Q&A with Dr. Sristi Kamal

As a natural resource management specialist and a conservationist, Sristi has focused her career on socio-ecological systems and in including local communities in the conservation equation. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology from Jagiellonian University (Poland) for characterizing and analyzing stakeholders’ attitude toward private land conservation, conducting part of her PhD research at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. 
Sristi has worked across four continents in various natural resource management programs and projects, including the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in the Eastern Himalayas of India; Mercy Corps in Haiti, Timor Leste, and Ethiopia; and with Sweetgrass Foundation in Nepal. She also served on the Advisory Committee of International Conservation Network (ILCN) from 2015-2017.

Q: How did you find your way into marine issues? Why seafood?

My passion and interest in all things wildlife and natural resource conservation has led me on a long winding road of zoology, biodiversity conservation, and socio-ecological systems. I have mostly worked on land-based natural resources, and my biggest takeaway from that has been that you can have the best scientific information at hand, but it’s people who have to survive and thrive on those resources who determine the final outcome of any initiative. 
Marine ecosystem issues are remarkably similar to those on land. Problems in the seafood industry are largely overlooked because of their scale, unequal distribution of power between suppliers and buyers, and lack of visibility, which results in a disconnect between people and the sources of their food. I hope my experience in working with different stakeholder groups and supporting programs that strive for sustainable natural resource use will add value to Future of Fish’s work.

Q: Where do you think (or hope) the seafood industry will be in 5 years? 10 years?

I hope that in 5 years (yes, 5 years because I am an optimist) consumers will place a priority on the origins of their seafood, and that economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable fishing practices will be recognized through the supply chain, bringing benefits to fishers so they can live and thrive on these resources.

Q: What were you doing before you joined Future of Fish?

Before Future of Fish I worked as a Natural Resource Management (NRM) consultant for Mercy Corps with their Energy, Environment and Climate Technical Support Unit. As an NRM consultant, I examined and evaluated Mercy Corps’ NRM approach in different country programs (Haiti, Timor Leste, Ethiopia) to promote Mercy Corps’ community development mission. I also consulted with Sweetgrass Foundation to support one of their beneficiaries in Nepal.

Q: What most attracted you to working with Future of Fish?

Future of Fish’s approach is what attracted me most. I love that Future of Fish combines rigorous research and pragmatic, on-the-ground implementation strategies. 
Although I have a research background, I made a conscious decision to stay away from academia and not engage in research for research’s sake. However, organizations that engage in application-based research are rare. My experience in the field of biodiversity conservation so far has been that most organizations’ research and program implementation often remain in independent silos. They often lack the capacity or interest to maintain the rigor in both. Future of Fish is a rare, refreshing exception to the rule!

Q: What are you most looking forward to doing in the next year?

On the professional front, it is going to be a steep learning curve for me as I try to keep up with Future of Fish’s fast-paced environment, but I am excited that the squirrel in my brain will have plenty things to keep it engaged! Besides coordinating and supporting our hardworking global team, I hope to immerse myself in the organization’s programs and begin to understand the many nuances in its work.
On the personal front, as winter sets in, I am dreaming of hiking through the Wallowa mountains next summer (never been there!). Also, in the coming year I plan to train even harder in Muay Thai than I do now. :)