Making Sustainable Seafood Choices in Glasgow


by Edd Hind

One of the reasons I became I marine scientist is because I love eating fish. It’s a healthy thing to do, but more importantly they taste delicious! Nevertheless, a taste for the juicy white flesh of cod, the salty aftertaste of an oyster, or the flavour explosion of mackerel can clearly be an ethical conundrum for people in our line of work.

At IMCC3, hopefully we can all share knowledge and help make decisions that will ensure I, and others like me, don’t have to feel guilty about our fetish for fish. The good news, in the meantime, is that we certainly won’t have to regret eating seafood while we are in Glasgow. The IMCC team have been researching the vibrant sustainable seafood scene in Scotland’s largest city. The following are just a couple of the great options.

Celebrity British chef Jamie Oliver has been a great patron for the oceans in the last decade, and in conjunction with IMCC, his Jamie’s Italian restaurant will be putting on a special sustainable Shellfish Supper on the evening of August 16th with a presentation on sustainable seafood in Scotland. This event is full, but IMCC3 delegates can try to make a reservation at Jamie’s Italian during their stay in Glasgow.

Don’t stop there though! A visit to the UK is not complete without tasting the national delicacy of fish ‘n’ chips. We’ve been in contact with top Glasgow ‘chipper’ and seafood restaurant, Gandolfi Fish, who were more than happy to tell you about both their seafood sourcing policies and what you should eat when at the conference.

IMCC: What first motivated you to start selling sustainable fish?

Gandolfi Fish: At Gandolfi Fish, we believe that using sustainable fish supplies is the only way to run an efficient restaurant. It is not a question of doing the right thing; it’s more a question of doing the only thing you can to ensure healthy oceans.

IMCC: What types of sustainable fish are you selling, and how are you cooking them?

Gandolfi Fish: One of our biggest selling fish is Halibut, sourced from a farm in Gigha.  We serve it grilled with creamed leeks, peas and bacon.

IMCC: If the delegates at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress should eat one thing while they are in Glasgow, what should it be?

Gandolfi Fish: They should definitely try pan seared scallops with black pudding. It’s a very classic combination, and Stornoway Black pudding has a protected status now in Scotland. We serve hand-dived Isle of Mull scallops this way, along with pear and cider cream.

That. Sounds. Delicious! See you at IMCC, where I will be leaping head first into a tasty bowl of ethically sourced Cullen Skink.

Jamie’s Italian is located 7 George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DY and can be contacted on +44 0141 404 2690

Gandolfi Fish is located 84-86 Albion Street, Glasgow G1 1NY. You can take away or make a reservation on +44-141-552-9475

-Edd Hind is a Marine Resource Management faculty member with the School for Field Studies. He is also on the Communications Committee for IMCC3.


IMCC3 Chair Dr. Chris Parsons Underscores the Need for Impactful Outputs from Scientific Conferences

ESP faculty Dr. Chris Parsons introducing a plenary speaker

Dr. Chris Parsons is the Chair for the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress. He is pictured here speaking at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in 2013.

Dr. Chris Parsons has worked on conservation projects on all seven continents in more than two decades of marine mammal conservation research. He has published more than 100 journal articles on conservation issues and numerous book chapters, reports and popular articles, in print and online. He is currently an associate professor of marine conservation in the department of Environmental Science & Policy at George Mason University and the meeting chair of the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3).

About serving as Chair of IMCC3, Parsons said, “It’s probably one of the most complicated and difficult, but also most rewarding and significant things that I’ve ever been involved with. Luckily I have a great team that work with me that help turn the insurmountable into the possible!” Parsons assisted with organizing IMCC1 and IMCC2, as well as the International Congress for Conservation Biology in 2013. He serves on the Scientific Committee and the Environmental Concerns Sub-Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

He is actively involved in marine conservation policy and human dimensions of the marine environment. He is an organizer for a symposium at IMCC3 on human-wildlife conflict. He will also be speaking as part of a symposium and focus group on ethics and welfare of marine animals in conservation.

Parsons is considered to be a leading expert in cetacean biology and marine mammal conservation biology. He was previously the Senior Research Associate at the University Marine Biological Station Millport in the U.K., as well as Director of Research and Education for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. He received a PhD from the University of Hong Kong, where he studied Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and finless porpoises. He has also researched marine exotoxicology and marine noise pollution. He is active in conservation communication and has published several articles on the importance of honing communication skills for scientists.


Parsons has worked on marine conservation projects on all seven continents in more than two decades of marine research.

Parsons is the chair of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Conference Committee and recently completed two terms as the President of SCB’s Marine Section (SCBMarine). IMCC is the international conference of SCBMarine. “The IMCCs are the largest international meetings of marine conservation academics and practitioners,” Parsons maintained. He said IMCCs are more than presentations and publications in scientific journals. He stressed the necessity of direct conservation outputs that are “meaningful and have a ‘real-world’ impact…. [IMCCs] positively affect policy, management and public understanding and concern about marine conservation issues.”

Follow Parsons on Twitter @Craken_MacCraic.

The Benefits of Tweetable Abstracts


Erin Eastwood explains how turning your abstract for a scientific conference into a Tweetable 140 characters can benefit you, your science and the conference you are attending. Erin is the intern for the journal Conservation Biology (@ConBiology), the flagship journal of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB).

“The Marine Section [of SCB] has been at the forefront of using Twitter effectively to enhance scientific conferences like IMCC and in encouraging and facilitating the use of twitter at ICCB,” said Nathan Spillman, the Marketing and Communication’s coordinator for the SCB.

The 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (@IMCC2014) is the international conference of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section (@SCBMarine). The International Congress for Conservation Biology, or ICCB, is the biennial international conference of the Society for Conservation Biology (@Society4Conbio).

IMCC3 Mascot: The Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic puffins on the Isle of Lunga, a Treshnish Isle in Argylle and Bute, Scotland. (Photo by Samantha Oester)

Atlantic puffins on the Isle of Lunga, a Treshnish Isle in Argylle and Bute, Scotland. (Photo by Samantha Oester)

by Samantha Oester

As a child, I was fascinated by puffins, among many other exotic seafaring animals. (Exotic, meaning, I had never seen them in the forests of West Virginia.) My kindergarten teacher read us a book on seabirds, and puffins enchanted my young heart. The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) in the book she held up was small, fast and colorful, she explained. They could be found in several places I had never heard of, including a magical land called Scotland. (My five-year-old self may have added the magical bit. At that age, the presence of castles equaled magical.) I imagined myself sitting among these tiny birds, in a place where green and blue met.

Atlantic puffins reside in coastal colonies during breeding season, tunneling cliffside burrows of offshore islands to lay a solitary egg. It is during mating season that Atlantic puffins sport their signature brightly colored beaks. During breeding and rearing in spring and summer, they can be found in their clifftop colonies on several Scottish Isles, including East Lothian, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Fife, Shetland and Orkney. Breeding pairs typically return to the same burrow location each year. The puffin parents take turns caring for the egg and chick. Eggs hatch in about six weeks, and rearing takes about two months.

Atlantic puffin carrying food for a chick on the Isle of Lunga. (Photo by Samantha Oester)

Atlantic puffin carrying food for a chick on the Isle of Lunga. (Photo by Samantha Oester)

Atlantic puffins chiefly eat small fish and sand eels. They are also known to consume mollusks, crustaceans and marine worms. Parents can often be seen flying prey from the sea to burrows to feed their young. Atlantic puffins are preyed on by larger seabirds, such as hawks and skuas.

If enjoying puffin watching in one of their habitats, it is important to keep from approaching too closely, so as not to stress puffin parents. (They may still fly right by you, or even nestle in near your watching spot!) It is also important to not go too close to the cliff’s side, as you could cave in their burrows and hurt or even kill the puffins inside. Burrows are commonly two to three feet long (70 to 110 cm).

Bring your camera and binoculars—I could watch puffin behaviors for hours!—and you can still get great photos, even from a distance. Notice as they bill, in which mating pairs rub their bills together, to a curious crowd of fellow puffins who gather to watch the public display of affection. You could catch gaping behavior, in which they puff up and open their wings and beak to show aggression. They may also stomp their feet to show discontentment. You may also notice nosy neighbors popping in to check out different burrows.

Atlantic puffins live in the northern Atlantic Ocean, spending winters at sea. They can be found from Greenland to the coastline of Newfoundland and from Norway to Spain. Their large range has helped the species to remain abundant, although the IUCN reports the population trend appears to be decreasing. Local populations in some areas have declined due to human activity, including puffin hunting, over-fishing of their prey items, invasive predator species, oil spills and drilling operations.

IMCC3 Mascot Alan MacPuffin. IMCC3 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, 14-18 August 2014. (Photo by Chris Parsons)

IMCC3 Mascot Alan MacPuffin. IMCC3 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, 14-18 August 2014. (Photo by Chris Parsons)

The Atlantic puffin is the mascot for the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress. The mascot is aptly named Alan MacPuffin.

Atlantic puffins leave their colonies throughout August, so if you are extending your Scotland travel for IMCC3, you may be able to catch these captivating seabirds before they depart from the Scottish Isles for the year.


-Samantha Oester is a co-chair and the communications chair for IMCC3.

Getting Involved: Basking Shark Scotland Tours


By Brinkley Dinsmore

Cetorhinus maximus  is known by many names—sun-fish, bone shark, elephant shark, sail-fish, hoe-mother—but most commonly as the basking shark. This name is derived from their seasonal behavior of floating along the surface of the water, ‘basking’ in the sun, enormous mouths open wide for feeding. They don’t call them gentle giants just because they’re one of three species of plankton-eating sharks —these fish are the second largest fish in the world, sometimes reaching 12m in length. And where are these massive, passive sharks to be found when summer rolls around?  According to Shane Wasik, “the Western Isles of Scotland could be one of the most important international hotspots for them.”

Shane is the owner and operator of Basking Shark Scotland, a IMCC3 Basking Shark Scotland Logogroup dedicated not only to leading boat tours that allow people to see these amazing animals in person, but also to responsible practices concerning wildlife tourism.

Historically the basking shark has been targeted, because of it’s size and slow speed, for its valuable leather, meat, and liver oil. In the UK they now flourish under full protection, recently granted in 1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Similar full protection has been granted in Malta, New Zealand, and parts of the United States, and the species has partial protection under CITES.

Nevertheless, their commercial value has led to over-exploitation and severe depletion of populations. Demand for basking shark products is still high in Asia, where the fins are used in soup and cartilage is an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine. The continued need to protect these animals has resulted in compelling conservation efforts that have seen growing interest in the last several years, in part because of operations like Basking Shark Scotland.

If you find yourself heading to Scotland this summer, it would be a perfect time to take a tour and get involved, as Shane tells us that “Seasonally in summer months they arrive in big numbers, attracted by rich plankton and possibly for mating. Truly an ocean wanderer, some tagged sharks from the area have travelled as far as the Canary Islands and crossed the Atlantic reaching a depth of over 1200m.” The migratory habits of these sharks make scientific study of them difficult, and as always, conservation work is not yet finished.

Shane and his crew consciously contribute to the responsible study of and development of interest in these animals. Shane explains why, saying that as the basking shark is “already protected in UK waters, given the sharks massive migrations it’s of great importance that the sharks have full international protection due their low fecundity rate.  During our Basking Shark trips numerous data is recorded so that continuous monitoring of the population can be undertaken and fed back to both Scottish and internationally based scientists.”

Interested in getting more involved in the conservation of these enigmatic wonders of the ocean? Shane’s Basking Shark Scotland is offering reduced rates on basking shark outings for IMCC3 delegates.  For more information and to take advantage of this opportunity, visit the IMCC3 Discounted Activities page.

 —Brinkley Dinsmore graduated in May 2014 from George Mason University, where she studied English and Biology. She is the Communications Intern for IMCC3 and plans to stay involved in the world of conservation communication. 

The Ocean is Cold, Smelly and Dark: A Marine Biologist’s Introspective Into Our Connection With Nature


By James Mortimor

We only look after what we care about; but what makes us care about the ocean? Until recently, I never considered the origin of my caring. I just cared! Most people in my social sphere also cared. I had been in a like-minded bubble without realizing it. A result of having a pre-school child is mixing with a variety of other parents; some of whom have quite different values. Recently, taking my daughter on a play date, another parent referred to the ocean where we live (Pacific Canada and location of IMCC2) as “cold, smelly and dark”. I was met by a look of indifference when I explained that my wife and I are marine biologists and our love of the ocean. I failed at the time to convert them. Upon reflection, I pondered the core connection to the ocean. What led to our different perception of the ocean? Was it geography – because the other parent was from the Prairies? That would be a simple answer, but I know dedicated marine biologists based in Winnipeg (they do Arctic work if you were wondering). Wherever you live there is at least some connection to the ocean – for instance oxygen in the air we breathe, medicines, food and transportation of goods [1]. So what made me see the ocean so differently to this other parent? The ocean, to me, is a source of great fascination and enjoyment. It dawned on me that I cared because I was exposed to nature and the outdoors at a young age leading to a strong personal affinity for the ocean. I beachcombed, rock pooled, fished, snorkelled, surfed and generally just enjoyed mucking about in and around the sea as far back as I can remember. It all started with rock pooling! I thank my parents for countless holidays in my early years sitting on often rainy and windy British beaches while I attempted to catch various intertidal fauna (blennies and gobies were a personal triumph). A beach holiday was not complete without a bucket and a net. I became interested in knowing more about the incredible array of shore creatures. In reality, I was a marine biologist before I even had a clue that such a discipline existed. I was lucky to be exposed to nature in a variety of ways as a child – whether making a frog pond, keeping fish, visiting museums, aquaria and parks, vacations with family and friends, or school trips. Similarly, when I talk to friends, within and outside of environment-related careers, their love of nature originates from childhood experience. Just writing about it brings a nostalgic smile to my face and something I can wax lyrical about over a whisky or a beer.

Courtesy of James Mortimor

Courtesy of James Mortimor

More importantly, this early experience has major repercussions for how we value the natural world. It makes me realise that an important part of my children’s upbringing is to foster their engagement with nature. Luckily, with the aid of a leaky mask, my 3 year old daughter already likes looking underwater to see what’s down there.   However, children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature [2]. The implications of “nature deficit disorder” are very concerning for health and education [3] and, in light of our use and abuse of the world’s resources, how we value nature as a society. This is especially worrying when environmental education is being assaulted [4, 5] or subject to potential corporate interference [6, 7, 8]. To borrow from Dr. Russ Markel “Unfortunately, at a time when the natural world needs stewardship and advocacy the most – overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification, and global loss of biodiversity, are but a few examples of current challenges – humans are becoming increasingly disconnected from it. Nowhere is this trend more striking than with the remarkable collapse of children’s engagement with nature. In the US, in just six years (1997- 2003) the number of children with outdoor hobbies fell by half (Louv 2005). In the UK, in just one generation, the proportion of children regularly playing in wild places has fallen from more than 50% to less than 10%, and 11- to 15-year-olds in that nation now spend half their waking hours in front of a computer screen (Louv 2005). Most concerning is that as children’s engagement with nature declines, so too does the likelihood that the next generation will engage in the social and political advocacy needed to protect it” [9]. What does this mean for developing future generations of environmental stewards? It is crucial for our relationship with the planet to harness children’s intrigue [10] to connect them with nature [11, 12, 13]. To adapt a Jesuit maxim “give me a child and I’ll give you an environmentally conscious adult” [14]. I urge all attendees of IMCC and marine scientists in general (including myself) to: (1) step outside of your bubble from time-to-time; and (2) think and act to engage younger people to build a curiosity and appreciation of the marine realm.

James Mortimor is a marine biologist currently working in Canada. Find him on Twitter @Vit_Sea!



[1] Five Reasons We are All Connected to Oceans

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The Ecology of Haggis: Food or Friend?


By Brinkley Dinsmore

The traditional Scottish dish, haggis, has enjoyed worldwide popularity due to its savory flavor and overall Scottish-ness. Before you indulge, you may find yourself wondering…what is this haggis? Some wild creature of the glens?

The elusive wild haggis, Haggis scoticus, is the cryptozoological namesake of the traditional dish. It is a mysterious animal revered by the Scottish, doubted by the English, and hunted by many an eager American tourist.

A representation of the wild haggis next to its culinary counterpart.

A representation of the wild haggis next to its culinary counterpart.

Wild haggii are said to inhabit the Scottish highlands, a landscape to which they are perfectly adapted: the legs on one side of the body are significantly longer than the legs of the otherside.

Their ability to maintain balance on the Scottish hills is unparalleled—in one direction. There are actually two subspecies of haggii, known as leftus and ius, named for their dominant leg side. The leftus populations are reported to run clockwise around the hilltops, if seen from above, and the ius runs counterclockwise. Their disparate leg lengths give them a unique advantage in their ability to move, but rather limits their ability to change direction—if a leftus were to attempt a counterclockwise jaunt around the hill, it would promptly roll right down the hill, likely into a bog.  This crucial fact of life for the haggis makes inter-subspecies mating nearly impossible and has contributed to their speciation.

There have been recent reports that wild haggii have been seen riding the Loch Ness monster, which is fully ridiculous—neither the ius or leftus  could keep its balance on such a beast. British disinters have posited that the apparent difference in haggis leg length is due to a predator-avoidance strategy that involves standing in a bog. This is also ridiculous as it completely ignores the deeply ingrained aversion to bogs that haggii have developed in the name of self-preservation. Belief in the wild haggis remains strong, however—33% of American tourists are certain that this creature can be found in Scotland.

The true skill of Haggis scoticus  is their ability to avoid humans. Unable to catch wild haggis regularly enough to keep up with demand, humans created a substitute haggis for regular consumption. A mix of offal  minced with spices and salt, and traditionally simmered in a casing of sheep stomach, haggis is served with “neeps” and “tatties” (turnips and potatoes). Never fear! For those of you that are opposed to eating all animals, mythical or observed, they do have a vegetarian version.

If you haven’t tried haggis yet, you’ll have ample opportunity to indulge guilt free while you’re in Scotland for the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress.  Feel free to use your new knowledge about the wild haggis to educate any Americans you encounter—they may have the chance to tromp out on the glens and observe them in their natural habitat!


Brinkley Dinsmore is graduating from George Mason University in May of 2014. She is the Communications intern for IMCC3.