Oceans Past VII

Bremerhaven, 22 - 26 October 2018

Tracing human interactions with marine ecosystems through deep time: implications for policy and management

Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) & the German Maritime Museum, Bremerhaven, Germany

The Oceans Past 7 Conference was held in Bremerhaven (Germany), with the local support and organization of the AWI and the German Maritime Museum, between 22 and 26 October. Around 100 participants from 24 different nationalities were present during the six days of talks and meetings. Current research was showcased and the exciting final results of the EU COST Action OPP - Oceans Past Platform - were presented. A general assembly for the constitution of OPI - Oceans Past Initiative - was also held, and the Scientific Board of OPI was elected. The Board for the next couple of years is composed of Poul Holm, Alison Macdiarmid, Gesche Krausse, Ben Fitzhugh, Ruth Thurstand and Cristina Brito. The next Oceans Past Conference will take place in 2020 in Belgium.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Ben Fitzhugh & the Palaeoecology of Subarctic Seas Working Group (Department of Anthropology, University of Washington)

Historical Ecology at the Basin Scale: Marine Ecodynamics and Teleconnected Subarctic Communities 

What does it mean to think of areas as large as the expansive North Pacific or North Atlantic as historical regions in human and ecological terms? In recent centuries, these basins have been integrated by colonial voyaging, contacts, conquests, and the extraction and consumption of vast natural resources such as fur bearing sea mammals, whales, and now, fish. In deeper time, communities living around these regions have been integrated in various, and sometimes more subtle, ways. Trade, travel, and--we will argue—a mutual interdependence on climate, oceanographic and ecological processes conditioned livelihoods in coordinated ways at scales beyond those of regular human experience. In this talk, I will explore these issues using insights drawn from recent synthetic efforts of the Paleoecology of Subarctic and Arctic Seas (PESAS) working group. My case study will focus on relationships between the subsistence-oriented communities of the North Pacific at points through the Holocene. I will present evidence suggesting large scale relationships between human demography and ecological dynamics from southern Alaska to Hokkaido Japan. I will briefly examine the hypothesized climate-ocean relationships and the archaeological evidence for and against human vulnerability to synoptic oceanographic dynamics. If we understand the mechanisms correctly, the North Pacific story—and the archaeological record that helps record it—encodes important lessons for fisheries management under conditions of rapid change. I will turn towards the end to reflect on opportunities to explore similar cases in the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean, and fit these efforts into the broader PESAS framework, inviting the Ocean’s Past community to join the ongoing effort to explore the dynamic relationship between human history and maritime variability over large and long time scales."

Professor Iain McCalman (Department of History, University of Sydney)

Living in Reef Country. European Castaways and Indigenous Maritime Societies of the Great Barrier Reef, 1770–1923.

One casualty of the European “discovery” and subsequent relentless British colonization of Australia from the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth century is the meagre historical evidence of the ways of life of the numerous clans of Indigenous maritime peoples who had inhabited the coasts and islands of Australia’s immense north-eastern Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Island region for thousands of years. This region was massive by any standards. As well as being the planet’s largest organism, the giant ribbon of coral off the north-east coastline of Australia encloses an area of lagoon, island, beach and littoral that is larger than England and Ireland put together. The Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2,300-kilometres and encompasses three thousand individual reefs and nine hundred islands. 

Here, I propose to explore the accounts of four castaways whose experiences with Indigenous Reef peoples spanned a period from prior to European contact up to the subsequent dispossession and colonization of the Reef’s maritime clans. I will argue that despite the diversity of age, gender, social origin and circumstance of these castaways, their stories can offer unparalleled insights into the cultures and ecologies of the Indigenous maritime clans who inhabited, cherished and managed this unique stretch of reef country.

Professor Ingo Heidbrink (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia)

Marine environmental vs fisheries history - just two names or two different methods to catch the past?

Marine environmental history and fisheries history are two terms that are often used as interchangeable terms despite of a number of substantial differences in research methodology and interest that directly influence the usability of the respective research results in the context of fields like fisheries management, marine governance, coastal community/society development etc.

The paper will provide an overview of methods and key questions of the two disciplines and explain why and how the two fields are not exclusive but complimentary to each other.

In addition it will be argued that both fields are inter-/transdisciplinary by nature and the combined skill sets of marine and or fisheries scientists and economic historians are required for both.

Finally, recent research projects of both fields will be introduced to demonstrate that a real holistic understanding of the Oceans’ Past can only be reached by combining the research results of marine environmental history with fisheries history.

Have a look at the wonderful group of conference delegates, with many thanks to all for their contributions and discussions all week long!

Please access here:

the overview TIMETABLE,



Abstract Submission Guidelines


Please provide the following information (in a single doc file):

Title of presentation

Full name(s) of all author(s)

Affiliation (of all authors; institute, town and country)

Abstract (max 200 words)

Preferred session (please select one from the list below):

  • Oceans prior to contemporary exploitation
  • Drivers of environmental use and change across historical time-frames
  • The significance of marine resources for human societies over time
  • Factors that have encouraged societies to exploit or leave the oceans
  • Development of indicators
  • Implications of past and present human ocean activities for coastal and marine policy development

Preferred presentation type (oral or poster):

Please send the information to info@oceanspast.org

Registration Fee

80 Euros  - Registration Fee for 1-Day Participation

150 Euros - Full Registration, which will include:

  • Lunch on each day of the conference
  • Welcome reception/ice breaker on day one
  • Final conference three course meal and beverages at the German Emigration Museum and private tour of the museum http://dah-bremerhaven.de/ENG/en.museum.php

Please make your payment to:

Alfred-Wegener-Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)

Commerzbank AG, Bremerhaven


IBAN: DE12 2924 0024 0349 1925 00

Reference: ip80770006 OPP Conference

Conference Venue

Please find a map with information on all venues here!

AWI – Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany (www.awi.de)

DSM – German Maritime Museum, Bremerhaven, Germany (www.dsm.museum)

Bremerhaven is a port city on Germany’s North Sea coast. The city is conveniently located approx. 40 minutes by train from Bremen. Trains depart every hour at least. If you cannot get a direct flight into Bremen, you can fly to Hamburg or Hanover and use the train network to get to Bremerhaven.  A train from either of these cities will take approx. 1 hour 45 minutes to arrive in Bremerhaven.

Did you know?

The port of Bremerhaven is the sixteenth-largest container port in the world and the fourth-largest in Europe.

79% of the city was destroyed in the Allied air bombing of Bremen in World War II.

It has a population of about 114,000.

Places to visit

Klimahaus Bremerhaven: http://www.klimahaus-bremerhaven.de

Schaufenster Fischereihafen: https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Attraction_Review-g187326-d2286821-Reviews-Schaufenster_Fischereihafen-Bremerhaven.html

Die Alte Bürger: Restaurant and bar area with frequent culture and art events http://www.diealtebuerger.de/

Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven: https://zoo-am-meer-bremerhaven.de/en/

German Emigration Museum: http://dah-bremerhaven.de/ENG/en.museum.php


Hotel and Restaurant Haverkamp

Please ask for the AWI rate for Ocean’s Past VII conference (Ref Jo D’Arcy)
Standard room 83.50 p. n.
Superior room 112 p. n.
***** Rooms at these rates include breakfast and are limited (prices Dec 2017) *****

Im Jaich Hotel
Please ask for the Ocean’s Past VII conference (Ref. Jo D’Arcy)
Single room 81.00 € p.n. (breakfast incl.)
Double room 100 € p.n. (breakfast incl.)

Im Jaich Boarding house

Please ask for the Ocean’s Past VII conference (Ref. Jo D’Arcy)
Apartment for one person 82.00 € p.n.
Apartment for two persons 93.00 € p.n.
Junior suite one person 97.00 € p.n.
Junior suite two persons 109.00 € p.n.
Captains suite one person 107.00 € p.n.
Captains suite two persons 119.00 € p.n.
***** Rooms at these rates include breakfast and are limited (prices Dec 2017) *****

Other options, located near the conference venues but without conference rate:
https://www.atlantic-hotels.de/hotel-sail-city-bremerhaven/                                          http://bremerhavener-gaestehaus.de/index.html

Arrival Information

When arriving at Bremen Airport, just jump up on the Tram (no. 6) outside the building that heads to “Universität”. You can buy a ticket at the vending machine outside or inside the tram (€ 2,80). After a ride of roughly 10-15 min, get off at “Hauptbahnhof – Central Station” (they announce this stop in English as well). Enter the main entrance of the central railway station. In the annex to your left is the customer services where you can directly buy a ticket to “Bremerhaven – Hauptbahnhof” at one of the counters – else, there are also vending machines in the main hall if you prefer to buy a ticket there (or via internet https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml).

There are two train types running between Bremen and Bremerhaven (usually they depart on platform 7 or 8) – the fast ones (30 min) with the abbreviation RE (for Regional Express), or NWB (NordWestBahn), which takes longer as it stops more frequently. Both have the final destination “Bremerhaven-Lehe”, you need to get off only one stop before, at “Bremerhaven – Hauptbahnhof”. Pricing is the same for both stops, so you can’t go wrong ;-). We would suggest to pool for a taxi when arriving in Bremerhaven, as this will bring you most swiftly to your final destination (should cost you around 10-15 € for all of you).