NMFS has a new leader as of June 19. Chris Oliver of Anchorage, Alaska, was named assistant administrator for the service, leaving his 16-year post as executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Oliver will take the reins from interim director Sam Rauch.
“I look forward to leading NOAA Fisheries and working with our partners to rebuild U.S. fisheries and conserve and recover protected resources where necessary, promote domestic marine aquaculture production where appropriate, maintain our reputation for world-renowned science and analysis, and do so while maximizing fishing opportunities for the benefit of recreational and commercial fishermen, processors, and the coastal communities which depend on them for generations to come,” said Oliver in a press release.
Oliver has worked for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council since 1990. During his tenure as executive director, he led the way on several management initiatives, including development of limited access privilege programs and fishery cooperatives, catch share programs, the North Pacific’s comprehensive onboard observer program, and many other programs focused on bycatch reduction, allocation and coastal communities.
"Oliver's background and expertise will be an asset at NOAA Fisheries as they work to reduce our nation's $11 billion seafood trade deficit," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Oliver has received tremendous support from the fishing industry as a candidate for this position. According to the National Coalition for Fishing Communities, letters representing 55 seafood companies, trade associations and conservation groups were sent to Donald Trump’s transition team advocating for Oliver.
“I understand how important stakeholder involvement, transparency and best available science are to making the right policy decisions, and I plan to ensure those tenets of the Magnuson-Stevens Act are applied across the board while I am leading the agency,” he said. “I intend to rely heavily upon the regional expertise of the eight fishery management councils and the associated NOAA Fisheries regions and science centers, and to ensure they have the resources necessary to effectively tackle region-specific issues.”
As the agency’s new assistant administrator, Oliver will manage 3,200 people in five regional offices, six science centers, and 24 labs and fish stations in 15 states and U.S. territories.
Originally from Rockport, Texas, Oliver was a research associate at Texas A&M University from 1987 to 1990, working with federal and state agencies on management issues associated with Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries. He holds a BBA in business management and a master's degree in fisheries science, both from Texas A&M.
Rauch will return to his position as the deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs.