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How smart are fish ? Integrating what scientists and fishers know

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Joy Lecture Theatre, Hamilton Building, Trinity College, Dublin

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The talks in this event will challenge the commonly-held view of fish as robot-like animals with no intelligence and a 30 second memory, which often leads to fish conservation being ignored in favour of more charismatic animals. As our first talk will show, this view is very far from the truth. Fish vary of course, but the group as a whole have a well-developed capacity for learning, a good memory when this is needed and fish perform many complex behaviours that in mammals, for example, would be deemed intelligent or “smart”. Thus they form mental maps, use tools, build complicated structures and develop traditions. The dissonance between popular image and reality arises because most people do not have the time or opportunity to discover just how complex fish behaviour is. However, it needn’t be this way. Recreational anglers spend a lot of time observing and interacting with fish, so in this session we will explore what they have to say about how smart, or not, fish are. We will draw on the experience and observations of our second speaker, a lifelong angler and commentator, and also, we hope, on the expertise of anglers in the audience. Our aim is to promote creative discussion between people with different perspectives and to highlight the value of the traditional knowledge that anglers possess and that they pass on to successive generations.

The speakers

Felicity Huntingford, Universities of Stirling & Glasgow, has worked on the behaviour of fish for more than 45 years, having a special interest in their social interactions and strategies for avoiding predators. She served as President of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles and of the World Council of Fisheries Societies and was the 2016 Buckland Professor of Fisheries. http://www.scotfishmuseum.org/the-buckland-foundation

Ken Whelan, a keen angler since a very young age, studied Zoology at University College Dublin in the early 70’s and since then has worked for many organisations concerned with conservation of Atlantic salmon. He is currently Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Loire Basin Salmon Restoration Programme and in December 2009 was appointed as Adjunct Professor in the School of Biology and Environmental Science at University College Dublin and as Research Director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust. Ken now runs his own fisheries consultancy, has fished throughout the world and has written extensively on angling topics. He has made many films and videos about Irish fisheries and angling and is a regular radio contributor. Lucky to have weaved his hobby into his job, he is never quite sure whether he is working or enjoying himself!

The programme

18:00 Arrival

18:30 Felicity Huntingford: How smart are fish and why does this matter?

19:15 Ken Whelan: Tales from the river bank – Casting doubt on the science?

19:40 Open discussion. What do fishers know and can we use this knowledge?

Chair: Nicola Marples, Trinity College Dublin

20:15-20.45 Refreshments: Zoology Museum Trinity College Dublin

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Joy Lecture Theatre, Hamilton Building, Trinity College, Dublin

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