June 20, 2022

President's Column June 2022

What a pleasure and honor to be writing my first WAS President column. After the election in early 2020 and being advised of the election result on 10 March 2020, it was an extended journey to officially becoming President-Elect in Feb 2021 and now President in May 2022. We have all been on an unusual journey over the last 2.5 years, where our perspectives on “normal” and forward planning have been challenged. My thoughts are with all people engaged with the aquaculture sector globally, through upheaval and stability, grief and joy.

To introduce myself, my involvement with WAS started with attending World Aquaculture 1999 in Sydney as a Ph.D. candidate. The conference opened my eyes to the global scale of the industry and the challenges and opportunities it presented. For me, it was the beginning of connecting my research — at the time, investigating feeding behavior of larval marine fish — with an international industry. It was a realization of my small piece in a big, sustainable development puzzle.

In 2008, I joined WAS and attended WA2008 in Busan, Korea, and have been an active member and participant in multiple conferences since then. I was Secretary of the WAS Board from February 2016 to August 2018 and a former Director of the Asian-Pacific Chapter of WAS (September 2014-April 2016). My engagement in Society roles included Conference Chair of World Aquaculture in Darwin, Australia in May-June 2023, Steering Committee member for World Aquaculture Singapore (scheduled for 29 Nov-2 Dec 2022), Program Co-Chair for World Aquaculture Adelaide 2014, member of the Policy, Rules and Regulations Committee, co-chair of sessions at World Aquaculture and Australasian Aquaculture, and a judge of student presentations.

Prior to 2020, my research was focused on industry-applied marine finfish hatchery technologies through positions with the University of Tasmania, James Cook University in Singapore and Australia and as a consultant. This was complemented with various roles leading research and development strategic planning for new and emerging species for aquaculture. Most of my work has been based in Australia, although my experience includes being a volunteer with Aquaculture without Frontiers in Myanmar, and engagement in other southeast Asian countries, as well as the USA, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, Europe and New Zealand.

In 2021, I started my first full-time role with industry and shifted focus to spiny lobster aquaculture. It seems I can’t resist some of the most biologically challenging things to do in aquaculture. I’m also committed to the translation of aquaculture research investment, effort and achievements into industry, employment and livelihoods. It has been exciting to join the team at Ornatas to commercialize over 20 years’ of research in Tropical Rock Lobster Panulirus ornatus hatchery production. I am in awe every time I look into the larval culture tanks, considering both the fascinating biology of spiny lobsters and the efforts of the scientists that have made this scale of production possible.

Away from the hatchery, WAS activities are becoming increasingly active. Despite the limited ability to hold regular face-to-face conferences, all Chapters apart from the Korean chapter now have more than 200 members each, enabling Chapter Presidents to vote and represent their members in the recent WAS Board meeting in Mérida (and virtually) in May 2022. The global diversity of representation in the Society is increasing and the Board is focused on inclusive policies. A highlight for WAS in recent months has been the successful progress of the African Chapter. The annual membership has increased by 37 percent and AFRAQ21 was held in Egypt in March 2022. I commend the African Chapter conferences to you, the next is AFRAQ23 in Zambia, to connect with developments and innovations in this region that is experiencing rapid expansion of aquaculture.

The financial position of WAS has remained secure through Covid disruption, in part with temporary support via loans from some Chapters. Successful conferences are pivotal to WAS operations, which is a not-for-profit Society functioning for the benefit of members and the aquaculture industry primarily through the exchange of scientific and industry development knowledge at world and regional meetings, the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society (in the top 20 journals in the fisheries category worldwide, with an impact factor of 2.5) and World Aquaculture magazine.

Recent Board direction is targeting a financial strategy to secure our future and increasing opportunities to support aquaculture students across the globe. Our most recent meeting in Mérida was attended by almost 2000 delegates. Many people expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues in-person. Thanks to the Conference Management team, ably lead by John Cooksey, together with the Steering Committee and all attendees for making this event a resounding success. I am confident more students and aquaculture professionals have a clearer understanding of their piece in the global aquaculture network.

My sincere thanks to Antonio Garza de Yta for his recent leadership of the WAS Board and I look forward to working with him as the immediate Past-President, together with incoming President-Elect Humberto Villarreal. We also welcome back Reg Blaylock in a following term as Treasurer, Hillary Egna and Angela Caporelli as new Directors, and Marina Rubio Benito as Student Director.

Hope to see you at a WAS or Chapter conference soon. I trust you all find a place of peace contemplating the water and the life below, wherever you are.
— Jennifer Blair (formerly Cobcroft), President

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About Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair (formerly Cobcroft), has worked for over twenty years in marine fish farming, spanning science, technology and management within both research and private sectors. Her research has focused on hatchery production of difficult-to-rear marine finfish, including developmental biology, fish health and system design.

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  • March 15, 2022

    President's Column March 2022

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  • June 20, 2022

    President's Column June 2022

    What a pleasure and honor to be writing my first WAS President column. After the election in early 2...