Standards of Professional Conduct

A member of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) has an obligation to perform his/her duties in an ethical manner.

Standards of Professional Conduct

A member of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) has an obligation to perform their duties in an ethical manner. First and foremost, on joining the AFS, a member accepts the responsibility to serve and manage aquatic resources for the benefit of those resources and of the public, based on the best scientific data, as specified by the Society’s “North American Fisheries Policy” (see Fisheries 21[3]:26-29). They act ethically in their relationships with the general public and with their employers, employees, peers, fellow AFS members, and associates, and they follow the tenets of the Society’s Equal Opportunity Policy[1]. They strive to preserve and enhance the fisheries profession, to provide a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment, and to encourage these behaviors in others. All members must adhere to the “Standard of Professional Conduct” as herein established.

Section I. Integrity of the Profession

Each member of the AFS shall:

  1. Avoid actual or apparent dishonesty, misrepresentation, and unprofessional demeanor by using proper scientific methodology, by adhering to the Society’s “Guidelines for Use of Fishes in Field Research” (see Fisheries 13[2]:17-21) by fully documenting technical conclusions and interpretations, and by encouraging these practices by others;
  2. Not speak for, represent, or imply in any way that they represent the Society without the express approval of the president or Governing Board. No member of any Chapter, Division, or Section may speak with authority for that group without specific authorization;
  3. Give appropriate credit for professional work done by others;
  4. Make the fisheries profession more effective by exchanging information and experiences with colleagues, students and the public via formal publications, reports, and lectures; informal consultations; and constructive interactions with professional societies, journalists, and government bodies;
  5. Approve only those plans, reports, and other documents they have helped prepare or have supervised;
  6. Make professional recommendations and decisions to benefit fishery resources and the public, base them on the best available scientific data and judgments, give a clear and balanced exposition of the consequences of following and of not following such recommendations and decisions;
  7. Restrict, to the extent feasible, criticisms of technical results and conclusions of other researchers to professional forums such as meetings and technical journals;
  8. Balance, to the extent possible, professional viewpoints representative of the breadth of perspectives and backgrounds from which information is both obtained and applied;
  9. Recruit employees, consistent with equal opportunity legal requirements and strive towards a work force that is representative and inclusive of our communities.
  10. Treat employees justly and fairly with respect to supervision, job development, recognition, and compensation;
  11. Encourage education that identifies unconscious biases, and incorporates training opportunities supporting inclusion, equity, and diversity in the workplace;
  12. Not engage in discrimination, harassment, or bullying[2],[3] in any form;
  13. Create and uphold a safe, open, and professional environment for learning, conducting, and communicating science with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency;

Section II. Relations with Clients, Employers, and the Public

Each member of the AFS shall:

  1. Serve everyone professionally without prejudice or conflict of interest; unless the member’s professional convictions conflict with the policies of the employer, in which case the member will provide the employer with full supporting evidence and sufficient time for study and action;
  2. Maintain confidential relationships with employers and clients unless authorized by the employer or required by law or due process to disclose information or results produced while employed by that client;
  3. Advertise their professional qualifications truthfully, without exaggeration and without denigration of others;
  4. Express opinions on an aquatic resource subject only if qualified to do so by training, experience, or study;
  5. Clearly separate professional opinion from accepted knowledge or fact in all communications;
  6. Recognize the value of diverse backgrounds of other professionals and members of the public, and acknowledge the scientific value of diverse perspectives;
  7. Advise against any action or decision by an employer, client or colleague that violates any law or regulation. If a member finds employment obligations conflict with professional or ethical standards, the member should advise the employer of the conflict. If such a conflict is not resolved in a timely manner, or if the action appears to materially affect public health, safety, or welfare, then the member shall advise AFS of the objectionable condition or practice and supply substantial evidence of the problem. The member should reject attempts by employers and others to coerce or manipulate professional judgment and advice. The member should exercise professional judgment without regard to personal gain, and refuse compensation or other rewards that might be construed as an attempt to influence judgment;
  8. Not distort or withhold information solely to substantiate a personal point of view;
  9. Give expert testimony to a court, commission, or other tribunals only when based on adequate knowledge and honest conviction and give balanced judgments about the consequences of alternative actions;
  10. Fulfill ethical obligation to responsibly, accurately, clearly, and equitably inform the public about fishery resources and science;
  11. Act or intercede where possible to prevent professional misconduct. Any suspected professional misconduct, including discrimination, harassment, or bullying, shall be reported to the Executive Director, and/or AFS President and/or Ethics and Professional Conduct Committee.
  12. Expose scientific or managerial misconduct, including misrepresentation to the public of aquatic science/professional information or overtly prejudice or exclusive behaviors, and professional misconduct, including discrimination or harassment or bullying, by informing the AFS President. The president shall refer this material to The Ethics and Professional Conduct Committee. Members shall not fear retaliation against complaints and any Member enacting retaliation against reporting shall be referred to the Ethics and Professional Conduct Committee.

Section III. AFS Process for Investigating Complaints under These Standards

Allegations of misconduct brought to the attention of the AFS Executive Director, and/or AFS President, and/or Ethics and Professional Conduct committee chair will be referred to the Ethics and Professional Conduct committee for evaluation.  The process of allegations of misconduct will follow AFS procedure manual as outlined in the Ethics and Professional Standing Committee description on page 52 of the Procedure Manual.

This current version has been updated from the version that was adopted by the Governing Board in August 1997. This updated Standard of Professional Conduct is intended to address issues that may not rise to the level of legal actions but are deemed unacceptable by AFS.

Adopted unanimously by the Governing Board of the American Fisheries Society during their summer conference call on July 16, 2019.

See also the Meetings Code of Conduct.


[1] Equal Opportunity Policy: The AFS, as a professional organization and employer, is committed to the policy of providing equal opportunity to its members, its employees, and applicants for AFS membership or AFS employment. The Society will continue to exert positive efforts toward assuring full consideration of all persons in matters of entry to or position within the professional organization, as well as in all matters of AFS employment, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, or disability. The Society will promote the recognition of any qualified individual and stress the professional benefit to be gained through interaction and cooperation of all members.

[2] AFS rejects discrimination and harassment by any means, based on factors such as ethnic or national origin, race, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, age, or economic class. In addition, AFS opposes all forms of bullying including threatening, humiliating, coercive, or intimidating conduct that causes harm to, interferes with, or sabotages scientific activity and careers.

[3] Discrimination means unequal or unfair treatment in professional opportunities, education, benefits, evaluation, and employment as well as retaliation and various types of harassment. Discriminatory practices can be explicit or implicit, intentional, or unconscious. Harassment is a type of discrimination that consists of a single intense and severe act, or of multiple persistent or pervasive acts, which are unwanted, unwelcome, demeaning, abusive, or offensive. Offensive conduct constitutes harassment when 1) it becomes a condition of an opportunity, education, benefit, evaluation, or employment or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work or educational environment that most people would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.  Sexual harassment includes any unwanted and/or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others in the professional environment that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.