Here is our 5 question “conversation” with Miguel Garcia-Bermudez! This is your chance to learn more about Miguel as a Second Vice President Candidate and potential AFS Officer.
Reminder: Voting opens the week of May 24th – current AFS members will receive voting instructions by email. View Miguel’s official candidate statement and register for our live, online Meet the Candidates webinar on May 19.
The 2020 pandemic and resulting travel restrictions brought unexpected changes to the way professional societies interacted with members, namely more online/virtual programming. What lessons from this experience should AFS continue to apply to member engagement?
During significant challenges, it is not the wealthier or the larger organization that continues moving forward with its mission, but rather, the one that adapts faster by being nimble and prepared to face and respond to those challenges. And AFS proved to be just that throughout Covid-19.
The immediate answer to this question is to enhance our technological interaction, making AFS stronger and more available to our membership in the virtual realm. In addition, we must reach over our student’s chapters since they will be the leaders soon and have different communication skills and preferences. It is vital that we permanently host a virtual component of each meeting at affordable registration rates so that members may continue to have interaction and participation no matter the global or their personal situation.
Very importantly, AFS must work to purposefully create close and personal engagement within AFS, and members must consider new ways to foster collegial interaction. Many of us are realizing the true value of personal interaction and the impacts of its absence. Each of us must expand our techniques and seek to engage beyond our typical circle of AFS colleagues. This might require enrolling in AFS’s workshops, attending symposiums that focus on professional development, getting up early to the morning coffee and sharing a table with someone new, participating online with AFS social media networks, chatting with a new face during the lines to get food at the socials, AND then follow up after the meeting with, “How is your research going?”.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is an important issue for AFS, the fisheries profession and the sciences in general. How do you see AFS becoming more effective in addressing this issue? Are there programs or policies that you would like to see AFS either more strongly support or develop to make more progress?
Many professional organizations are facing this same, worthwhile challenge. The first step to addressing this issue is identifying the need to embrace and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within our organization. Fortunately, AFS forged some important initiatives years ago to foster a more representative and diverse membership (I remember a mind-shaking plenary talked many years ago entitled “The Browning of Fisheries”).
As you read this, AFS continues to make strides on this topic by creating new committees and organizing conferences that directly enhance DEI within AFS. These actions are already creating cascading positive impacts at multiple levels of the organization. I am currently co-leading with AFS leadership and other members, a Latin American and Caribbean Fisheries Meeting (Spring 2023) to facilitate the interaction and catalyze the science products generated by fisheries’ professional in all the Americas (North, Central, South and the Caribbean). As a matter of fact, we host last year our first Latin American and Caribbean fisheries symposium with great success.
How can we do better at DEI? I am convinced that by keeping an open and honest dialogue on DEI we can all recruit and retain diversity, nurture equity, and welcome inclusiveness. An array of specific actions (scholarships, trainings, continued education, directed standard operational procedures) will bud from that interaction and the work of the DEI committee.
Climate change has been an issue AFS has been engaged in for decades, and the immediacy of the need for action continues to increase. How can you use experiences from your current/past roles related to climate change to increase the effectiveness of the AFS membership in addressing this critical issue?
AFS has a proven record of supporting initiatives to ameliorate/eliminate the negative impacts of climate change and their connection with fisheries. Unequivocally the most important actions have been positioning science as the main driver for decision making. But we can do better internally. Each member carries a personal responsibility as a consumer of products and services as well as AFS. The Society must lead by always keeping a high bar, setting an example of care and mindfulness in any action taken (e.g. hosting meeting at environmentally conscience conference sites, lending scientific support to environmental stewards, creating membership activities that promote environmental actions) and long-standing support to AFS Climate Change committee. Further, we must engage with the agencies and companies that employ are members to use our collective influence to make positive changes.
Each of you (the 2021 candidates) has extensive experience at the state or territory agency level. What should AFS be doing to be more relevant to the needs of biologists working at that level to better engage them in the Society?
AFS has more than 150 years of incredible engagement and participation among state and territory biologists. Our Chapters and regional Divisions are incredible organizations that foster professional development and host the exchange of critical scientific information.
Long distance travel can be difficult for agencies to accommodate, and therefore, state and territory agency scientists have a stronger presence in the Chapter and Division levels of AFS. If we are to maintain this level of engagement at the Chapter and Division levels, while also improving engagement across the Society, it is important that we improve communication and interaction between AFS and each Chapter. Further, AFS must continue to develop virtual opportunities for workshops, symposia, and professional growth. Through these opportunities, we can rely on the strengths of each Chapter by bringing their expertise to the entire membership.
AFS just celebrated its 150th Anniversary; obviously the needs of our current membership are very different from when we started! What is one role that AFS does not currently fulfill for our members that you believe could be important in the future, and why?
AFS cannot deviate from its mission of developing and supporting fisheries’ professionals. Beyond our most crucial mission, I also see value in expanding our AFS audience beyond the core of the current membership component (i.e. professors, students, fish biologist, anglers), with a focus on other professionals that are fisheries connected, like Coastal Zone Managers.
In addition, AFS must adopt a proactive and explicit initiative to host the natural and functional connectedness of fisheries in the Americas (North, Central, South and the Caribbean) under our society’s umbrella. Fisheries is mostly a shared resource (i.e., Red Snapper, coastal and oceanic pelagics, American Eel) that coupled with invasive species (i.e., Carp, Lionfish, Arapaima) require the implementation of national (states and territories) and international scientific conservation and management. Beyond the commercial component of these transboundary fisheries, professionals in the field have been reacting mostly on a case-by-case basis to cope with all of these large-scale fisheries issues which will be exacerbated by climate change.
Wonderfully, AFS is taking a strong initiative across the Americas by organizing the Latin American and Caribbean Fisheries Congress in 2023.