Peter Nelson: Fish Biologist & Fisheries Management

Peter Nelson is a fisheries biologist.

“I am a biologist and a surfer. I grew up on, in and under the water on the west coast of the United States. I have two children, a son (12) and a daughter (8), and one of my greatest joys is taking my kids on, in or under the water. For this reason, taking care of the ocean is incredibly important to me.

I have studied the fishes that aggregate beneath floating objects, what fish see and why they have the colors they do, and the movements of fishes as they transition from juveniles to adults, but I am terribly curious about most things. I am good with numbers and looking for patterns that require statistics to find them, and I especially like conducting experiments that explore interesting questions on behavior or physiology.

Here in California, I work with fishermen to collect the kinds of information needed to manage fisheries and protect marine ecosystems. In the U.S., managers and scientists have told fishermen where to fish, when to fish and how much to fish for decades; sometimes this has worked but often the results have been poor. We are working now to make fishermen partners in the management process. Obviously, fishermen know the sea. They know that taking too much, too fast will result in scarcity. So, clearly, fishermen can and should be stewards of the ocean. Our seafood markets and our history of fisheries management make this difficult to achieve, but I think that we are beginning to make progress. I would be honored to help to contribute some of the science that we have acquired in the United States, as well as our experience involving communities in managing their resources. I expect, however, that I will learn at least as much from the people of Ulithi.”