NOAA 2001-090
Contact: Gordon Helm


Kenneth L. Beal, a fisheries biologist in the National Marine Fisheries Service's Northeast Region, will be installed as president of the American Fisheries Society at the society's annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., on August 22.

Beal, a 33-year veteran of NOAA fisheries, will be the 115th president of AFS, the oldest and largest professional society representing fisheries scientists. Established in 1870, AFS has about 9,000 members hailing from 70 countries. Its mission is to promote the conservation, development, and wise use of fisheries. Beal succeeds outgoing president, Carl V. Burger. The AFS president serves a one-year term. Beal is only the second NOAA employee to be elected to this AFS office.

"Ken is a great choice to head AFS. He brings to the society an abundance of marine fisheries science knowledge," said NOAA fisheries Acting Assistant Administrator Bill Hogarth. "NOAA fisheries and AFS work very closely together and this announcement will only strengthen the bond."

Each society president tries to focus on the issues of personal, as well as membership, interest. "My theme will be ‘Turning the tide: forging partnerships to enhance fisheries'," said Beal. He will also emphasize diversity, professionalism, and visibility.

"The activities that have given me the greatest pleasure during my career are those in which I've worked with individuals and organizations, including fishermen. Thanks to my background as a commercial fisherman, I have a keen appreciation for the industry's problems, opportunities, and their way of life," says Beal. "This tie is important, because fishery science without a practical application is a luxury most agencies and funding institutions cannot afford."

Beal also believes in improving public support for the society's goals by highlighting its accomplishments. "I want to synthesize scientific results reported in our journals and provide this information in plain English in a variety of media. AFS has a well-deserved reputation for its professionalism and its great science; I want to make it more visible."

One of the society's newest programs, a summer internship for minority and under-represented high school students, is the brain-child of Beal and Eugene Fritz, a recently-retired NOAA employee. Students receive a stipend and are paired with an AFS member-mentor, with whom they conduct regular fisheries field work. "The goal is to introduce young people to fisheries science and to eventually increase the diversity of our workforce and the society's membership," Beal said.

Beal and Fritz also created a new endowment fund within the society named after the late Robert F. Hutton, who was the first NOAA employee to serve as AFS president (1976-77).

This year, the Hutton Fund supported 23 students and has excellent prospects to expand next year. Significant fund contributions came from the U.S. Forest Service and from the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center; New Jersey Sea Grant Program; Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Alaska Department of Fish and Game; and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. "From all accounts, this program is a great success and a wonderful legacy to a very good friend of fisheries people everywhere. Bob Hutton was our mentor as associate director of NMFS for fisheries management when we all worked together at headquarters in the 1970s," Beal said, " he was a true gentleman."

As a young man, Beal was a herring fisherman on Maine's Mount Desert Island, putting himself through undergraduate training at the University of Maine, and graduate school at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary. His first job as a fisheries professional -- other than fishing -- was in Alaska, working as a fishery aid for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, the predecessor agency for the National Marine Fisheries Service. He helped collect the original field data to successfully determine that races of sockeye salmon existed in the Copper River system, and that these could be detected by sampling at the mouth of the river before the fish ascended to their native spawning streams.

His experience as a commercial fisherman landed him another job in Alaska with the bureau -- this time as skipper of a small research vessel out of Kodiak Island, where he did salmon habitat assessment research on two river systems on the north coast of the island. He also worked on Atlantic herring and plankton samples from Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine at the BCF research laboratory in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Following military service, he worked at NMFS headquarters and led the agency's environmental assessment review of proposed development projects in navigable waters. He then moved to the services's regional office in Gloucester to direct the Fisheries Management Operations Branch, and later, to assist the regional director in foreign fisheries policy, and to supervise the services division. He has administered the region's Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program since 1985, and has served as assistant director of the region's state, federal and Constituent Programs Office since 1990.