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ASMFC honors VIMS professor with Award of Excellence

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has presented Professor Rob Latour of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science with one of its Annual Awards of Excellence for his outstanding contributions to the science and management of fisheries along the Atlantic coast.

Professor Rob Latour discusses VIMS' multispecies fish surveys with Governor Terry McAuliffe aboard the RV Bay Eagle. (Photo by Michaele White)The ASMFC, formed by the 15 Atlantic coastal states in 1942 for the promotion and protection of their shared fishery resources, honored Latour for his outstanding contributions to the science underpinning its management activities, including his leadership role in two major programs—one in Chesapeake Bay and the other in the coastal waters between North Carolina and Maine—that monitor the abundance, distribution, and diet of commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important fishes.

“The Commission’s Annual Awards of Excellence recognize outstanding efforts by professionals who have made a difference in the way we manage and conserve our fisheries,” said ASMFC Chair Louis B. Daniel, III during the Awards ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia on May 13th. “In all that he does, Dr. Latour provides exemplary scientific expertise and sage advice in an effort to elevate the scientific rigor of our stock assessments and the information upon which fisheries management decisions are based.”

Latour’s award citation specifically recognizes his studies of the diet and community ecology of coastal fishes, the feeding ecology of Atlantic menhaden, and the incidence and spread of mycobacteriosis disease in Chesapeake Bay striped bass. It also acknowledges his efforts to improve the tagging models used to track striped bass populations, his service as an external peer reviewer, and his contributions to the Mid-Atlantic Council’s Science and Statistical Committee and numerous benchmark stock assessments and stock-assessment updates.

“Collectively,” states the citation, “Dr. Latour’s work has helped to further the ongoing efforts of various Commission technical committees and the longer-term knowledge base used to aid our understanding of fisheries dynamics.”

VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says, “Rob’s extraordinarily high level of engagement in advisory service makes him clearly deserving of the Commission’s award. He exemplifies one of our scientists' greatest contributions—collecting and interpreting the data that resource managers and policymakers use to sustainably manage our marine resources.”

Latour is co-principle investigator of the Chesapeake Bay Multispecies Monitoring and Assessment Program (ChesMMAP) and the Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP) at VIMS, and for the last 15 years has maintained an active role on ASMFC technical committees for Atlantic menhaden, striped-bass tagging, multispecies assessment, and assessment science.

ChesMMAP and NEAMAP are two relatively new data-collection platforms designed to improve the assessments of many Commission managed fisheries, including otherwise data-scarce assessments such as black drum and Atlantic sturgeon.

According to the award citation, “The emergence of these new data sources is a testament to Dr. Latour’s hard work and dedication to improving fisheries management along the Atlantic coast.”

Also receiving ASMFC Awards of Excellence were Michael Luisi of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Service for his contribution to management and policy; Paul Caruso of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries for his scientific, technical, and advisory contributions; and Cheri Patterson of New Hampshire’s Fish & Game Department for her contributions to the study of shrimp, lobster, and migratory fishes.

The Commission’s annual Law Enforcement Award went to members of the joint state/federal law enforcement team of Operation Lookout, who investigated and documented the poaching of striped bass in the exclusive economic zone off the coast of Virginia.