Australian Society For Fish Biology

Norman Hall

Dr Norman (Norm) Hall felt highly honoured by the Society in 2005 when he was awarded the K. Radway Allen Medal, for his contribution to fisheries science in Australia. Now back with the Western Australian Department of Fisheries, where he has worked for nearly 40 years, following an extended period with Murdoch University’s Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, Norm is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading fisheries modellers and stock assessment scientists.

Born in Geraldton, in Western Australia, Norm received a B.Sc. (Mathematics) from the University of Western Australia (UWA) in 1964 and, subsequently in 1965, a Dip.Ed. His first appointment saw him teaching mathematics and science at the Eastern Goldfields Senior High School in Kalgoorlie for two years before he moved on to take up a position lecturing in both subjects at Leederville Technical College in Perth. While there, between 1967 and 1969, Norm commenced part-time study at UWA for a post-graduate Dip. Comp.
Keen to get involved in the field of computer programming, Norm began searching for career opportunities in this developing field. In August 1969, he accepted a position as a researcher with the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and Fauna, assisting Dr Richard Slack-Smith in the development of models of the prawn fisheries in Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf. Despite any formal training in biology or fisheries science, he reassured himself at the time that he could always return to teaching if the Department realised its mistake and/or he found himself unsuited to a career as a fisheries scientist. Having now passed the 43-year milestone in his work in the field, Norm reflects that he may have made the right decision and has finally discarded any thoughts of returning to teaching high school maths…

Between August 1969 and October 1995, Norm served progressively as a Research Officer, Senior Research Officer, and finally Principal Research Scientist with what is now the Research Division of the WA Department of Fisheries. Initially, he was responsible only for the provision of population dynamics support for fisheries research staff of the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and Fauna (later to become simply the Department of Fisheries with responsibility for the wildlife research and management going to the now WA Department of Environment and Conservation). As one of the few computer-literate staff in the early and mid-1970s in both the fisheries and wildlife research branches, Norm became responsible for providing a data processing service and undertaking much of the computer programming. During the same period he undertook the population dynamics modelling to support a diverse range of research programmes that included kangaroos, ducks, tortoises, bandicoots, forest fires, flora atlases, prawns, pearl oysters, and rock lobster. Later, following the appointment of a dedicated IT manager, Norm was able to resume his primary role in the area of fisheries population dynamics. While attending a course presented by Professors Carl Walters and Ray Hilborn, Norm became exposed to the computer modelling approaches that these international leaders-in-the-field were promoting. He recognised the potential that, in combination with the rapid development and deployment of personal computers, these approaches offered for fisheries stock assessments. Concerned that Australia was producing insufficient fisheries scientists with the necessary quantitative skills, Norm developed and presented a number of short courses at fisheries agencies around Australia. At about this time, he also commenced part-time studies for a PhD in fisheries modelling at Murdoch University.

In late 1995, Norm was appointed to the position of Supervising Scientist with the Department’s Stock Assessment and Data Analysis (SADA) Group, a position that he occupied until January 2001. In this role, he was responsible for the population dynamics, statistical analysis, and fisheries statistics sections (including commercial catch and effort data), Library Services, and the Research Information Technology Section. His duties included the provision of advice and training on population dynamics, data collection, the design and implementation of databases, and the development of population dynamics models and stock assessment analyses. In 1999, Norm’s contribution to the Research Division’s work was recognised when he won the Minister for Fisheries’ Innovation and Technical Excellence Award.

In 2000, Norm submitted his thesis (‘Modelling for fishery management, utilising data for selected species in Western Australia’) and, in 2001, was awarded his Ph.D. At this time, keen to concentrate more on research, Norm accepted a position as Associate Professor with the Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research at Murdoch University. His research became focused on the development of models for integrated management of fisheries consistent with the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development. He also undertook supervision of a number of post-graduate research students, supporting, in particular, the development of the quantitative aspects of their studies.

In January 2006, Norm became a Professor, before retiring from his fulltime role at Murdoch in September 2008. Norm assures us that the particularly sharp decline in the world’s finances, which occurred approximately two days after his retirement, was in no way influenced by his action!!! In combination with his enjoyment of fisheries science, the global financial crisis did, however, influence his subsequent decision to accept a part-time position at the Department of Fisheries, where he returned in 2009, to work as a Principal Research Scientist in the SADA Group. A return much welcomed by his long time colleagues at Fisheries. Norm continues to be actively involved with research at Murdoch University as an Emeritus Professor. In July 2012, the university recognised Norm’s significant contribution to the sustainable management of fisheries, in particular, the statistical modelling of fish stocks, with the highly prestigious award of an Honorary D.Sc.

Norm has been a long term member and supporter of ASFB, in particular encouraging students to attend annual conferences and present their first papers. He served as member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of Marine and Freshwater Research from 2003-2007. Norm’s reputation extends far beyond his home state. He is one of Australia’s most sought after fishery scientists, in high demand to undertake external reviews of departments and fisheries agencies and sit on domestic and international stock assessment review panels for a wide range of important fisheries including in Australia, the Northern Prawn RAG and the MSC assessment for Lakes and Coorong Fishery, and in the US, various fisheries under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Students and colleagues would all acknowledge that Norm is one of the most generous, helpful and encouraging people you are likely to come across. Each of us who have been fortunate to have worked with him have their own personal stories, more usually, many of them. When faced with a mathematical or modelling problem that saw us subsequently talking with Norm, a solution was usually presented the following day, something that has often seen him up till the wee hours working on our behalf. He has made a truly huge contribution to the training, development and mentoring more broadly of under graduate and post graduate students and early career researchers around Australia over many decades.

Selected References

Walters, C., Hall, N., Brown, R. & Chubb, C. 1993, Spatial model for the population dynamics and exploitation of the Western Australian rock lobster, Panulirus cygnus.  Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci.,  50, 1650-1662.
Hall, N. G. & Chubb, C. 2001, The status of the western rock lobster, Panulirus cygnus, fishery and the effectiveness of management controls in increasing the egg production of the stock.  Marine and Freshwater Research, 52: 1657-67.
Hesp, S. A., Hall, N. G. & Potter, I. C. 2004, Size-related movements of Rhabdosargus sarba in three different environments and their influence on estimates of von Bertalanffy growth parameters.  Mar. Biol. 144:449-462.
Hall, N. G., Hesp, S. A., & Potter, I. C. 2004, A Bayesian approach for overcoming inconsistencies in mortality estimates, using, as an example, data for Acanthopagrus latus.  Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 61, 1202-1211.
Hall, N. G., Smith, K. D., de Lestang, S. & Potter, I. C. 2006,  Does the largest chela of the males of three crab species undergo an allometric change that can be used to determine morphometric maturity? ICES Journal of Marine Science, 63, 140-150.
Coulson, P. G., Hesp, S. A., Hall, N. G., & Potter, I.C. 2009,  The western blue groper (Achoerodus gouldii), a protogynous hermaphroditic labrid with exceptional longevity, late maturity, slow growth, and both late maturation and sex change. Fishery Bulletin, 107, 57-75.
Coulson, P. G., Hesp, S. A., Potter, I. C., & Hall, N. G. 2010, Life cycle characteristics of the Blue Morwong Nemadactylus valenciennesi, compared with those of other species of Cheilodactylidae. Marine and Freshwater Research, 61, 104–118.
Chuwen, B. M., Potter, I. C., Hall, N. G., Hoeksema, S. D., & Laurenson, L. J. B. 2011, Changes in catch rates and length and age at maturity, but not growth, of an estuarine plotosid (Cnidoglanis macrocephalus) after heavy fishing. Fishery Bulletin, 109, 247-260.
Hallett, C. S., & Hall, N. G. 2012, Equivalence factors for standardising catch data across multiple beach seine nets to account for differences in relative bias. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 104-105: 114:122.
Lek, E., Fairclough, D. V., Hall, N. G., Hesp, S. A., Potter, I. C. 2012, Do the maximum sizes, ages and patterns of growth of three reef-dwelling labrid species at two latitudes differ in a manner conforming to the metabolic theory of ecology? Journal of Fish Biology, 81: 1936-62.