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David Rainer: Dr. Bob leaves lasting legacy in Marine Fisheries

When I look back on my more than 30 years covering the outdoors in Alabama, I think of several people who have influenced and contributed to my writing. No one on that list is more prominent than Dr. Bob Shipp, who passed away last week at the age of 81.

“It's going to take some time to get used to not being able to answer the phone to ask Bob a question or send a fish for identification,” said Dr. Sean Powers, director of the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. said. University of South Alabama (USA). “Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't come up to me and ask about Dr. Bob and tell me about the impact of a class they took from him, his role as a mentor, a conversation he had with Dr. Bob about fish and other accolades. I spoke to him and his impact on his students, colleagues and community is truly inspiring.”

Like Mr. Powers, I have always relied on Dr. Bob as a resource to simplify complex fisheries management issues in Alabama waters and the Gulf of Mexico. Both dates back to when I was an editor for an outdoor magazine. mobile press registration He is a former newspaper reporter and currently serves as an outdoor writer for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).

Shipp, a native of New Orleans, received his Ph.D. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Florida State University and then joined the University of South Alabama biology department in 1972. He spent his 40 years in the United States, achieving the status of professor emeritus shortly after his retirement as dean of the School of Marine Sciences in 2013, and was instrumental in the creation of the School of Marine Sciences. Mr. Shipp also served on the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council for 27 years, on the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board for five years, and taught at the Dauphin Island Marine Laboratory, where he participated in numerous research projects. did.

“Bob built the marine science program from the ground up,” Powers said. “Obviously he had the help of a lot of talented people, but Bob established marine science in South Alabama. South Alabama has been known for medical school and marine science for a very long time. I would still say those are the two hallmark features for which our company is well known. It all goes back to Bob's vision to focus on marine science in 1992. convinced then-President (Fred) Whiddon that he should pursue a Ph.D. program.

“It paid off tremendously. I moved from the faculty to the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences. A lot of that was something I inherited from Bob.”

Mr. Powers said that Mr. Shipp's contributions were from the U.S. side, and that his contributions on fisheries science and management were equally influential. He said ADCNR Secretary Chris Blankenship summed it up best.

“Dr. Shipp was dedicated to fisheries science and how to use that science for fisheries management,” said Secretary Blankenship, who also served as Alabama Department of Marine Resources Director during Shipp's tenure. “His nearly 30 years of service at the Gulf Coast Council was legendary. His common sense approach to complex management issues set the standards we use today to manage marine fisheries resources. .”

Powers added, “Bob would go into a meeting with federal scientists and they'd throw all these complicated models at you. Bob could say, 'Well, that doesn't make sense.' . I don't care what the math says. I don't care what the model says, it makes no sense. ” It moved into administrative action. They will propose crazy management actions like this. Bob says again, “That doesn't make sense.'' Why take such a complicated route when you can do something simpler?''

U.S. President Joe Bonner said Mr. Shipp has the ability to explain complex questions in a way that everyone can understand.

“Dr. Bob literally wrote the book to introduce the importance of marine and environmental science to those lucky enough to call the Gulf Coast home,” said President Bonner, who represented Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2003 to 2013. said. “He is highly respected as a scholar who can explain his work to members of Congress, the media, and the general public in a way that makes everyone feel like he is talking to them, rather than lecturing them. I was there.

“He also commanded universal respect not only by his students and colleagues, but also by scientists and colleagues across the country and around the world. He undoubtedly put the University of South Alabama on the map in this important area of ​​research. I put it on top.”

Powers said Shipp's extensive research on red snapper, Alabama's iconic fish species, continues to contribute to the health of the red snapper population in Alabama's coastal waters and the nation's largest artificial reef system. said.

“There are some special things about red snapper that Bob discovered before anyone else,” Powers said. “He's been telling federal officials for a long time that red snapper stock assessments are wrong and that there's a lot of deep-water big red snapper that's not being sampled. That's what we call cryptic biomass. They're Bob They quickly dismissed it as a fairy tale. Fast-forward $10 million and red snapper numbers 20 years, and what happens? The reason we have more red snapper is due to hidden biomass in the deep sea Because they are never sampled and never targeted by fishermen, which means there is this incredible buffer within the population.

“I tried playing it on a harp, but I don't think Bob gets enough credit for that. Bob has all these anecdotal reports from fishermen that say stocks will recover quickly. He was absolutely right that he would. This is just one example of how Bob made a lot of observations and had a lot of conversations with fishermen. He actually talked to fishermen. No one was a scientist. Now it's second nature. Now we all do it. As models became more complex, Bob's message was always to keep it simple, because… Because if fishermen don't understand that, they're not going to accept regulations. I don't think the National Marine Fisheries Service has gotten that message yet. You have to be able to explain it.”

Mr. Shipp also served as head judge for the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR) on Dauphin Island for more than 35 years. Powers, who took over the role of chief rodeo judge after Shipp's retirement, said Dr. Bob's interactions with anglers at rodeos and the Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament were eye-opening. .

“Another thing Bob did was he really enjoyed talking to fishermen,” Powers said. “The best part of the rodeo was seeing Bob interact with the fishermen. Some wanted to take pictures of their children with Bob. It was the child's first time fishing. Maybe it was the fish, and being able to take a photo with Dr. Bob made it even more special. Bob never turned down a request. He always made time. And he… He not only identified the fish, but sometimes even told us the entire life history of the species, which shows his knowledge and truly unique personality.

“The other thing about Bob is that, at least from what I saw, he had no ego at all. That was never about Bob. He won all these awards and… and shared everything at university. People don't realize how unusual that is, especially for academics.”

Powers said all the photos Shipp takes at ADSFR and young angler tournaments are the same.

“He’s always smiling and always having fun,” he said. “Bob brought a certain respectability to his idea of ​​partnership between rodeo and science, just as rodeo brought to the university. That is Bob's legacy as well. Rodeo specimens are in the Natural History Museum of London and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. That's all Bob has done to introduce people to the opportunity to sample fish species at rodeos.

“What was really important to us as scientists attending the rodeo is that we don't get to stand high enough in the water to sample really large specimens of a wide variety of fish species. I connected it with.”

Powers said Shipp's knowledge of Gulf of Mexico fish was amazing, especially for species rarely seen in fishing tournaments.

“Even at last year's rodeo, we had three fish that we had to send to Bob for identification just to be sure,” he said. “We can identify almost everything, but sometimes we have to go through the ledger. Bob was just looking at it. All these graduate students were trying to figure out the ID of the fish that Bob had gotten wrong. I tried to find out. No. He never did anything wrong.”

Shipp also writes: Bob Shipp's Gulf of Mexico Fish Guide helps people identify the Gulf of Mexico's myriad fish species. Powers said the book was not written with the scientific community in mind. It is written for use by anglers and the general public. CCA Alabama ( has some of Shipp's books available.

“This is really written for fishermen,” Powers said. “This is the go-to book for fishermen to identify fish. It also includes recipes and information. Bob wrote this book to help fishermen learn more about fish. And what is the science guide? Unlike, people sit down and read Bob's Guide as a book.”

Shipp was known for his pioneering research on red snapper, but another species in Alabama's waves was special to him.

“Bob loved to sit in his lawn chair and fish for pompano,” Powers said. “During his snapper research trips, Bob rarely picked up a rod offshore. He wanted others to experience it too, but he just loved his pompano fishing. I think it is.”

Dr. Bob received many tributes after his death, including one from Scott Bannon, director of the Alabama Department of Marine Resources.

“I had the privilege of working with Dr. Shipp (as he preferred to be called Bob) as a member of the Gulf Coast Council and Saltwater State Record Fish Commission,” Bannon said. “I always appreciated his humble and straightforward guidance. He was a blessing to Alabama and the Gulf Coast.”

Powers agreed. “Bob is a great guy and deserves every bit of recognition he gets.”

David Reiner is an award-winning author who has spent 25 years covering Alabama's great outdoors.Former outdoor eddieThor in mobile press registrationhe writes for Outdoor Alabama, the Alabama Department of State website. Conservation and Natural Resources.

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