his lab’s quest to produce Bluefin Tuna gametes from mackerel parents and the many technological and biological hurdles involved.
The concurrent sessions were presented entirely in English. Several sessions were organized by AFS members, including sessions on climate change and inland fisheries, standardized sampling for freshwater fishes, and advancements in stock assessment.
The meeting culminated on Friday with the presentation of the International Fisheries Science Prize to Ray Hilborn, who then gave the final keynote presentation on how fisheries stocks vary around the world and how much of that is due to fisheries management. The Closing Ceremony featured the WFC flag being turned over to the Australian Society for Fish Biology, which will be hosting the 8th World Fisheries Congress in Adelaide, October 11-15, 2020. AFS member Doug Beard will soon be concluding his term as president of the World Council of Fisheries Society, but Donna Parrish, previously co-chair of the WFC Program Committee, was elected as co-vice-president of the council.
Many thanks to our hosts at the Korean Society of Fisheries and Aquatic Science for their warm hospitality and an informative, well-organized meeting in dynamic Busan. See more photos from the congress.