Aquatic Stewardship Education in Theory and Practice

The Role of the American Fisheries Society in Fostering Aquatic Resource Stewardship: Past Successes, Future Opportunities

Carl V. Burger and Michael E. Barnes


Abstract.—The American Fisheries Society (AFS) is the oldest professional organization for fisheries scientists in the world. Through its evolution from a fish culture organization to a multifaceted association of diverse specialists, AFS began to implement strategic planning by the early 1990s. Its 2004 Strategic Plan establishes priorities for aquatic stewardship, with three core goals: policy leadership, public education, and resource conservation advocacy. Without leadership and advocacy for local and global stewardship, aquatic resource goals are unattainable. What role should AFS play in fostering future stewardship efforts? With whom should AFS partner and for what goals? To gain insights to answer these questions, several AFS parent society and unit leaders were canvassed to identify examples of stewardship successes at all society levels. The resulting examples were organized into seven major areas encompassing one or more of the stewardship focus areas: (1) scientific communication, (2) resource policy advocacy, (3) global outreach, (4) education, (5) youth activities, (6) habitat restoration and assessments, and (7) leadership development. Responses provided many suggestions for advancing AFS stewardship goals, such as involvement in State Wildlife Grant programs, the National Fish Habitat Initiative, more leadership development/mentor programs, and global partnerships. A major conclusion is that novel opportunities abound and that AFS should seek to cultivate relationships with nontraditional partners such as watershed coalitions, land trust organizations, and community-based service groups. AFS has had many stewardship successes. However, future successes will depend on how AFS leverages its expertise, synergizes innovative partnerships, and creates new connections to promote tangible accomplishments in aquatic resource stewardship. The AFS strategic plan, if fully embraced by all AFS units and creatively leveraged with partners, is the launch pad for catalyzing future strategies that build on past successes.