Lifelong fisherman and scientist Ted Ames was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Sciences by Bowdoin College on Aug. 14 at its delayed 2020 commencement.
In presenting the degree, Dr. John Lichter, colleague and friend of Ames at Bowdoin, said that when groundfish stocks collapsed in the mid-1990s, Ames set out to understand the decline of fish stocks and what could be done about it.
“Ted was uniquely qualified, being both a fisherman and a scientist,” Lichter said, adding that Ames tapped into the knowledge fishermen have about groundfish populations and behavior that has seldom been appreciated by the scientific community.
“I am so pleased to have this recognition for the work incorporating fishermen’s knowledge into understanding fisheries ecology and dynamics,” Ames said. “This can only help future rebuilding and management efforts for our coastal communities.”
Lichter noted that Ames brought a fresh perspective to fisheries management.
“What Ted came to realize is that contrary to the prevailing view of fisheries managers, groundfish in the Gulf of Maine did not comprise a single large population, but instead occurred in small-localized stocks, which once depleted were not replaced by recruitment from adjacent areas. This insight has profound implications for fisheries management because data collected over an immense area can mask local extinctions, and rules designed for a large spatial scale do not necessarily work at a small scale.”
After decades of making this case, fisheries managers realized that management was needed “at the appropriate ecological scale,” Lichter said.
Ames is the co-founder, longtime advisor, and board member of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (MCCF), an organization dedicated to sustaining coastal fishing through fishermen’s collaborative science and action. His work and MCCF’s sentinel survey for groundfish, a long-term effort to monitor the potential recovery of cod and other groundfish in eastern Maine, have contributed to new federal scientific advice to managers just released this year.
Ames grew up on Vinalhaven as part of a fishing family. He was a Coastal Studies Scholar-in-Residence at Bowdoin in 2010-2011.
He served as executive director of the Maine Gillnetters Association and holds a M.S. in biochemistry from University of Maine, an Honorary Doctorate from University of Maine Machias, and was awarded a MacArthur Grant in 2005.
Ames lives in Stonington with his wife, Robin Alden, former Maine Commissioner of Marine Resources and retired founding director of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries.