Members of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) have 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 21:26-29). He/she acts ethically in his/her relationships with the general public and with his/her employers, employees, and associates, and he/she follows the tenets of the Society’s Equal Opportunity Policy (see 2013 AFS Membership Directory and Handbook, page v). He/she strives to preserve and enhance the fisheries profession. Further, all members must adhere to the “Standard of Professional Conduct” (https://fisheries.org/about/governance/standards-of-professional-conduct/). If you believe that misconduct has occurred, either in the context of AFS business or a member’s professional responsibilities, you are encouraged to consult the chair of the Society’s Ethics and Professional Conduct Committee for guidance.
Advocacy may be simply defined as arguing for a cause, often on behalf of others. Arguments may be written or expressed orally, and often they must be developed quickly to respond to a pending issue. In general, Society advocacy pertains to broad fisheries issues that have national or even international consequences. AFS Unit involvement in advocacy is generally at a level corresponding to the mission of the Unit and typically involves more localized issues or narrower subject areas.
Society-level engagement in the advocacy arena is addressed in the Advocacy Guidelines (https://fisheries.org/policy-media/advocacy-guidelines/), which outline criteria for determining when and how the Society should get involved. This document also outlines additional criteria that Units should consider before engaging in advocacy. As with any Society activity, it is essential that any advocacy—by the Society or its Units—be free of bias and based in sound science. Like science or management, advocacy can be contentious—Unit leaders are encouraged to choose words carefully. Units or their members can contact the policy staff at the AFS headquarters office for help in determining best courses of action.
“Affiliate membership” is a catch-all category used to describe individuals that are members of an AFS Unit, but are not members of the Society. Several Sections, including the Fish Culture, Fish Health, Genetics Sections, have recognized affiliate membership in their bylaws. Some Chapters have similarly recognized affiliate membership categories, whereas others have prohibited affiliate membership; perhaps the majority of Units do not formally recognize affiliate membership, but allow it by the participation of non-AFS members at their annual meetings. The history and present practicalities of affiliate membership are complicated, but the bottom line is that affiliates are not able to vote or serve the Society or fully reap the benefits of membership. The Society has good reason to want to bring affiliates ‘into the fold,” but some fisheries professionals only recognize value in participating at the Chapter or Section level. AFS has wrestled with the issues of affiliate membership for many years and will likely continue to do so. Until such time as the questions of affiliate membership are resolved once and for all, your job as a Unit leader is to know the difference between affiliate membership and Society membership, be able to articulate the differences to current or prospective members, and understand and enforce procedural limitations related to affiliate member participation in Society business (i.e., serving on or chairing committees, voting).