About a month ago, Lars-the-guru forwarded me the following email:
The 6th World Fisheries Congress will occur from 7th -11th May in Edinburgh. We need student volunteers to help run the event and are willing to offer free registration for those students that might want to get involved which is a saving of £180.
This is the olympics of fisheries and aquaculture and happens only once every 4 years and it won’t return to the UK in the near future. It is a great way to participate in this milestone event and to see talks by the likes of Ray Hilborn (U Wash), Jim Anderson (World Bank), Malcolm Beveridge (Worldfish), Katsumi Tsukamoto (U Tokyo) and participate in panel sessions dealing with illegal unregulated fishing, CFP reform, transistioning to sustainable fisheries, accreditation and its role in sustainable sourcing.
He ended the email with some tactful remark about my social awkwardness, and how volunteering would be an opportunity for me to make friends with other students. I’m going to have to get used to him being right all the time because I have indeed made brilliant new friends. Oh, and I’ve also learnt some really interesting things about fisheries in between packing 1000 goodie bags, registering hundreds of delegates and discovering that everyone thinks I sound Australian. Including the Australians.
The opening ceremony was impressive, but it was the talk by Ray Hilborn that stood out for two reasons. Firstly, he sports a truly superb handlebar moustache and secondly, he has a rather wild way of looking at the way we approach fisheries. His premise is that the net environmental costs of NOT fishing would visited upon the terrestrial environment in manner that we just cannot sustain. Protein is protein, and we have 8 billion hungry mouths to feed. We either fish or we have to clear more land and intensify our reliance on irrigation, fertiliser and pesticides.
So what is the true cost of reducing world fish production? For example, to replace the ~82 million tonnes of fish landed in 2006, an area TWENTY TWO times the size of the world’s current rainforest would be required to produce the same amount of protein.
And just because he hadn’t been controversial enough, Hilborn ended off by noting that replacing the Peruvian anchovy harvest alone would cost 4604 orangutans a year (in terms of habitat loss). I may have a soft spot for handlebar moustaches but my heart beats custard for ginger apes. Let’s just say Prof. Hilborn has himself a fan.
Oh, and Prince Charles also spoke.
In between slave-labour duties, I was able to attend a number of excellent talks. One session that I particularly enjoyed fell under the umbrella of “Anthropogenic Challenges: Ocean Acidification and Mining”. From cold water corals under threat (Prof. Murray Roberts, if you ever read this, thank you for patiently answering all 98037518 of my questions instead of quietly enjoying your well-earned glass of wine) to poisoned fish in Nigeria (heart: broken) to hard truths about mine waste and tailing dams (Carol Ann Woody, you’re amazing, please never ever stop being a thorn in the side of the Alaskan government).
After an incredibly long day, I went to a renowned bar called Brauhaus with my new friends. The rest of the information is classified, but I think it suffice to say that they stock beers from all over the world and I’m a sucker for a challenge…
Despite being a wee tired this morning, I was schmoozing with aplomb after two coffees and I’ve met some amazing scientists. Tomorrow, I’m lucky enough to be attending the gala dinner at Murrayfield (thank you thank you thank you to the organising committee) and I’ll also get to experience my first céilidh! Which is Scottish for violent square dancing, or something.