New year, new president

Q & A with our new President Fritz W. Köster
Published: 3 January 2019

​​​​At its annual meeting in October last year, ICES Council elected Fritz W. Köster as ICES President for the next three years (November 2018 til October 2021).

We sat down with the new President for a Q&A on what he sees the future holds for our organization.​ 

1. How did you become a fisheries scientist? What got you into the field?

At the age of 15, I joined the German Federal Research Centre for Fisheries (now known as Thünen Institute) as an intern. The training there included seagoing activities in the North Sea and I found it so interesting that I continued to work on contracts at the institute during my school holidays. I realized that I would actually like to continue working in the area, so I studied biology and marine sciences at the University of Kiel.

I continued working for Thünen Institute during my studies, taking on many tasks; from seagoing activities to laboratory and analysis jobs as a technician, as well as taking over as cruise leader for standard surveys.

2. When did you get involved with ICES?

My first experience with ICES was in 1985. I presented my Master’s thesis on the stability of biological reference points for fisheries management at the statutory meeting that year in London. Afterwards, one of my first jobs was to install ICES stock assessment software to the computer system of EU Directorate for Fisheries.

3. What were your further roles in ICES?

​Since 1988, I have worked on Greenlandic and Baltic fish stocks at Thünen and also the Institute of Marine Research in Kiel. I recognized the importance of environmental change and ecosystem interactions on fish stock and fisheries dynamics in both these areas. This of course meant that I was involved in ICES stock assessment and multispecies expert groups, as well as the GLOBEC Cod and Climate Change initiative. I also became a member of the German Commission on Marine Research, which coordinated ICES work.

I moved to the Danish Institute for Fisheries Research in 2002, became a Baltic Committee member and Council Delegate in 2004, and since then I have served in the Advisory Committee for Fisheries Management, in various Council initiatives, the Bureau, and the Finance Committee. So I have had quite a few roles within the organization!

4. What are you looking forward to the most during your three years as president?

ICES is an important and unique scientific organization and I am proud to be part of it. However, I believe in teamwork: a single person can act as the figurehead of an organization but the success of the organization depends on the people in the network and their collaboration and effort in various expert, steering, and planning groups, and committees. I see myself as one part of this team, which includes a dedicated Secretariat and collaboration with the member states on both sides of the Atlantic, partner scientific organizations and our clients.

5. What do you consider as ICES biggest challenges over the next three years?

Collaboration. We need, for example, to strengthen the education and training aspects of ICES, which includes more collaboration with universities. This will have a positive effect in broadening our science base.

Strengthening our training and relationship with academics should go hand in hand with intensifying international collaboration with other scientific and advisory organizations. Working together with others in the Arctic, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the North Pacific, including both areas within and beyond national jurisdiction, will ensure that we develop into a truly global actor.

We have recently acquired observer status in the United Nations (UN), so there is the recognition that ICES has much to share with other partners: our work methods, approaches, scientific standards and methods, data policy, and operational data products. Through strengthened collaboration, we are contributing to the global ocean agenda and its regional implementation.

We need to also recognize that our advisory function takes place in a highly dynamic political landscape and this is a challenge. Changes within the European Union (EU) will have an impact on our work, and, in my opinion, ensures that ICES role is even more necessary.

Traditionally, ICES has focused on fisheries, and more recently again on aquaculture. Adopting an ecosystem approach recognizes that fisheries and aquaculture are only two of several drivers of change in the marine ecosystem. We have done this increasingly over the past 20 years. The development has been positive and encourages our advice clients to broaden their requests to address wider environmental issues.  The ecosystem approach requires enhanced coverage of human drivers and socio-economic aspects, areas that have not been an ICES stronghold; here we need advancement in both our science and the advisory side, making our work increasingly complex.

A great example of progress is the work carried out by our data centre, including populating and handling regional databases for stock assessment, environmental databases, developing and distributing analyses tools and results. However, I believe data collection coordination can be even more efficient, utilising modern technology without compromising our invaluable long-term data series.

6. How are you going to tackle those challenges?

We do this by intensifying cooperation between our science, advisory, and data programmes, by strengthening education and training, and by strengthening collaboration with regional and global partners across various scientific disciplines. Our new strategic plan, which will be launched later this month, frames the different areas we will be working on. This is complemented by our science plan, which describes seven areas that will be the focus of our work in the years to come.

Our aim is to advance and share scientific understanding of marine ecosystems, to meet conservation, management, and sustainability goals, and provide the scientific advice that managers need to make decisions ensuring the sustainable use of our seas and oceans. 

So to sum up, the principles for tackling these challenges are cooperation, dialogue, more inter/multidisciplinary work, and a greater engagement in education and training.

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​Photo: U​lrik Jantzen​​​​

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New year, new president

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