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Atkinson Center summer research fellow Azi Akpan ’16 spent July and August on Cannery Row, Monterey Bay’s historic waterfront district. As bycatch policy intern in the California offices of Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation organization, she contributed to a policy report on marine life 

Policy Summer at Oceana

October 8, 2015

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Atkinson Center summer research fellow Azi Akpan ’16 spent July and August on Cannery Row, Monterey Bay’s historic waterfront district. As bycatch policy intern in the California offices of Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation organization, she contributed to a policy report on marine life unintentionally caught during commercial fishing and testified at a California Fish and Game Commission meeting to inform critical revisions to California’s 1999 Marine Life Management Act.


After a ten-hour flight from Auckland, New Zealand, I stood on American soil for the first time in six months. Two days later, I started my internship in Monterey, California. I was lucky enough to receive this internship at Oceana after applying at long distance while studying abroad. Being passionate and excited about a new place and interesting work helped me push through the jet lag!

My title was “bycatch policy intern,” and I was set to work with the California Fish and Game Commission. Luckily for me, my boss, head of Oceana California Geoff Shester, allowed me the first week for intensive reading and review to help me establish a stronger background on bycatch policy issues.

My project had a terrific balance of science and policy that complements my interdisciplinary major in earth systems science and policy analysis and management. In the eight weeks of my internship, I got to experience behind-the-scenes operations that helped me gain perspective on government work. I testified at a Fish and Game Commission meeting in Fortuna, attended a whale entanglement workshop in Oakland, and took notes during a two-day eNGO summit where many West Coast environmental nongovernmental organizations met to strategize on policy issues.

By the end of my time at Oceana, I produced an analysis of existing California bycatch policy and recommended new implementation techniques. Our bycatch policy overview report was submitted to the marine adviser of the California Fish and Game Commission to act as a comprehensive guide to the impending update of statewide fishery management policy, the Marine Life Management Act.

The internship helped me shed my naiveté about government and policy. I learned from this experience that the government is a messy, imperfect entity, and it’s important to be versatile and resilient. Priorities and alliances can change, and strategy and timing can be just as important as the science backing certain environmental issues.

It was a pleasure to be in Monterey. The whole office spent one morning kayaking, admiring Monterey Bay’s sea otters and seals. We enjoyed several awesome meals and got to know our colleagues outside of work. I spent my last Sunday in California at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Thank you, Oceana and Atkinson Center, for one of the best summers of my life!