Scientists from around the world will descend on The JohnsHopkins University campus on Sept. 22 to discuss issues of majorinterest to all nations: factors affecting the production ratesof vital ocean fisheries.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Seawill hold a three-day symposium at Hopkins beginning that day as aprelude to the organization's annual science conference, also inBaltimore.
Symposium speakers will focus on the central questionconcerning fisheries: What are the specific processes andinteractions that determine how many fish will be produced in agiven season?
Because fish represent a major global food source, fisheriesproduction is a critical issue.
"If you look at the statistics, we seem to have peaked, interms of global fisheries production," said Thomas Osborn, aprofessor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Earth and PlanetarySciences, who specializes in physical oceanography and helpedorganize the symposium.
The high mark was in 1989, when the seas yielded about 85million metric tons -- or 187 billion pounds -- of fish.
"It has since leveled off, but has not sharply declined,"said Michael Fogarty, a fisheries scientist at the University ofMaryland who also helped organize the symposium, which willattract scientists from more than 20 nations.
The meeting "is dealing with topics that have received a lot ofattention in the general press because of the perception of afisheries crisis throughout the world," Fogarty said.
Crisis would be the right term to describe the conditions ofsome fish stocks; for example, the decline of cod off of theNewfoundland coast "is an ecological and an economic disaster,"Fogarty said.
"There are declines in many other species," he said.
However, not all the news is bad; regulations andrestrictions are helping to restore some fish stocks. Herring andmackerel, once decimated by foreign fishing fleets, are nowabundant again off the New England coast.
"It took over a decade for them to come back, but they havecome back," Fogarty said.
Scientists use the term "recruitment" to define thedevelopment of eggs to offspring that eventually become largeenough to be fished.
"Fish produce many, many more eggs than become adults,"Osborn said. "You don't keep track of how many eggs there are.The important thing is how many returned to enter the fishery."
But researchers have been mystified by regional fluctuationsin the numbers of fish from year to year.
"Almost any farmer can tell how much fertilizer he shouldput on the field for a desired yield, but we still don't know howto predict the number of fish that are growing in the ocean,"said Osborn, a member of ICES' United States delegation.
About 150 scientist are expected to attend the symposium,entitled: Recruitment Dynamics of Exploited Marine Populations.
"By exploited, we mean things that are fished, like cod,haddock, salmon, all the things that have economic value," Osbornsaid.
ICES, headquartered in Denmark, is the oldest intergovernmentalorganization in the world dedicated to marine and fisheries science. It hasmembers from 19 countries, including all of the European coastal nations. The95-year-old organization gives advice to the European Union, as well as togovernmental bodies, regarding fisheries.
The symposium, which charges a registration fee of $100, or$35 for students, is open to scientists and students who areinterested in the interactions between processes in marineenvironments and the dynamics involved in recruitment.
Journalists interested in learning more about the symposium maycall Fogarty 410-326-7289, or Osborn at 410-516-7039.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. on Monday at Shriver Hall, onthe Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, at 3400 N. Charles St. in Baltimore. The opening talk is at 9:30 a.m. The symposium continues through Wednesday.Research findings will be presented in poster papers on display in LeveringHall's Glass Pavilion throughout the three days of talks.
Symposium talks will cover a wide range of subjects, fromoverfishing to environmental and physical factors that affect thepopulations of different species.
The annual science conference, at the Renaissance Plaza indowntown Baltimore, will follow the symposium. The conferencerepresents the culmination of a year of meetings and discussions.It begins on Thursday, Sept. 25, and ends Oct. 3. Information about ICES isavailable on-line, at http://www.ices.dk. ###
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