With a new governor at the helm, North Carolina’s fishermen are bracing for what could be a major shake-up in fisheries management.

Michael Regan. Environmental Defense Fund photo.Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper began the changeover by appointing Michael Regan to run the state Department of Environmental Quality, replacing Donald van der Vaart.

The secretary’s position was a surprise, as his name was never mentioned in the many conversations we’ve had concerning the rumors about who Governor Cooper might name to the position,” said Jerry Schill, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association. We have no preconceived opinions about Secretary Michael Regan, and that’s a good thing.”

Van der Vaart is known for opposing what conservatives saw as regulatory overreach by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. On the other hand, Regan’s environmental credentials are being welcomed by environmental activists and seen by others as a warning sign.

The conservative advocacy group Carolina Partnership for Reform quickly put out a news release calling Regan a radical” who will harm the state’s agricultural and fisheries interests.

Michael Regan is exceptionally well-qualified for this position, with a strong background in federal and state environmental protection and energy policy,” Sierra Club Director Molly Diggins wrote in an email. His appointment will be a breath of fresh air after the anti-science tenor of the past four years.”

The day-to-day business of fisheries management remained at press time in the hands of Braxton Davis, director of the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries. He’s held the position for less than a year.

“We’d like Braxton Davis to remain as director. He’s been fair, and that’s all we can ask for,” said Schill. “There’s more appointments to come, so we wait.” 

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