UAF PhD candidate hired by Falkland Islands Fisheries Department

July 13, 2017

3 men hold large fish The toothfish research team, Falkland Islands.

Thomas Farrugia is a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. He has been funded in part by Alaska Sea Grant. In 2015 Farrugia served as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in Washington, DC, nominated by Alaska Sea Grant. He was recently hired by the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department.

Following is an interview with Farrugia.

Thomas Farrugia: Thanks for your interest in my post-UAF life. I’m happy to provide whatever info you need for your blog entry!

small device being attached to large fishAttaching a satellite tag to a Patagonian toothfish.

Sue Keller: What are your responsibilities at the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department?

TF: I am currently the stock assessment scientist for Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) for the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department. Toothfish is also known as Chilean sea bass in North American restaurants and is the most valuable fishery in the Falklands, so the sustainability of the stock and persistence of the fishery is of primary concern.

My responsibilities include identifying and coordinating research needs on toothfish, developing stock assessment models, and providing input to managers on harvest control rules, quotas and other regulations. In addition, I am leading the department’s effort to have the Falkland Islands toothfish fishery recertified under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label.

SK: It is a pretty small country—how many professional fisheries managers do they have?

TF: The Falkland Islands Fisheries Department has 17 full time employees, including two stock assessment scientists, fisheries researchers, data managers, and fisheries enforcement. It’s a surprisingly small department in charge of the most profitable industry in the Falkland Islands: fisheries represent between 30 and 40 percent of this British Offshore Territory’s GDP, mostly through license fees and taxes.

Man holding two large skates (marine animals)Thomas Farrugia, who studied skates in Alaska, encounters new ones in the South Atlantic.

SK: What aspects of the job appeal to you?

TF: This position is providing me with an opportunity to put my training as a fisheries scientist to use, while getting experience managing an important resource. I contribute to data collection, such as the three-week research cruise I just spent tagging toothfish and running hook trials on the fleet longliner, as well as using the research on toothfish to inform stock assessment models and harvest recommendations. In addition, the effort to recertify Falkland Islands toothfish through MSC is allowing me to delve into some international policy and management issues.

SK: What parts of your experience as a Knauss Fellow, and a graduate student, have provided you with the skills and abilities to do the job there?

TF: Both my graduate work and the Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy fellowship have provided crucial skills that I will be putting to use as a stock assessment scientist. My dissertation explored aspects of population dynamics models and bioeconomics that are going to be central to the work I will accomplish in this new position. Although the specific tools I will be using differ from those I have used in the past, the knowledge and language I’ve acquired in the academic setting have allowed me to immediately start contributing to the fisheries work here.

Selfie with large docked ship in backgroundThomas Farrugia with the newest ship in the Falkland fleet.

The experience of being a Knauss fellow gave me an understanding of how policies are developed, which will be important in a setting such as the Falkland Islands where a short hierarchy allows scientists and managers many opportunities to interact. I also acquired some international fisheries policy experience during the fellowship that will be helpful in navigating the issues presented by a species that is harvested around the world, crosses international boundaries and is sold to the global market.

SK: What other comments do you have?

TF: One of the most appealing aspects of this position is that it presents an interesting combination of being a small department with many opportunities to get involved in some very large issues. We are also encouraged to develop our own research program as many of the fishery species and stocks around the Falkland Islands are very data limited. So there is lots of room to grow!

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.