In typical Rachel-form I have this post and a few others in draft form that are in dire need of completing and publishing. Also in typical Rachel-form, I got far too exciting about the 6th World Fisheries Congress that I have just volunteered at and subsequently my post about the coral reef monitoring programme shall have to wait.
So, it all started when I received an e-mail from my supervisor at the University of York with a great opportunity. Reading the e-mail I became pretty damn fixated on the idea of me travelling up to Edinburgh for a few days and volunteering, both gaining some valuable experience and doing a fair bit of networking on the side. I immediately sent an e-mail to Angela from Congrex saying I was interesting, and felt a little disheartened when I didn't hear anything back. I assumed that the places were filled and they wouldn't require my services. Shame really, I would have loved to have done it.
A week or so later I received an e-mail saying that I had been chosen to be part of the volunteering team. Getting a little excited about the prospect of helping out at such a prestigious event (and obtaining a rather fetching blue t-shirt) I booked my train tickets, booked my accommodation for two nights and waited ever so patiently for the day to arrive. Now, for me to say I wasn't nervous about travelling up to Edinburgh on my own, meeting new people and rooting around for some confidence would be a complete lie. I was terrified! I do tend to have a pretty nervous disposition and as such rarely put myself out there and grasp life's opportunities by the horns. Why? Because I just stick my head in the sand. I knew that this opportunity was something I needed to go for. The 6th World Fisheries Congress is the olympic-event of the fisheries sector. It comes around once every 4 years and this was the first time it had entered UK waters.
So, Monday arrived and I was sat on the train. I'd forgotten my coffee which was a bit of a pain (hey, that rhymes). The journey itself was only 2 and a half hours long and I arrived in good time. I could have left at Waverely and walked to the hostel (20-30 minutes walk), but I decided to stay on and get off at Haymarket instead (1 minute walk to the hostel). Fabulous. Silly me didn't check the check-in time at the hostel so when I arrived at 11am-ish they couldn't check me in and I was left feeling a daft. I was able to leave my case in their laundry room which made things better and I proceeded to have a mooch around Haymarket before meeting the rest of the volunteer team at 1pm at the EICC.
|The Edinburgh International Conference Centre, EICC.|
|A little bit 'scene' but I couldn't care less - me and my fetching t-shirt and name tag (the wrong way round as it spent most of the time...)|
|T-shirt logo and the lovely shark keyring/bottle opener in the goody bags.|
After the briefing we were given our training on the Congrex computers. My job was on the pre-registration desks alongside a few others. We were the first people that the delegates would meet upon entering the EICC and so it was important that we provided service with a smile (as per). The system was very easy to use, we had to lookup delegates based on confirmation number (that very few actually had) or surname (thankfully everyone has a surname so there was no problem here... Most of the time).
|My lovely desk with a touch-screen monitor and a rather annoying keyboard.|
Pre-registration on the Monday officially opened at 3pm, so shortly after the delegates came drifting in through the doors and guided to our desks. Easy peasy. They were checked-in on the system, name badges were printed, Duchy bags were handed out (with various goodies inside) and they were sent on their way, either to the New Registrations/Accounts desk (if there was an account query) or to the Tours and Social desk if they had a ticket to be exchanged.
|Duchy Originals - Itchy, kind of smelly and moulted - A nice touch either way.|
Drinks were being served at 7pm for the Welcome Reception downstairs in the Exhibition room and, as expected, 6.45pm proved the busiest time for the registration desks. Delegates were flooding in and it was an absolute mission trying to get through everyone. Thankfully we finished at 7.15pm and some of us made our way downstairs to meet and greet the delegates and have a really good mooch around the Exhibitions.
It was actually a really good opportunity to get some vital networking done. I walked around with one of the other volunteers who is significantly more confident then I am and basically followed like a little lost sheep most of the time. We spoke to Natural England for a long time which was nice (since I am working with them in July) and it has given me an idea to enquire about some graduate positions/ work experience within the North-West. After more networking, a glass of wine and a bottle of beer I was ready for bed (honestly, you try doing a long day on your feet talking to a lot of people and eating very little). By 9pm we were allowed to leave and I made my way back to the hostel for a good night's kip (... I wished).
I was up again at 5.45am (joy of joys) and after a pretty horrific night's sleep (being woken up by a lady on the lower bunk either a) snoring or b) sleep-talking rather loudly) I really did not want to drag myself out of bed but, alas, needs must. Also, today was a pretty big day since we needed to prepare for our 'special guest'.
|Welcome to the 6th World Fisheries Congress|
Putting this into perspective, Hilborn provided an example of what this could do. The Peruvian anchoveta fishery has been extensively fished for years, yet to replace this fishery and supply the same amount of protein from land-based agriculture it would result in a vast amount of deforestation in order to allow for the extensive numbers of farmland that would follow. This, sadly, means that over 4500 orang-utans a year would suffer. Now, I'm not one for ignoring the 'little species' and focussing on the larger-than-life charismatic animals but he has got a point. Stopping the fishing industry completely would be incredibly detrimental to the longevity of terrestrial ecosystems and cause a serious decline in biodiversity.
|Delivering his speech. Image by MarineLink (http://www.marinelink.com/news/fisheries-edinburgh344482.aspx)|
In between the mingling, actually doing the job at hand and serving the needs of anyone who required assistance, I managed to see a few of the talks. One of which was about the CFP Reform, the panel being Richard Benyon, Lowri Evans, Richard Lochhead, Tony Long and Julio Morón. The session I saw was set out much like the BBCs Question Time where a panel answered a series of questions asked by the audience. I only popped in for the last half an hour but it was interesting to say the least. I managed to hear about their views on discards and the discard-ban, and also about subsidies. Now I was trying to tweet furiously (as were several other of the delegates as I realised). Whilst most of what I was saying probably sounded like complete and utter rubbish (I just don't know enough about it).
"Stopping discards are good but need to maintain biomass in oceans and thus focus on what is being landed rather than protein landed"I met some wonderful people during my two days there. I was honestly gutted that I didn't feel well enough for my final (3rd) day but I learnt a lot and feel like I have come away from a fantastic experience. I just hope the 7th World Fisheries Congress is within the EU and that I can hopefully volunteer in the next four years... We shall see.