Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A great year as a Knauss Fellow

What a year it’s been!  With my fellowship coming to an end this month, I can say that the Knauss Fellowship exceeded all of my expectations.

It was a busy year getting to know the DC area and my fellow fellows, and getting immersed in the ocean community here.  I also got to meet an astronaut – Kathy Sullivan (see photo), who leads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and became the first American woman to walk in space.

And oh yes, there was also quite a bit of learning at work as well.  At the Office of Marine Conservation at the Department of State, I worked with a group of very smart, talented and committed colleagues.  They were terrific in involving me in the office’s day-to-day duties while also allowing me the opportunity and flexibility to pursue my own interests.

I got to work on projects to raise awareness of marine debris by involving U.S. embassies in beach cleanup activities, create a public-private partnership that will develop mobile phone applications to improve the sustainability of small-scale fisheries overseas, and plan a speakers’ panel for an international oceans conference.

I also had the chance to participate in U.S. delegations to international fisheries negotiations.  I participated in delegations to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Japan, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission in Taiwan, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas in South Africa, the Yukon River Panel in Canada, and the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) in Ecuador.  Each negotiation was very different and a terrific learning experience.

At SPRFMO, which took place during the second-to-last week of my fellowship, I served as the sole State Department representative to the delegation, which also included NOAA representatives from headquarters and the Pacific.  Because SPRFMO is still a new organization, many of the discussions focused on developing measures to monitor the activities of fishing vessels, ensure compliance with conservation measures, and gather data about the resource.  It was an up close and personal view of how distant water and coastal fishing nations are responding to United Nations resolutions to improve their cooperation with respect to the conservation and management of marine resources in international waters.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity provided by the fellowship and the Office of Marine Conservation, which gave me a unique introduction to the international ‘fish world.’  I’ve loved it.  Not only does it involve iconic species like tuna and salmon, but it touches on international law, cutting-edge science, social and economic systems, and the individual choices of people in many nations.

I would strongly encourage students interested in marine policy and science to apply for the Knauss Fellowship.  The experience and the people you meet are fantastic.

Dave Gershman
Knauss Marine Policy Fellow
(2/2013 – 2/2014)

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