Theme: Fish Without Borders – Great Lakes Interactions
February 2-4, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, Duluth, Minnesota
Way back in the summer of 2007, the Ontario Chapter was approached by the Wisconsin and Minnesota Chapters of the AFS with an intriguing invitation: would we be interested in joining them for a joint Chapter AGM? The Executive Committee thought that it was a wonderful idea, a chance to meet some of our colleagues from the other side of the Great Lakes and hopefully a way to further engage our members in Northern Ontario. We suggested to both US Chapters that February 2009 would be perfect timing, giving our Chapter the chance to focus on the 138th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society in Ottawa and then time to help plan for the Tri-Chapter meeting in February 2009.
The Tri-Chapter meeting of the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario Chapters was held in Duluth, Minnesota at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) from February 2nd to 4th. The theme was Fish Without Borders: Great Lakes Interactions. The original intent of our Chapter was to use some of the profits from the AFS 2008 Raffle to defray the cost of as many members as possible who wished to attend the meeting. As the planning proceeded, it became evident that the financial crisis in North America was going to limit government and non-government participation, even though the Chapter would be able to provide ground transportation to the meeting. Overall, there were just over 300 registrants, including 8 from the Ontario Chapter.
Four of us left the GTA around 10 a.m. on Sunday morning for the drive to Duluth. We had perfect weather for all but the last 30 minutes and arrived in Duluth at 1 a.m. Monday morning local time, a total of about 17 hours. Sober reflection after the drive to Duluth convinced us to take two days to get back. Nevertheless, arrival on Monday gave us a chance to check out downtown Duluth. The town planners, obviously realizing that the western tip of Lake Superior is cold in the winter, had installed a heated Skywalks between many of the buildings, which made the trips back and forth from the hotel to the convention centre bearable.
Monday evening was a welcome reception and there was an opportunity to see the IMAX film Mysteries of the Great Lakes. One of the storylines was the restoration of Lake Sturgeon in a river in Wisconsin and the lead biologist from the movie was present to relate some of his experiences of the filming to those in the audience. John Casselman accepted our request to be the Chapter’s keynote speaker and was perhaps the highlight speaker at the meeting: Thank you John! John’s presentation was “Sensitivity of fish and fisheries to changing climate: Response and Adaptation”. We had numerous attendees stop us to say that it was the best presentation of the meeting. Student President Caleb Hasler did both the Chapter and Student Subunit proud by presenting a paper at one of the concurrent sessions, while Bill Gardner acted as a moderator for some of the sturgeon sessions.
Tuesday afternoon was the start of the four concurrent sessions and there were more than 90 presentations in total. The presentations were very interesting and it was a great benefit to get a different perspective and approach to issues and questions we have on this side of the border. The social on Tuesday night was very well done, with a local outdoor writer showing some slides of his trips around North America. The Wisconsin Chapter apparently has a tradition of throwing knotted napkins at winners of the raffle items. Little did we realize our mistake in choosing seats at the front of the event! Presentations continued on Wednesday morning but we left a bit early to tackle the 17 hour drive. We did find a Cabela’s on the way home and managed to find some time for a bit of shopping. We stopped about 45 minutes east of Chicago for the night and continued on our way on Thursday, arriving back in Mississauga around 4 p.m.
Overall, the meeting was excellent and a great experience for all that attended. The majority of the local arrangements were done by the Minnesota and Wisconsin Chapters and they deserve credit for a very well organized event. It was certainly a tiring few days, but well worth the effort. There is a lot of work going on in our neighbour States and anyone with an opportunity to see some of the research would be remiss in not going. While I don’t think that we want to get involved with another joint meeting in the near future, these meetings do provide a chance to see new ideas, discuss emerging issues and meet new friends. I would hope that future Executive Committees explore a similar meeting format with other neighbouring chapters.