Australian Society For Fish Biology

Peter Young

In 1995, the career of Peter Young was recognised when he received the first K.R. Allen Award. At the time, he was the CSIRO Chief of Division of Fisheries (1990-1996) and also the 16th ASFB President (1995-1997). His distinguished scientific career began in Surrey UK, where he was born in 1940, educated and received a scholarship in 1959. He studied Zoology at Imperial College, London University and graduated in 1962.

In 1963, Peter moved to Australia to continue his studies as a Research Fellow in the Parasitology Department at the University of Queensland (1963-65) and within three years he had written 12 papers on fish parasites and completed his PhD. He returned to Britain in 1966 where he worked for 4 years for the Natural Environment Research Council’s Fisheries Helminthology Unit investigating the role of seals and cetaceans in transmitting larval nematodes (cod worm) to the flesh of cod and the pathology of the worms to the final hosts. There was a concern at that time that these worms were causing major problems for people who ingested them while eating cod. This work showed that that only grey seals were significantly responsible for transmitting the parasite to cod, and that the species they transmitted was different from that causing serious human disease. In 1970 he returned to Australia, to join and lead CSIRO’s Division of Fisheries and Oceanography’s East Coast Prawn Project and was appointed Officer-in-Charge of the Fisheries Research Laboratory at Deception Bay (1970-73). His research focus shifted to the prawn fisheries in South-East Queensland and the shallow inshore habitats and associated fauna in Moreton Bay. In 1973 he organised the first National Prawn Seminar and edited the Proceedings of the meeting. He continued to publish during the 1970s and produced 15 papers on fish parasites, coral and seagrass communities, and the prawn fisheries. His research showed for the first time in the world, the critical role that seagrasses play as habitat for post-larval prawns, particularly tiger prawns. He had an active role in the Australian Marine Sciences Association between 1971 and 1979 and became an ASFB Councillor in 1981.

During the 1980s, his career at CSIRO progressed with leading roles in the Pollution Ecology program (1975-80), and the Tropical Species Group (1982-85), of the Fisheries Division. It was while he was project coordinator of CSIRO’s North West Shelf Program off northern Western Australia (1982-85) that he and his team first discovered that sexually related size differences in lethrinid fish (tropical emperors) were due to sex change and not to differential growth rates that had been previously believed. He subsequently demonstrated that sex change also occurred in nemipterid species. When the CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceanography was split into two Divisions and the Sydney laboratories moved to Tasmania, he was asked to redirect his research from tropical to temperate species. He was made program leader of research into Fisheries Resources of South and South-East Australia (1985-90). As a consequence of his leadership of the group he became a member of several fisheries advisory groups. These included the Bass Strait Scallop Fishery Task Force (1984-86), the Squid Research Group (1984), the Demersal Mollusc Research Group (1984-1990), South East Trawl Management Advisory Committee (1986-90), the Demersal and Pelagic Fisheries Research Group (1986-90) and the East Coast Tuna Management Committee (1986-90). At this time his personal interests in applied fisheries research were aimed at the Bass Strait Scallop Fishery where he and his team investigated the enigmatic problem of scallop recruitment and growth.

In November 1990 Peter accepted the job of Chief of CSIRO’s Fisheries Division, with responsibility for a large ocean-going research vessel and over 300 staff in 4 research laboratories across Australia. As such he had to cease his active role in doing research, but instead played a major role in the management of Australia’s fisheries research. This included responsibilities such as: the Australian Observer of the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), Foundation Director of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Honorary Research Professor at the University of Tasmania, Foundation Director & Chairman of the Interim Board, Aquaculture CRC, Member of the Independent Scientific Review Committee to review the environmental implications of the offshore oil and gas development in Australia, Chairman of the Assessment Panel Appointed to Reassess the Fisheries Degree Course at the Australian Maritime College and membership of the Australian and New Zealand Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

As the ASFB President, Peter had a significant influence on the development of ASFB and enhanced the international profile in several ways. By attending the first World Fisheries Congress in Athens in 1992, he helped to pave the way for ASFB to host the next WFC in Brisbane four years later which he felt was a defining moment for fisheries science and management in Australia. In 1995, the International Larval Fish Conference was jointly hosted with American Fisheries Society in Sydney, which had a significant impact in progressing research on early life history and recruitment processes. The ASFB Darwin Conference in 1997, brought together fisheries managers and scientists to discuss “Taking stock: defining and managing shared resources”, which marked the conclusion of his term.

In 1997 Peter decided to take early retirement from CSIRO to pursue alternative activities. He moved to Queensland where he accepted an honorary appointment at the University of Queensland for a number of years. During this time Peter also worked as a private consultant to government agencies and the fishing industry, acting as an expert witness and producing a number of reports on critical issues such as the Torres Strait Fisheries, the feasibility of farming Southern Bluefin  Tuna, and the scientific information behind management arrangements for dugong in Queensland. At this time he was asked to chair the Australian Institute of Marine Science Reward and Remuneration Committee, the Tasmanian Marine Farming Planning Review Panel, the Queensland Fishing Industry Research Advisory Committee and the Queensland Trawl Management Advisory Committee. He was also a member of the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries Research Tender Evaluation Panel.

Peter has now ceased these activities to enjoy his retirement in Queensland while he reflects on a lifetime of scientific achievements and legacy of literature. However he has not stopped investigating new challenges, these include learning to play the violin, improving his French fluency, and replanting 12 acres of rain forest on his property in the outer Brisbane.  

Selected References

Young PC (1967a) New Monogenoidea from Australian brackish water and reef fishes. Journal of Parasitology 53, 1008-1015.

Young P. C (1972) The relationship between the presence of larval anisakine nematodes in cod and marine mammals in british home waters. J. Appl. Ecol., 3, 459-485.

Young PC, Carpenter SM (1977) Recruitment of postlarval peneid prawns to nursery areas in Moreton Bay, Queensland. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 28, 745-773

Young PC (1981) Temporal change in the vagile epibenthic fauna of two seagrass meadows (Zostera capricorni and Posidonia australis). Marine Ecology Progress Series 5, 91-102.

Ward TJ, Young PC (1982) Effects of sediment trace metals and particle size on the community structure of epibenthic seagrass fauna near a lead smelter, South Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 9, 137-146.

Bradbury RH, Young PC (1983) Coral interactions and community structure: an analysis of spatial pattern. Marine Ecology Progress Series 11, 265-271.

Young PC, Martin RB (1985) Sex ratios and hermaphroditism in nemipterid fish from northern Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 26, 273-287.Young PC, Mc Loughlin RJ, Martin RB (1992) Scallop (Pecten fumatus) settlement in Bass Strait, Australia.Journal of Shellfish Research 12, 315-323.

Young PC, Glaister JP (1993) Defining key factors relating marine fishes and their habitats. In 'Sustainable Fisheries through Sustaining Fish Habitat. Proceedings of the Australian Society for Fish Biology Workshop, 12-13 August 1992'. (Ed. DA Hancock) pp. 84-94.

Young PC, Wallace J (1994) An evaluation of the balance of power between government, industry and science in managing Australia's federal fisheries. (setting the fox to guard the henhouse). ICES C.M. 1994/T:52, 1-13 (Given in Halifax Canada, 1994).

Young PC (1996) Australia's Oceans under Attack- the cost of Ignorance. Significant Environmental Speeches- The  Best Current Thinking on the Environment, Hobart 1996.  A presentation given at the National Press Club, Canberra, 1996.

Young PC, West GJ, McLoughlin RJ, Martin RB (1999) Reproduction of the commercial scallop, Pecten fumatus, Reeve, 1852 in Bass Strait, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 50 (5) 417-425.