AFS Procedures—Chapters and Other Units

Chapters and Other Units

American Fisheries Society look out over Seattle at the Annual Meeting

Credit: American Fisheries Society

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Chapters are the smallest geographically defined units recognized as being operationally independent in the Constitution. They share the purposes of the Society but are intended to advance the Society’s objectives over more localized areas than Divisions, this area being specified in their bylaws.

Chapters generally provide for interaction among professionals within limited areas, such as individual states or provinces (e.g., Ontario Chapter), contiguous states or provinces (e.g., the Washington-British Columbia Chapter), or areas united by common interest (e.g., the Potomac or Tidewater chapters). Chapters are technically units of Divisions; however, Chapters may form in areas not covered by existing Divisions. Chapter boundaries may not cross Division lines, but otherwise, they need not follow political boundaries.

Chapters may create smaller organizational units with various titles, organization, and purposes. These subsidiary units may not act without the unit’s approval. Under the Constitution, this is the mechanism for creating groups covering even smaller geographic areas (e.g., Student Subunits within state Chapters).

Chapters and any other smaller organizational units are formed when a group of members decides that sufficient interest exists to support a viable long-term organization. Steps involved in Chapter formation and dissolution are described in the AFS Constitution, printed in the AFS Membership Directory and Handbook, available on the AFS website ( or from the Constitutional Consultant.

Members interested in forming new Chapters or units should recognize that such groups often appear viable because of the interest of a few motivated individuals. When these individuals relocate or become involved in other activities, a Chapter may become inactive. The difficulty of maintaining a viable Chapter or smaller organizational unit increases as the geographic area or topic breadth decreases. Student Subunits, for example, may be particularly prone to instability because of the transitory nature of the membership. Student Subunits may only be formed under the umbrella of an active Chapter.

Chapters and other subsidiary units may recognize affiliate members (individuals who are not members of the Society), but affiliates should be strongly encouraged to join the Society. All officers of any unit, committee chairs, and individuals voting on unit affairs, however, must be Society members, except as indicated in the case of jointly affiliated Student Subunits.

Joint Student Subunits

The AFS Constitution accommodates Society subunits that have joint affiliation with the AFS and at least one other professional society, such as The Wildlife Society (TWS). These subunits re typically desired at institutions where

  1. The small number of students in a program is inadequate to support two separate units; or
  2. Students in undergraduate or interdisciplinary programs are not segregated into separate disciplines of wildlife and fisheries.

To avoid unnecessary duplication of officer functions, a single set of officers could provide leadership to a mixed group of student subunit members belonging to multiple professional societies, including AFS, provided that:

  1. The bylaws and function of the joint organization comply with all AFS requirements (e.g., the secretary sends meeting notes to the AFS Executive Director; the treasurer makes financial records available upon request);
  2. Either the President or Vice President is an AFS member (alternating, if a President-elect automatically becomes President);
  3. The faculty advisor is a member of both societies or there are co-advisors with at least one being an AFS member;
  4. There are at least six AFS members who can serve as officers or chairs of any committees that specifically address AFS functions; and
  5. The AFS Governing Board recognizes that upon dissolution of the subunit, assets will be distributed at the discretion of the joint unit.

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The general purposes and responsibilities of Chapters are as follows:

  1. Facilitate communication among members (by newsletters and other means) regarding fisheries science issues and the conduct of the fisheries profession within the Chapter’s region.
  1. Hold meetings, publish works, and perform other activities on a technical and semi-technical level that advance the status and performance of the fisheries profession within the Chapter’s region.
  1. Determine the views of members relative to professional topics affecting their performance, for example, by conducting surveys and considering resolutions.
  1. Present the views of Chapter members to the Division membership, the AFS membership, and to the general public and government agencies within the Chapter’s boundaries.
  1. Hold annual meetings at which all Bylaw responsibilities are carried out.
  1. Serve as technical and professional advisors to government agencies within the Chapter’s region.
  1. Promote the fisheries profession within the Chapter’s boundaries through active and positive relations with journalists, government officials, special interest groups, other professional organizations, and the general public.
  1. Promote proper use of aquatic resources by initiating and participating in special projects that increase public awareness, expand participation, improve habitat, and protect fragile resources.

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Officers and Duties

Each Chapter is required to have at least a President, a President-elect, and a Secretary/Treasurer or a Secretary and a Treasurer.  Each officer has specific duties assigned by the Chapter’s Bylaws. In addition, Chapter officers have the following duties for the Society:


  1. Extends an invitation to the Division President to attend the annual Chapter meeting (and any other general activities of the Chapter).
  1. Serves as a voting member of the Division’s Executive Committee and attends all meetings of that Committee.
  1. Prepares mid-year and annual reports of the Chapter’s activities for presentation at the annual Division meeting and attends if possible.
  1. Serves as a nonvoting member of the Society Governing Board and attends meetings, if possible.


  1. Represents, as a proxy, the President if the current President is unable to attend a Division Executive Committee Meeting.


  1. Sends minutes of annual meeting to the AFS Executive Director within 30 days after the annual Chapter meeting. Minutes and newsletters should also be sent to the Division President.
  1. Forwards historical records of the activities, minutes, individuals, and other aspects of the Chapter to AFS headquarters, as requested.
  1. Informs the Executive Director, the Division President, and appropriate Society staff of changes in officers, dates and locations of meetings, and other necessary information.
  1. Distributes copies of resolutions to the Executive Director, Society officers, the Division President, and appropriate individuals or agencies, as instructed in the resolution.
  1. Forwards any proposed Bylaw changes to the Executive Director for review by the AFS Constitutional Consultant prior to presentation of changes to the Society’s Governing Board for approval.
  1. Orders a Past-President’s certificate (from AFS staff) to be presented at the annual Chapter meeting.
  1. Prepares occasional write-ups for Fisheries concerning Chapter activities and programs


  1. Receives, holds, invests, and disburses funds as needed for Chapter function as approved by Society and Chapter Constitution, Bylaws, Rules, and Procedures.
  1. Maintains financial records in standard accounting format for review by Society officers and staff as needed or required.

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Standing Committees

Most Chapters include a variety of standing committees in their Bylaws, representing the functions which are essential to organizational life. As a minimum, the following committees are recommended:

  1. Executive, which oversees all Chapter functions and authorizes all Chapter activities.
  1. Nominating, which recommends candidates for officers and which may collect and tally ballots.
  1. Membership, which recruits new members for the Chapter and the Society and ensures continued membership of current members.
  1. Resolutions, which develops and recommends resolutions for consideration by the Chapter membership.

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