Fisherman scientist honored by Bowdoin

[BRUNSWICK, ME, August 16, 2021] – Lifelong fisherman and scientist Ted Ames was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Sciences by Bowdoin College on August 14 at their delayed 2020 Commencement.

In presenting the degree Dr. John Lichter, colleague and friend of Ames at Bowdoin said that when groundfish stocks collapsed in the mid-1990s Ames “set out to understand the decline of fish stocks and what could be done about it.”

“Ted was uniquely qualified, being both a fisherman and a scientist.” He said Ames tapped into the knowledge fishermen have about groundfish populations and behavior that has seldom been appreciated by the scientific community.

Upon receiving the degree, Ames said, “I am so pleased to have this recognition for the work incorporating fishermen’s knowledge into understanding fisheries ecology and dynamics. This can only help future rebuilding and management efforts for our coastal communities.”
Lichter said, “What Ted came to realize is that; contrary to the prevailing view of fisheries managers, groundfish in the Gulf of Maine did not comprise a single large population, but instead occurred in small-localized stocks, which once depleted were not replaced by recruitment from adjacent areas. This insight has profound implications for fisheries management because data collected over an immense area can mask local extinctions, and rules designed for a large spatial scale do not necessarily work at a small scale.”

“After decades of Ted’s determined effort, fisheries managers are at long last beginning to accept his conclusion that achieving sustainable fisheries will require management at the appropriate ecological scale.”

Part of Ames’ determined effort included being a co-founder, longtime advisor and board member of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (MCCF), an organization dedicated to sustaining coastal fishing through fishermen’s collaborative science and action. Ames’ work and MCCF’s Sentinel Survey for groundfish, a long-term effort to monitor the potential recovery of cod and other groundfish in eastern Maine, have contributed to new federal scientific advice to managers just released this year.

Ames grew up on Vinalhaven, as part of a fishing family. He was a Coastal Studies Scholar-in-Residence at Bowdoin in 2010-2011. He was Executive Director of Maine Gillnetters Association, has a M.S. in Biochemistry from University of Maine, an Honorary Doctorate from University of Maine Machias, and was awarded a MacArthur Grant in 2005.

Ames lives in Stonington with his wife, Robin Alden, former Maine Commissioner of Marine Resources and retired founding director of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries.

For more information contact Paul Anderson, Executive Director, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (

Pictured: Dr. John Lichter (L), Ted Ames (R)
Photo Credit: Robin Alden