You are forgiven to think that after years of exchange and international negotiations in different fora the conflict between marine biodiversity conservation and fisheries would have gone away. Yet, you talk to colleagues working in the two - separate - areas and you find it's not (yet).

So the focus seminar organised by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the German International Cooperation Society (GIZ) and the German Development Bank (KfW) from 24 to 29 July 2016, was a welcome opportunity to explore differences and convergences. The participants were GIZ staff from fisheries and marine conservation projects in different parts of the world or soon to take up such a post, technical KfW staff and some consultants. The beautiful and peaceful setting of the Nature Conservation Academy on the Isle of Vilm at the southeastern tip of Ruegen Island in the Baltic was a perfect setting to get away from daily pressures and reflect together about getting on with integrating the two.

Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris was invited to give the opening talk setting the scene with an introduction to key challenges facing the ocean, followed by Jörn Schmidt of the Excellence Cluster "Future Ocean" introducing the long view about fisheries and Carl Gustaf Lundin of IUCN offering perspectives on marine biodiversity. Henning von Nordheim of the host organisation gave insights into how challenging it had been over the years to establish conservation principles in international and national fora. Then translating these into changing practices on the ground was still unfinished business despite some progress.

Lively discussions followed each presentation and another talk by Cornelia about integration of concepts and policies drawing on the parallel developments over the last decades and what could be common ground to enable transitions towards stronger protection and sustainable use of the ocean. Presentations about commitments of the German government completed the programme. An evening walk around the Isle of Vilm was a welcome concrete reconnection to nature after the first brainy day.

During the following days case presentations about experience with the development and implementation of instruments seeking to reconcile conservation with fisheries alternated with break-out sessions, games and additional impulse talks by other resource persons. Hearing from colleagues in the Philippines and other Asian, Latin American, Caribbean and African countries afforded rich opportunities to learn more about how a variety of management tools were faring under different institutional settings.

An excursion to the Island of Ruegen offered a first hand example of additional perspectives by representatives of different types of professional fishers and the representative of a local biosphere.This brought also home that the "how" was very important in striking a balance between short-term needs for economic activities and long-term conservation without which no such activity can thrive, the "what".

Playing FishBanks, the famous game about how to manage an open access fishery with competing fleets - on rather not - was a fabulous experience of all what can and does go wrong when over-optimistic humans compete. More than many words and academic papers the game let participants experience also at an emotional level how easily one can be tricked into high risk behaviour in a competitive situation and fail miserably, while precautionary and cooperative behaviour could ensure stable income for all. But it was only after desaster that gamers realised to which point the second strategy would have been preferable, particularly given the uncertainties inherent in the trade. Originally developed by Dennis Meadows, co-author of “Limits to Growth”, the original board game is now also available in a web version for teaching through experiential learning.

At the end of the seminar, Anneli Ehlers and Patrick Schwab, core organisers at GIZ, expressed their satisfaction with the intense interaction and hoped that the learning would be fruitfully applied and further developed in the international cooperation projects.

Thanks to the moderator, Thora Amend, the excellent organising team and the engaged participants for a memorable week!