Innovation, resilience, and leadership

Stakeholder engagement, shifting to a regional approach, and implementing an ecosystem-based management approach: ACOM Chair Mark Dickey-Collas reflects on his term as he hands over.
Published: 30 November 2023

​​​​​After five years at the helm of ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM), Mark Dickey-Collas is stepping down as Chair. Over his term, Dickey-Collas has emphasized maintaining the organization's position as the leading developer and provider of independent marine fisheries, aquaculture, and environmental advice, improving the resilience of ICES advice to future challenges while also recognizing and embracing opportunities.

In 2019, Dickey-Collas worked with ACOM to publish an​ ​​​​​Advisory Plan that includes more engagement with the requesters of advice and stakeholders, shifting to a regional approach, and establishing the ecosystem approach as the key to how we provide independent advice on the management of human activities in our seas and oceans. This was followed up with the Advice principles: ten guiding principles to be applied to all advice subjects - fishing opportunities, seabed impact, methods for analyzing contaminants and renewable energy, and many more - moving from a fisheries-focused framework to one that encourages ecosystem-based management across all sectors.

When appointed as ACOM Chair, Dickey-Collas had several areas he saw as key to address, namely mixed-fisheries, advice quality, producing independent advice that accounts for stakeholder concerns, implementing the ecosystem approach, and building frameworks that account for management objectives. We took this opportunity to ask him how he sees ICES progression in these areas over the past five years.​


"Crucially, ICES has delivered 31 of the 39 tasks described in the 2019 advisory plan – the remaining 8 are on route.

With mixed fisheries, we made progress with new approaches after stakeholder dialogue. Now in a new format, mixed-fisheries advice is produced for five ecoregions. We have also greatly moved forward with data-limited fisheries advice.

Based on findings by our Working Group on the Governance of Quality Management of Data and Advice (WGQuality), ​we are en route to conforming to ISO quality standards for advice, we are publishing more data flow schematics and just published the advice quality policy. On communication, we now have adviceXplorer, our shiny app that visualizes our fisheries advice.

The benchmark process has been completely reformed for new method development. Also, the data pipeline has been developed for data sourced from outside ICES.

With the implementation of the ecosystem approach, we are now the go-to place for ecosystem-based management (EBM) for the OSPAR Commission and the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), with partners across the world, the United States and Canada in particular.

The Roadmap for bycatch advice on protected, endangered, and threatened species has been crucial as a mechanism to progress our work. We are in the middle of reforming our fisheries reference point framework. Conservation advice is now a key element for stocks in trouble due to habitat issues.

Finally, we now collaborate with economic and social researchers in the advisory process – included in both the aquaculture and ecosystem overviews, and social scientists were part of the process of developing the latest innovative gear advice."

On taking the position as ACOM Chair, you stated that you wanted ACOM to remain the premier developer of independent marine fisheries, aquaculture, and environmental advice. Has anything challenged this during your term?

"Yes. The COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of BREXIT, and war in Europe - each brought their own challenges. And yet, we are building new partnerships with Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, the European Commission Directorate-General for Environment (DGENV) and strengthening links with existing partners, especially the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO).

The slow pace of change in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion has been a frustration but I am so pleased that in my term I created a powerful, diverse, and dynamic ACOM leadership team.

I wanted ACOM to become more resilient to future challenges, and I hope that this is the case."


Having been an active member of ICES community for so many years, were you always ambitious to become a leader in marine science and the organization?

"I would be lying if I said that I wasn't ambitious, but I am ambitious to make a difference - not to gain this position or that one. I have sought out ways to influence rather than gain a title. ICES offered me the opportunity to make just that difference. 

The power of ICES is its vibrant and dedicated network of scientists. I fundamentally believe in this model and will always be a champion for the organization and its people. Succeeding in a leadership role in ICES is about surfing the network's wave to our collectively agreed destination."

Will you remain an active member of ICES community?

"I still have strong links with DTU-Aqua in Denmark, Luke in Finland, Wageningen in the Netherlands, Defra in the UK, and the Marine Biological Association of the UK. I don't intend to leave applied marine science. Thus, it would be incredulous to think that I will have no links with ICES in the future, especially as I have so many friends across our community and there is such exciting new work on the horizon."

Thank you Mark for your service and efforts as ACOM Chair. Colm Lordan, Ireland, steps into the role on 1 December 2023​.

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​Outgoing Advisory Committee (ACOM) Chair Mark Dickey-Collas.

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