In memoriam - Sarah Kraak

It is with sadness that we announce that our dear colleague and friend Sarah Kraak has passed away.
Published: 8 February 2022

​​​​​​Here, some of Sarah's close friends and colleagues look back over her life.​​​

After finishing her PhD at the University of Groningen in 1994 in the field of behavioural ecology, Sarah worked as a Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern, Switzerland (1995–1998) and the University of Leicester, UK (1998–2001). When Sarah moved to the Dutch research institute IMARES in 2002, she switched her research topic to fisheries science and management. This change coincided with her entry into ICES network through different expert groups, including the Working Group on the Assessment of Demersal Stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak. In 2007, Sarah also became a member of the EU Scientific and Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF), on which she served to date.

In 2008, Sarah moved to Ireland to work at the Marine Institute and with University College Cork. She began work on a combination of her two research topics when behavioural ecology and fisheries science came together in behavioural economics. While still in Ireland, Sarah started working on the innovative use of incentives in fisheries management, trying to better understand how the behaviour of fishers could be influenced - or "nudged"- to achieve the objectives of fisheries management. This work characterized her approach and her determination; trying to alter the fishery management paradigm of TAC and quota was admirably courageous. While at the Marine Institute, Sarah was a positive role model, particularly for young scientists. She was ever willing to dive deep into almost any subject, and colleagues remember her talking with inspiration in any setting. 


The year 2008 also marked the beginning of Sarah's commitment to ICES Journal of Marine Science. She became one of the Journal's longest-serving, most engaged, dedicated and conscientious editors. The numbers bear this out: during her 14 years, she handled 221 manuscripts, more than almost any other editor. Her engagement with each and every one of these manuscripts was deep and thorough; she always provided authors with extensive, insightful and constructive feedback that helped them to improve the work, and its presentation. The Journal's editorial board meetings, and email exchanges among editors, were always enlivened and enriched by Sarah's probing and challenging interventions. Most recently, she was involved in developing the Journal's early career scientist (ECS) mentorship program, intended to train ECSs to become the editors of the future. What a role model she was!

In 2015, Sarah looked around for a place to spend the remaining part of her active career and chose the Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries in Rostock. As one of the most experienced scientists in the institute, she served on many high-level expert groups for STECF and ICES, was involved in teaching, and, most importantly, helped setting up a group dealing with behavioural economics and the future of coastal fisheries at the institute. Christopher Zimmermann remembers, “Sarah was challenging in the best sense of the word. She forced us into additional rounds of discussion on virtually every topic, thus helping us to separate knowledge from belief. We are very proud that she decided to work with us, and we still had lots of plans for the remaining years".

Within ICES 

Sarah has had a major impact within ICES network, through her work in different expert groups and, above all, through her remarkable contributions to ICES Annual Science Conferences (ASC) and other ICES symposia. Sessions organized by Sarah and her colleagues quickly became well-known points of attraction for conference participants. Martin Pastoors, who co-organized several sessions on presentation skills with Sarah, remembers how at the ASC 2009 in Berlin, Sarah insisted that all participants sit in the front rows of the large meeting room, creating a magical atmosphere with this​ unusual action. He also vividly remembers the Pecha Kucha session in Gdansk in 2011, where Sarah stepped up to improvise the talk of a presenter that had not turned up at the session. 

Dorothy Dankel remembers with fondness one of the highlights of her collaboration with Sarah: ICES ASC 2016 in Riga. There, Dorothy and Sarah co-chaired Predictably Irrational​, an outside-of-the-box theme session on behavioral science and fisheries. This theme session was a continuation of an ICES Science Fund workshop on behavioral economics and fisheries that Sarah initiated with Ciaran Kelly in 2014. 

Dorothy also remembers the playful aspects Sarah brought to science, not being afraid to try new ways of presenting, new ways of asking scientific questions, pushing ICES network out of its comfort zone. Sarah had a deep conviction that ICES needs to be challenged and had a deep understanding and drive for real interdisciplinary science. Sarah was also fundamental in bringing a pedagogic approach to these new ideas, as seen in the video that Dorothy and Sarah made together.   

In addition to bringing behavioral economics into the organization, Dortohy notes that one of Sarah's last contributions to ICES science was her mentoring of Ellen Johannesen at ICES Secretariat, who is writing her PhD on the role of gender within international marine science. Sarah was passionate about promoting inclusive understanding of gender identities in ICES network, and her personal reflections of how gender identity shaped her own career underscored once again the insightful and innovative scientist she was.


The same combination of thoroughness, dedication, fun and individual attention is highlighted by all her past and present colleagues in STECF. There, sharpened from her experience as Journal editor, she brought her quest to always find the best scientific wording (precise, meaningful, unequivocal, simple), to formulate clear scientific advice for policy makers, and to get involved in each and every topic. Her personal contribution, specifically to all aspects linked to the analyses of technical measures and multi-annual management plans, have been major. She was a colourful member of the “STECF family”, able to present her own arguments just as much as she could support arguments of colleagues, making discussions within the committee vivid, inclusive, and diverse.  

Love of life

Sarah will be remembered for her talent to embrace and bring together different scientific disciplines. She is also probably one of the few scientists who could say that they wrote and published a scientific article with their mother. But above all, Sarah will be remembered for her enthusiasm and her great drive in trying to understand everything there is to understand in the world of fisheries science and behavioural economics. 

And for her capacity to critically read texts and always come with suggestions and improvements. And for her roaring laughter during the breaks of the scientific sessions. And, as Dave Reid puts it, for her indomitable personality, her occasional volatility which was soon forgotten, for her fascination with everything, and her love of life.

And for hurtling across a crowded room to embrace you, only to berate you ten minutes later for being an idiot, and ten minutes later again telling you how smart you were! 

She will be dearly missed in all her aspects. 

Text by Martin Pastoors (Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association, the Netherlands), 
Dorothy Dankel (University of Bergen, Norway), Dave Reid (Marine Institute, Ireland), 
Ciaran Kelly (Marine Institute, Ireland)​, Tammo Bult (Wageningen Marine Research, the Netherlands), Christopher Zimmermann (Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries​),
Howard I. Browman (Institute of Marine Research​, Norway), Clara Ulrich (Ifremer, France),
Lisa Borges (Fishfix, Portugal).

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​Sarah Kraak talks with colleagues at ICES ASC 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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In memoriam - Sarah Kraak

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