Meet the WildAid Marine Team: Bob Farrell
April 13, 2021; Interview by Mary Pantenburg, WildAid Marine Intern
WildAid Marine is supported by a team of technical experts who, collectively, have 100+ years of marine enforcement experience and hail from organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife where they worked directly with different technology providers, led training and capacity building efforts, and guided operations to stop illegal fishing. In March, we highlighted some of the inspiring women on our team; over the next few months, we’ll continue to introduce you to the other passionate individuals who make our work possible.
Bob Farrell, Senior Enforcement Consultant
Like many on the WildAid Marine team, Bob spent the early years of his career in the field, gaining hands-on experience with ocean conservation. His work took him from the high seas, where he worked as a Fisheries Observer, to government offices in the United States, where he led a marine law enforcement agency. Through his diversity of experience, Bob developed a deep understanding of the common barriers to marine compliance and enforcement around the world. This knowledge and expertise have proven to be a real asset to the WildAid Marine Team.
Bob’s passion for travel and marine enforcement fit perfectly with WildAid Marine’s mission and led Bob to what he describes as his dream job. “With WildAid, I have been fortunate enough to visit many different places. I get to see the world and get paid to do it!” he says.
What do you do for WildAid Marine?
I’m involved in several projects for WildAid Marine. Most of my work involves evaluating enforcement systems and assisting projects as a subject matter expert in fisheries law enforcement. I have been fortunate enough to work on projects in Ecuador, Galapagos, Palau, and here in North America.
What first got you interested in oceans? Was it a documentary? A book? A friend?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in the ocean! Being born and raised in Hawai’i to a fishing and diving family, I was always around the ocean. My earliest memories are of being in saltwater and seeing the vibrant colors of reef fish.
How did your career in conservation start?
My first job in conservation was riding aboard foreign fishing vessels in the Bering Sea. I worked as a “Fisheries Observer” aboard a Korean vessel. My job was to collect biological samples and document any rule violations. It was a challenging environment, but I saw first hand the need to protect our marine resources.
That first job led me to a career in fisheries enforcement that allowed me to get back to my birthplace of Hawai’i and lead the agency responsible for conservation law enforcement.
What is one thing about your job or the work you do that might surprise people?
Everyone thinks that the world of conservation around the world is vastly different. What I have found is that we all share some very fundamental needs for enforcement. I am struck by the similarities in each of the jurisdictions that I have visited. The species and habitats are all unique, but the people who protect them are very familiar to me.
What gives you hope for the future of our oceans?
I think the realization that it will take a village to make the change. It’s not enough to have scientists and conservationists participate in management. We need communities, resource users, indigenous practitioners; everybody has to participate. I see some of the best conservation work being done when these collaborations exist. The synergy between science, traditional ecological knowledge, and community ethos is the future of conservation.
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Spend more time in the water! Seriously, just get outside and play. Go diving, surfing, swimming… have more fun in general. Your career cannot take up every aspect of your life and you should enjoy all the little moments before they get away.
What is the best advice for young people trying to go into conservation?
Find your passion and do whatever it takes to make it happen. I see many aspiring conservationists focus on academia when experience is needed. Experience is arguably more critical than a Ph.D. Get out in the field and experience what it is you want to do. Volunteering, job shadowing, be creative, but get out there and experience the job to see if you truly want it. That glimpse of what is possible is a strong motivator. You do not have to take a 6-month unpaid internship. Take a weekend workshop, volunteer for four hours a week, just do something in the field to pair with your education.