The Annual Science Conference 2013 surpassed our expectations! Although many of us had helped organize the 1996 conference in Reykjavík, we had no experience in holding one at the new Harpa Conference Centre, and we are grateful for the support of the ICES secretariat and the many local people involved in the process this year. I understand record numbers attended and that the standard of presentations and posters was also high. We clearly saw increased interest and participation by young scientists, which must be encouraging for the ICES community.
I believe it is always important for the ASC host to make use of this great event to stress the importance of marine science to the local community. Although the subject receives perhaps more daily exposure in Iceland than in many other ICES member countries, the ASC presented a welcome chance to strengthen its profile both home and abroad. We were able to reach the public and the marine sector through media coverage during the conference week – something of great importance.
The meeting location at Reykjavík harbour gave the attendees a flavour of the neighbourhood's historical closeness to the ocean. Obviously, most of the guests were not able to visit the smaller fishing communities along the coast, where fish represent the main source of trade and income. However, those who went to the Reykjavík fisheries sector reception in the harbour area or the one in the Maritime Museum will have learned the dependence of Icelandic society on the ocean and its produce. Many felt the former reception a kind gesture by stakeholders towards the scientists who spend all their time and energy trying to improve our understanding of the seas and life within them.
The Icelandic delegates wished to emphasize the importance of climate variability in the North Atlantic Ocean and how it affects the number and movement of organisms there – though of course there were plenty of other interesting issues on the ASC programme, including the key questions raised by professors Ragnar Árnason and Doug Butterworth during their respective plenaries.
It was a great pleasure taking part in the theme sessions on long-term harvest strategies and harvest control rules. Developments in this area are of vast importance – at least in our part of the world – and I believe well-founded harvest rules are perhaps the single most important factor in improving worldwide fisheries management in the future.
Sustaining fish populations is fundamental for both Iceland and other ICES countries – in terms of maximum yields yes, but also by means of providing fish as a 'green' alternative for consumers and it having stronger place in the food market. For ICES it is also a sign of strength and success when scientific advice has helped to shape healthy fish stocks.
Jóhann Sigurjónsson (right) at the ASC with Professor Ragnar Arnason (left) and ICES Science Committee (SCICOM) Chair Manuel Barange (centre); photo - Kristjan Kristinsson