L'hanno fatto di nuovo! YOUMARES 7 è stato ancora una volta un incontro di successo per i giovani scienziati marini. Questa volta al'Università di Amburgo il team organizzativo è riuscito a mobilitare tanti volontariato e di creare l'atmosfera creativa per la quale YOUMARES è noto. Mundus maris ha organizzato una tavola rotonda ben frequentato su "Come possiamo raggiungere una pesca a debole impatto ambientale?".

Preceeded by the annual assembly of the German Society of Marine Research (DGM) and the inspiring DGM Forum masterfully animated by Prof. Grassl, former Director of the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, the YOUMARES 7 Icebreaker was opened by Dr. Monika Breuch-Moritz, President of the German Federal Agency for Maritime Navigation and Hydrology (BSH) and Prof. Dr. Boris Koch, DGM Chair.

The icebreaker took place in the heart of the harbour-city, with a view towards the International Maritime Museum in the historical building of the oldest, still preserved, storage building of the city. Kaispeicher B from 1878 was originally a cereal silo. The 10-story brick building in characteristic "Hannover Style" was later adapted to other storage purposes and now overlooks not only the two canals surrounding it, but also a host of modern redevelopments

In the relaxed atmosphere of this setting at the Nissis Kunstkantine, young and older researchers could mingle and chat in the open thanks to the hot late summer temperatures.

More than 100 young marine researchers from Germany and many other countries then made a success of their 7th networking conference starting in earnest on Monday, 12 September.

The team around Vera Golz of the Working Group Studies and Teaching of the DGM pulled off another cool event with a particularly attractive mix of fresh science and honing cooperation and social responsibility.

The Asia-Africa Institute of the University of Hamburg offered a pleasant, centrally located venue.

Starting out with some practical advice for PhD researchers in Germany by Dr. Claudia Hanfland, a member of the DGM, spoke at the opening plenary.

Many German institutions offer an extensive support programme tailor-made for PhD candidates. The general trend is away from one-to-one supervision towards the internationally wide-spread group supervision.

Lisa-Henrike Hentschel presented the working group for critical scientists and ocean philosophers founded after the previous YOUMARES conference and invited participants to join and further refine the approach and mandate.

The next part of the programme got underway with two parallel sessions, one on eutrophication and another one on dissolved organic matter in aquatic systems respectively.

These were followed by two more sessions on "How do communities adapt?" and on "Frontiers in polar and deep sea research".

In the first of these, Prof. Thomas Bosch walked the audience through the stepwise discovery of new concepts in the evolution and functioning of vertebrates and other multicellular organisms. He advocated the adoption of the wider notion of the holobiont as host-microbe interactions matter a lot for the well-being and disease of multicellular life.

Two more presentations by young researchers in that session centred on specific aspects of the holobiont concept.

For the afternoon of the first day of the conference participants could chose between four workshops and three excusions. The latter were for guided tours in the aquarium, the bone ship model exhibition in the International Maritime Museum and discussion on fisheries research on MS Stubniz. 

Gathering again in the conference facilities in the late afternoon, the poster session enabled lots of interesting discussions. As has become a tradition, the first evening closed with a networking event where business meets science.

Carole Thomas presented preliminary results about the intricate case of (non-)management in the luxury fisheries for gobies in La Réunion, a French overseas territory, in the session on the social dimension of environmental change in the coastal marine realm the following day. 

Paula Senff developed an application of the general Social-Ecological System (SES) framework first proposed by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, by analysing the sustainability of mangrove aquaculture in an Asian setting.

A full session was dedicated to coastal and marine pollution with emphasis on plastics, a topic very much in the public eye.

Coral reefs and their fate in warming oceans from climate change had a well-deserved session as well. Methodological issues and range-expanding species with potential for invasiveness were other topics of the second day.

The great absentee was an explicit session about overfishing managed by the young organisers, even though this is the single most important threat to marine biodiversity and ecosystems as recently shown in an article in the leading scientific journal Nature. (1)

Having said this, it may be more a reflection of the research (funding) landscape than a matter of lacking interest. Because the keynote lecture by Dr. Rainer Froese of GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, on how to lower ecological impact of fishing attracted a full house. It was mostly based on his recent publication on the topic (2) and the perfect introduction to the plenary panel organised jointly by YOUMARES and Mundus maris on the topic "Low impact fisheries - how to get there".

The panelists were Dr. Rainer Froese (right on the photo) and Björn Stockhausen of Seas at Risk in Brussels moderated by Dr. Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris. Stella Nemecky of WWF scheduled to speak particularly about experiences in the Advisory Councils of the reformed EU Common Fisheries Policy unfortunately had an impediment at the last moment.

The science was clear as shown by Dr. Froese. It was necessary to reduce fishing mortality below the (high) level needed for maximum (sic!) sustainable yield (MSY). This way, depleted stocks could rebuild and produce up to 60% more in European waters. Moreover, the current excessive fishing pressure exercised on most stocks did not make economic sense either. Many of these stocks are tethering just above the level of being outside safe biological limits instead of at their maximum productive capacity.

Björn Stockhausen gave insights into how the legal framework had improved with the adoption of the reform in Europe. It was now a matter of implementation, not fighting for sustainability objectives. However, in practice, the process was still bumpy and required lots of research and scientific advice at all stages, from technical measures to debates in Advisory Committees and for the three major European institutions, the Commission, the Council (EU Member States) and the Parliament.

The lively debate could have lasted much longer given the interest in the audience. Perhaps it is an invitation for some more at YOUMARES 8 next year in Kiel. It closed with a strong appeal to the young colleagues to engage critically and consistently with the orientation of their research and the communication of their results. In short, your research is mostly funded by the public. Give back to the public to build trust and improvements to the current crisis. It's everybody's and a collective responsibility.

That was a good conclusion and bridge to the closing ceremony of the conference.

Fittingly, the winners of the public vote for best talk and best poster to communicate their research were called to receive their honorary diploma.

They all deserved a big clap as did the organising team of YOUMARES. Mundus maris is happy to have been a sponsor and engage with many participants.

Thumbs up and see you all again in Kiel next year!

Unless indicated otherwise, photos are by CE Nauen.

(1) Sean L. Maxwell et al., Nature 536,143–145 (11 August 2016) doi:10.1038/536143a

(2) Rainer Froese et al., 2016. Minimizing the impact of fishing. Fish and Fisheries, 17(3):785-802. DOI 10.1111/faf.12146.