New NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan has impressive credentials, inherits many challanges


In an earlier post, Fisheries Management 101, a basic overview of the major players involved in regulating our local fishery was provided in order to highlight how complicated and challenging it has become to operate as a fishermen in local waters.  Included in this post was a bit of information on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal bureaucratic department tasked with managing and regulating our local fishery in federal waters. As stated on the organization’s website:

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them.

From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product. NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it.

NOAA’s roots date back to 1807, when the Nation’s first scientific agency, the Survey of the Coast, was established. Since then, NOAA has evolved to meet the needs of a changing country. NOAA maintains a presence in every state and has emerged as an international leader on scientific and environmental matters. 

NOAA’s mission touches the lives of every American and we are proud of our role in protecting life and property and conserving and protecting natural resources. I hope you will explore NOAA and how our products and services can enrich your own life.

To learn more about the work that NOAA does in relation to fisheries management, visit their website by clicking here.

In February 2013 the active director of NOAA, Dr. Jane Lubchecno, stepped down from her role with the organization leaving her position vacant during a highly tumultuous time.  With fluctuating climate and ocean conditions, the declaration of several federal fisheries disasters, and an increasing number of “mega storms” devastating many communities across the United States, we are in great need of a leader who is up to the task of managing the federal departments tasked with responding to these crises.

leadership_sullivanOn Thursday of this past week, Congress approved the appointment of a new director at NOAA. The new appointee, Dr. Kathryn  Sullivan, brings impressive credentials that make her an ideal candidate for overseeing this organization’s many diverse departments and projects.  A former astronaut who spent a total of more than three weeks in space, Dr. Sullivan also holds a PhD in geology and has history of time served in the Naval Reserve as an oceanographer.  Even with this impressive record, however, the task at hand will present many challenges.  In response to her recent appointment, the Center for American Progress published an article outlining the five most significant challenges that Dr. Sullivan will face in her new role at NOAA.  Included in this list is “Enhancing fisheries’ profitability and sustainability,” which provides a nice overview of the many obstacles currently facing local fishermen and fish stocks:

“In 2006, Congress presented NOAA with a tremendous and non-negotiable challenge as part of the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. It required the agency to effectively end overfishing in America by setting science-based annual catch limits in all domestic fisheries by 2011. Under Lubchenco’s direction, the agency achieved this ambitious goal. Nevertheless, serious challenges remain to ensure the future health of our fishing industry and the fish populations that sustain it.

While 32 fish stocks have been officially rebuilt since 2000, according to the most recent Status of Stocks report, 41 remain in an overfished state, meaning our best science suggests that their total population remains below the target level. Environmentalists, fishermen, and regulators are largely in agreement that the best way to alleviate these concerns is to improve the science used to establish these limits. But science doesn’t come cheap, so in the absence of a sudden budgetary windfall, Sullivan will have to find creative new ways to protect both the health of fish stocks and fishermen’s businesses.

One potential win-win solution is to allow a higher degree of co-management in fisheries, giving fishermen a larger role in data collection and increasing collaboration with scientists. This allows fishermen’s knowledge to enhance data collection and gives scientists the chance to explain the rigors of the scientific process to fishermen. The result is more time on the water for fishermen, and better relationships between two groups that have traditionally been at odds.’

The full Center for American Progress article- which was also featured on the news source Saving Seafood– can be read by clicking here. 

At this important juncture in NOAA’s history of managing and regulating issues related to US climate and oceans, we wish Dr. Sullivan all the best as she enters her new role with the administration.  We hope that her leadership brings the much needed changes that are required to alleviate the many hardships impacting our local fishermen.