Special Sessions

2017 Special Sessions will include:


Nurturing fish scientists -from nursery to broodstock

A post-graduate degree in fish biology or fisheries science can lead to an exciting and rewarding career in a variety of roles including academia, management, industry, advocacy, and education.  However, no matter where ones career leads, it can be a rough and uncertain ride and the journey rarely occurs without losing copious amounts of scales or at least a great deal of mucous on the way. The journey begins in earnest at the post-graduate, or larval phase. The mentoring provided by the candidate’s supervisors is an important, arguably critical, component of successfully moving through this early phase. Armed with many new skills, knowledge and a silly hat, we then pursue our passions and try to make a positive difference to fish and fisheries, and hopefully get paid for it.  However, landing and maintaining a position in the current funding landscape is as tough as ever. Sharing experiences, from the student, supervisor, and employer’s perspective will help identify how we can all improve the life-cycles, particularly increasing recruitment and reducing mortality rates, of Australia’s fish scientists and managers.

This session invites you to take us on your journey and highlight things that you or others have done that have helped you successfully graduate, and secure careers as fish scientists or managers. Equally, it is an opportunity to discuss formal supervisory techniques and approaches as well as informal mentoring roles, including how your approach to this may have evolved with your own ontogeny. It may be useful to include some mention of trial and error in this regard. We encourage participants from a diversity of fields, careers and career stages.  We are particularly interested to hear the students perspective on what makes a great supervisor, and employer’s perspective of what makes a candidate standout for a fishy position. 

Recognising this session is not strictly about presenting research findings, speakers in this session will also be eligible to present in other sessions subject to normal acceptance by the relevant chairs.

Chairs: Stephen Beatty (Murdoch University) s.beatty@murdoch.edu.au and
Brendan Ebner (CSIRO) brendan.ebner@csiro.au


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This full day freshwater session will focus on elements of native species, alien fishes as well as parasites and diseases. Diadromous species are included within this theme, especially where the freshwater stages of the life cycle are a focus. The session chairs welcome presentations on threatened species, recreational fisheries and aquaculture, and water resource management. Specifically we are hoping to canvass the interactions between and among natives, aliens and parasites, and to identify real world opportunities for managing pest fish species and their entourage. Those with specific contributions in mind are encouraged to contact the relevant chairs.

The Good (threatened or native species)

There is a fascinating array of native freshwater fish in the Australian-New Zealand region. We encourage those involved with single species, populations or assemblages of native fishes to briefly present their work. These presentations may or may not include a threatened species focus. Some of the relevant progress with Western Australian research and management will be showcased in this section, and it will be great to have a mixture of western and eastern seaboard input, and something from across the ditch. A mixture of tropical or temperate input is the intent.

Chair: David Morgan (Murdoch University) d.morgan@murdoch.edu.au

The Bad (pest fishes or more broadly pest species)

The villains are a prominent part of freshwater fish assemblages and ecosystems in Oz and NZ. We are after word of your progress in studying and/or managing alien fish incursions, perhaps some basic biology and ecology on particular species, or your thinking about where progress might be made with some of the recently established or long standing aliens in our catchments. We are also trying to rekindle the Alien Species Committee, and this is a good chance to energise individuals that are passionate about this important applied field.

Chair: Ben Broadhurst (University of Canberra) ben.broadhurst@canberra.edu.au

The Ugly (parasites, pathogens and diseases)

There are native and introduced parasites, pathogens and diseases associated with freshwater fishes in New Zealand and Australia. The import, export and spread of these phenomena have consequences for recipient ecosystems and human society. This is a great opportunity for experts working in this space to educate freshwater fish researchers and managers in the one room. It is also a great opportunity for specialists in the ‘ugly’ to benefit from those in the room that understand the vectors (the fish) and people. In regard to the latter it would be great to see some social science and policy contributions.

Chair: Al Lymbery (Murdoch University) a.lymbery@murdoch.edu.au

Interactions between or among the GBU

The good, bad and ugly interact. The pinnacle of the day session will be presentations that tease out aspects of the connections among native and alien fishes, their parasites and disease. Anyone working specifically on managing and understanding such interactions is strongly encouraged to contact the session chair, because your work will likely be keystone for the day.

Chair: Katie Ryan (Murray-Darling Basin Authority) katie.ryan@mdba.gov.au


Concurrent with the full day freshwater session, this marine habitat day welcomes contributions from scientists and students from all fish-related disciplines working in the marine realm. We encourage the presentation of work from a broad diversity of geographic areas and ecosystems on topics as diverse as fish and habitat conservation and management science, as well as those dealing with the ecology, evolution and physiology of marine fishes. Below are some examples of specific mini-sessions that will be incorporated into this day but contributions that do not fall directly into these will be accommodated into other generic themes to provide an exciting and broad range of presentations aimed at challenging our understanding of all things fishy in the marine environment.

Changes to macroalgal habitats – causes and consequences 

Macroalgae form dynamic habitat throughout Australia’s coastal waters which can influence the distribution, abundance and recruitment patterns of fish. In many tropical areas macroalgal fields undergo seasonal shifts in composition and canopy structure, potentially altering the suitability of that habitat for fish that recruit and reside within tropical macroalgal fields. Climate related disturbances may also facilitate shifts to fleshy macroalgae dominance on tropical reefs following coral mortality, whilst on temperate reefs habitat forming kelp may be replaced by tropical algae following heat waves. Changes to benthic habitats are expected to have major consequences for fish, though it is also possible that fish have critical roles in either preventing or driving shifts in macroalgal habitats. This session brings together research that examines the consequences of changes in macroalgal habitat for fish and combines this with projects that investigate the role that fish have in causing or preventing these habitat shifts to gain a greater appreciation of the ecology of fishes in macroalgal habitats.

Chairs: Shaun Wilson (Department of Parks and Wildlife WA) shaun.wilson@dpaw.wa.gov.au
Chris Fulton (Australian National University) christopher.fulton@anu.edu.au and 
Martial Depczynski (AIMS) m.depczynski@aims.gov.au

The value of subsea infrastructure and artificial reefs to fish and fisheries

There is widespread evidence that fish populations can benefit from the presence of large marine structures. This phenomenon is well known for sunken ships and purpose-deployed artificial habitats, as well as for oil and gas platforms and associated infrastructure. Artificial reefs have been installed around the world as coastal management tools to increase fisheries yields and production, and to improve opportunities for recreational diving. Similar structures can also be installed for sea ranching, for example those installed off Augusta, Western Australia for abalone. Subsea infrastructure, not purpose-built as artificial reefs, but rather for servicing oil and gas extraction industries, can also affect local marine ecology. Presently, there are significant numbers of large static structures, including platforms (rigs), pipelines, and associated constructions such as well-heads, being positioned around the margins of almost all continents. A full understanding of any potentially positive ecological value of marine infrastructure becomes particularly salient towards the end of their operational lives as decommissioning and removal are planned and implemented. The benefits of retaining decommissioned marine structures in the sea are perhaps best exemplified by the implementation of ‘rigs to reefs’ programs in which decommissioned platforms are retained in situ in the sea because of recognized and acknowledged net benefits. In the case of rigs to reefs programs, benefits include benthic habitat conservation, enhanced fishery resources, and cost savings for the oil and gas industry. This special session invites contributions that examine associations between fish and subsea artificial structures including:
- The value of artificial structures to commercial and recreational fisheries
- The ecology of artificial reefs and subsea infrastructure
- Methods for assessing fish associations with subsea artificial structures
- Implications of decommissioning subsea infrastructure for fish and fisheries

Chairs: Dianne McLean (University of Western Australia) dianne.mclean@uwa.edu.au and
Euan Harvey (Curtin University) euan.harvey@curtin.edu.au

Ningaloo Reef: biology and ecology of fish inhabiting an Australian icon

Ningaloo reef is a western Australian icon: a state marine park, Commonwealth marine reserve and World Heritage Area. It is renowned for its fish and fishing. Several large research programs have focused on Ningaloo, and the state of knowledge of the reef and the fish that inhabit it has expanded massively in the last decade. Indeed, an ISI search with the terms “Ningaloo” and “fish*” yielded 124 publications in the last ten years, compared to 24 in all years prior to that. Research of fish has encompassed everything from reproductive biology to movement ecology, and some research focus has also been on the humans that catch the fish. Habitats that have been studied range from inshore stands of macroalgae to the deep blue waters off the reef. This session will aim to bring together researchers with an interest in fish Ningaloo, but we’ll welcome researchers who want to talk about coral reefs in their part of the world.

Chairs: Mat Vanderklift (CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere) mat.vanderklift@csiro.au
and others (TBC)

The Great Southern Reef: ecology, value and threats

The Great Southern Reef (GSR) straddles the southern coastline of the continent. Just as the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is made up by ~3000 individual reefs dominated by corals, the GSR is made up by countless rocky reefs dominated by kelp forests, interconnected by oceanographic, ecological and evolutionary processes. The GSR is a global hotspot for temperate marine biodiversity with 30-80% endemic species. More than 70% of Australians live within 50 km of the GSR and it contributes at least 2-3 times as much to GDP as the GBR. Nevertheless, compared to the GBR the GSR receive only <5% of the media and <10% of the public research investment. The GSR is under pressure from humans and climate change, which have caused extensive loss of kelp forests around Sydney, Tasmania, Adelaide and WA. There is a pressing need to focus attention on this valuable ecosystem. This session will bring together researchers with an interest in nearshore temperate waters to explore and discover the ecological function and socio-economic value of kelp forests and the GSR to fish, fisheries and dependent communities, including future threats.

Chairs: Thomas Wernberg (University of Western Australia) thomas.wernberg@uwa.edu.au and others


Turning points and agents of change in fish biology conservation and fisheries

There have been many tangible (i.e. not just ideological) turning points in the way fish and fish habitats are managed. These changes occur in freshwater and marine systems, can affect individual species or whole ecosystems, and often (but not always) result in inter-disciplinary change in research, policy and legislation. Most of the changes are for the 'greater good', but we've seen (and can learn a great deal from) some real clangers, too.  In this session we'd like to slap on our 20/20 hindsight goggles to reflect on the knowledge, wisdom and experience of those of you that have been involved in affecting change to answer a simple question:  what critical factor(s) led to change? Was it an individual action, a conversation, a sustained single-minded bloody-mindedness of an individual or group, a fortuitous moment, a chat over a few drinks at a conference, a marked change in political direction or simply a great piece of research communicated well? We welcome examples and observations from researchers, managers, policy developers and communications specialists. The reflection in each contribution should drive consideration of how, looking forward, the worlds of research, policy and/or legislation and science communication can best work together to improve sustainable outcomes for freshwater and marine fishes and their ecosystems.

Chairs: Brendan Ebner (CSIRO) brendan.ebner@csiro.au

Environmental stress and its effects on fish: from molecules to ecosystems

Responses to environmental stress are manifested in fish at levels of biological organization that range from molecules to ecosystems. This session will host a range of presentations that highlight the diversity of ways in which we can measure and interpret environmental stress responses among fish, encompassing studies in temperate and tropical freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems. It will include approaches focused at various levels of biological organization (sub-cellular, individual, population, community) and illuminate stress responses using diverse techniques and approaches (e.g. genomics, metabolomics, physiological studies, acoustic tracking and community ecology). This symposium thus invites contributions that address responses of fish to various stressors, as manifested through
- metabolomic, genomic, transcriptomic responses 
- physiological responses 
- behavioural responses (growth, feeding, reproduction, movement)
- changes in abundance and distribution, including range shifts 
- altered community structure and implications for ecosystem function/health

Chris Hallett (Murdoch University) c.hallett@murdoch.edu.au,
Adrian Gleiss (Murdoch University) a.gleiss@murdoch.edu.au,
Kathryn Hassell (University of Melbourne) khassell@unimelb.edu.au and

What drives migration? Novel approaches to understanding why and how fish move

Migration is the regular movement from one location to another and is widespread in the animal kingdom. In fishes, migration occurs over multiple spatial– ranging from pan-oceanic to less than a meter and temporal scales from ontogenetic movements occurring over many years to daily movements. Advances in technologies to “track” the movement of fishes, from chemical tracers to satellite tags, have shed light on the many migratory movements by fishes. Such descriptive accounts have laid the foundation for our understanding of fish migration; however data on the physical location of fishes is generally insufficient to identify the mechanisms underlying those movements. This session is designed to bring together fish biologist working on fish movement in all habitats, from the pelagic to small billabongs using a wide range of techniques to provide an up-to-date view on the factors that drive the migratory behaviour of fish with a particular emphasis on those studies using multiple and novel approaches.

Chairs: Adrian Gleiss (Murdoch University) a.gleiss@murdoch.edu.au and
David Crook (Charles Darwin University) david.crook@cdu.edu.au

Hearing me, hearing you, a-ha – Using acoustics to monitor fish and their habitats!

Sound propagates efficiently in water and with advances in technology researchers and tagged fish are now ‘pinging’ louder, further and over a wider range of frequencies (where appropriate) than ever before. We can map every nook and cranny of fishy homes and eavesdrop on them for months on end to hear trade secrets. We can 'image' them in the water column or track individuals as they sneak off for midnight snacks or dangerous liaisons, whether around the corner or kilometres away. Sound has provided many ways for researchers to observe both aquatic fauna and their environment, so in this session, if you’ve been using underwater acoustics, whether active, passive or telemetry techniques we would like to hear what you’ve been doing.

Chairs: Miles Parsons (Curtin University) miles.parsons@curtin.edu.au and
Ben Scoulding (Echoview) ben.scoulding@echoview.com

Beyond biology: social and economic dimensions of fisheries

Although fisheries science and management has traditionally focused mainly on ensuring the ecological sustainability of resources, the last decade has seen a shift towards a more holistic approach that also considers the social and economic dimensions of fishing. The importance of better understanding and considering the needs of fishers, as well as the broader community and seafood consumers, has prompted work on developing social and economic objectives for fisheries but managers and stakeholders are still grappling with the selection of appropriate indicators for measuring performance against these objectives. At the same time, prominent media campaigns about the impacts of fisheries on the environment, and conflicts between fishing sectors related to resource sharing issues, represent growing threats to the future viability of Australian fisheries. ‘Social licence’ has become a popular term for describing the level of community acceptance or approval for fisheries and their operations, with independent eco-labelling schemes being used as tools for increasing public confidence in the sustainability of our fisheries. This session is looking to explore the exciting new research into the social science of fisheries and its importance for understanding and improving public perceptions of fisheries. 

Chairs: Emily Fisher (Department of Fisheries WA) emily.fisher@fish.wa.gov.au and
Emily Ogier (University of Tasmania) emily.ogier@utas.edu.au

Recently Added: Recent advances in stock assessment and management

The Australian Commonwealth adopted a harvest strategy policy for its fisheries in 2007, which required each fishery to develop a harvest strategy that met the guidelines associated with that policy. These harvest strategies were usually built around the ideas of limit and target reference points and each fishery required a form of assessment to determine how it was performing or else be deemed uncertain. With the upcoming introduction of a revised Commonwealth policy it seems likely that the number of stock assessments needed in the Commonwealth will soon increase. In addition, the Australian Fisheries Research Development Corporation along with ABARES introduced the Status of key Australian Fish Stocks SAFS(2012, 2014, 2016), which includes large numbers of State fisheries. The intention for SAFS 2018 and 2020 is to further increase the coverage of species considered but keep the proportion of undefined/uncertain stocks relatively low. These developments all point to a need for an expansion in the number of stock assessments and their associated harvest strategies, especially for relatively data-poor species. Similar requirements have arisen in the USA and in Europe so, not surprisingly, there has been a great deal of recent work on the development of stock assessment methodologies across the spectrum of data availability. Australian fisheries scientists have been contributing to the development of new and improved methodologies for the most data-rich stocks as well as for the more data-poor. The ASFB meeting in Albany provides a good opportunity to bring these researchers together to hear the very latest developments being worked on. This session invites talks on stock assessments, and their related harvest strategies, that could range from fully developed integrated stock assessments with multiple data streams down to the most data-poor fisheries. 

Chair: Malcolm Haddon (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere) malcolm.haddon@csiro.au and others.