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Path to discovery

MI graduate finds fisheries science niche – and her next degree plan

Campus and Community

By Moira Baird

An undergraduate project on sustainable fishing gear led Maggie Folkins to pursue a master’s degree in fisheries science and technology at the Marine Institute (MI).

Maggie Folkins, who will collect her master’s degree on Oct. 17, has started work on a doctorate.
Photo: Angie Bishop

“A professor suggested I talk to people at the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) at MI if I wanted to learn more about this, so I did. A year later, I was here doing my master’s and studying fish pots for the Greenland halibut fishery.”

Originally from Hampton, N.B., Ms. Folkins completed a bachelor of science in marine biology at the University of New Brunswick. When she started out, she wasn’t sure her goal was attainable. She has words of advice for anyone experiencing doubts about their chosen path.

“I didn’t start off really strong in the biology world during my undergrad, but once I found the marine biology niche, things started to fall in place. So don’t get discouraged – it’s easy to quickly dismiss things, but give it some time to work out.”

On Thursday, Oct. 17, she receives her master’s degree during fall convocation ceremonies at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. She has already begun work on a doctorate.

Experimental gear

For her master’s research, Ms. Folkins investigated the use of underwater cameras to assess the effectiveness of experimental potting gear for Greenland halibut, also known as turbot.

Underwater cameras were used to assess the effectiveness of experimental fishing gear.
Photo: Submitted

Close examination of more than 150 hours of video recordings provided information about halibut behaviour that was not otherwise available.

“We used underwater video to watch the fish interact with the pots and made suggestions on how we might be able to improve the pots down the road,” she said. “We were watching for a variety of things, including were the halibut entering the pot successfully, were they facing challenges getting into the pots, once inside the pots were the fish stressed?”

Based on a Norwegian cod pot design, the pots are smaller and lighter weight than traditional cod pots used in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Food security

Her next step is completing a doctorate focussing on resource assessments of multiple inshore species in the Canadian Arctic. This research will also make use of underwater cameras.

During the past three summers in Nunavut, Ms. Folkins was part of a team from CSAR exploring emerging fisheries in the Arctic. These fisheries hopefully will contribute to food security in coastal communities.

“We’re assessing to see if there are possibilities for small, subsistence fisheries for the communities,” she said. “It would be their choice to proceed with a small fishery – we’re going to provide them with the information. We’re also hoping to focus on a potting fishery rather than a trawling fishery. We want to keep it as environmentally friendly as we can, so we’re hoping to be able to say, ‘This is the pot that targets this species best.’”

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