Combined knowledge key to congress success

Traditionally focused on the technical and biological details of fisheries, a recent congress urged researchers to consider the potential of combining traditional knowledge with science

By Pele Cannon

Image of Australian Society for Fish Biology logo

The Joint Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB) and Australian Society for Limnology (ASL) Congress held in Darwin from 30 June to 4 July was a resounding success. The event brought together scientists, researchers, industry and management agencies from across the marine and freshwater spectrums.

The ASFB was founded in 1971 and provides a collegiate and supportive atmosphere for researchers. The FRDC is a proud supporter of the ASFB, and has sponsored its yearly conference for the past decade.

The opportunity this year to integrate with the ASL was welcomed – and this first joint congress was clearly useful, with strong crossover between the two fields noted. There was a clear intention from participants to continue the collaboration. More than 330 delegates from both societies attended, and more than 300 talks and posters were presented.

The plenary session for the joint congress, inspired by a special session at a previous ASFB conference, focused on indigenous involvement in fisheries research and management. The plenary was inspiring, with presentations from indigenous researchers, managers and traditional owners from around Australia, and from New Zealand and Canada.

Speakers including Julian Williams, from the Waikato-Tainui region of the South Island of New Zealand, and Kerry Prosper and Jane McMillan, from the Mi’kmaq near Nova Scotia, Canada, gave insightful presentations on their experiences engaging with fisheries management.

This included activities around generating greater involvement in the management process by indigenous peoples, and changing laws and management strategies to more fairly incorporate indigenous perspectives and cultural practices.

Stan Lui, senior natural resource management officer (sea) from the Torres Strait Regional Authority, explained the Torres Strait Sea Claim, and the management and engagement structures operating in his region.

Robert ‘Bo’ Carne, now CEO of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, provided an overview of his experience in fisheries management in the Northern Territory.

Phil Duncan from the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations told of his experience negotiating water rights and cultural flows in the Murray–Darling Basin region.

Landscape transformation

Denis Rose and Adam Walker, via discussion of the Lake Condah restoration in Victoria, demonstrated the powerful transformation that can occur in a landscape by combining traditional knowledge and science.

Michael Douglas and Mona Liddy presented on the successful Daly River project in the Northern Territory, noting again the far-reaching benefits and flow-on effects of engaging indigenous communities in research projects.

Outcomes of the plenary discussion session included recognition of a need to build time into project and funding models to allow for culturally slow consultation and engagement processes, the management of expectations, and the need to consider legacy or exit strategies at the beginning of a project.

Society members were proud of the success of the plenary given its non-technical and non-biological focus – a novel approach for the ASFB.

The focus of the conference was very much on the interaction between scientific study and the end users, management, and local and indigenous communities who benefit or are affected by the outcomes or process of research.

A key theme of the congress overall was that statistical, mechanistic and qualitative models on their own are insufficient, and crossover between all three is needed to achieve useful results. As Michael Douglas and Mona Liddy pointed out, we need to be “walking together, talking together and working together”.

2015 conference

Overall, the quality of presentations and posters at the joint congress was exceptional, and the well-organised timetable and social program fostered the essential camaraderie and interaction that make a gathering worth attending.

In 2015, the ASFB Conference will be held in association with the 5th International Symposium for Stock Enhancement and Sea Ranching (ISSESR).

To be held at the University of Technology, Sydney, from 11 to 14 October, the 2015 conference will provide the ASFB with another excellent opportunity to bring together society members, demonstrate the high quality of members’ research, and network and interact with researchers from other fields. 

2014 ASFB Award winners

The Australian Society for Fish Biology Awards were presented at the congress dinner.

Early Career Research Excellence Award – John Morrongiello, CSIRO

Early Career Research International Travel Award – Chris Izzo, University of Adelaide

‘Jonathon Murphy’ Student International Travel Award – Rohan Brooker, James Cook University

John Lake (poster presentation) Award (junior) – Mae Noble, Australian National University (Can Murray crayfish be a key surrogate species for freshwater management?)

John Lake (poster presentation) Award (senior) – Leanne Curry, James Cook University (Environmental drivers of depth use by an exploited reef fish)

The Gerald P. Whitley (oral presentation) Award (junior) – Samuel Williams, University of Queensland (Genetic population structure of Black Marlin (Istiompax indica) within the central Indo-Pacific)

The Gerald P. Whitley (oral presentation) Award (senior) – Krystine Mossop, Monash University (Connectivity, phylogeography and behaviour of a desert-dwelling fish: does habitat matter?)

Victorian Marine Science Consortium Award (temperate marine ecology) – Stephanie Brodie, University of New South Wales (The oceanographic habitats of two migratory pelagic fish: dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi) and Yellowtail Kingfish)

FRDC Research Codes: 2013-404

More information

Gary Jackson,
Australian Society for Fish Biology