Catherine “Cate” O'Keefe, a scientist with more than 20 years of experience in Northeast fisheries research and management, was named executive director of the New England Fisheries Management Council to replace the retiring Thomas Nies.
A resident of South Dartmouth, Mass., O'Keefe has a deep resume reflecting two decades of working with the fishing industry on and off the water. She is the owner and principal consultant of Fishery Applications Consulting Team, a firm that has provided technical, research, and facilitation services to a wide range of clients, including the New England council for scallop and monkfish projects.
O'Keefe's work in recent years included studies of the socioeconomic impact of offshore wind power development on the fishing industry, and compensatory mitigation for the scallop fleet and other fisheries that will be affected. Fisheries Applications has also has provided services to offshore wind energy companies, fishing industry organizations, global consulting firms, academic institutions, and research organizations. O'Keefe currently serves as vice chair of the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee.
O'Keefe earned her doctoral degree at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST). Her dissertation was titled: “An incentive-based, collaborative approach to maximize yield by avoiding bycatch in the U.S. sea scallop fishery.” She earned a master’s degree through the Boston University Marine Program in Woods Hole and a bachelor of arts in biology and fisheries from Hampshire College.
O'Keefe replaces longtime executive director Thomas Nies, a 26-year veteran of the council staff who rose to the director's position in 2013. With Nies announcing his retirement in January 2023, the council initiated a nationwide search for a new executive.
A search committee made up of the council’s executive committee and NOAA Fisheries regional administrator Michael Pentony conducted an initial round of interviews among a pool of highly qualified candidates. The full council then met with finalists a in closed session May 31; O’Keefe on was offered and accepted the position June 1.
O’Keefe is expected to assume her new duties in mid-July. She will attend the council’s June 27-29 meeting in Freeport, Maine, which will be Nies’ last in his official capacity as executive director.
“Cate is well known for being a dynamic, approachable, and detail-oriented colleague in a broad range of scientific and management circles,” according to the council’s announcement of the hiring dedcision. “She has experience on commercial fishing vessels and with offshore survey work, as well as with the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program. Her familiarity with the council’s plan development teams and her grant-writing and budget-management skills are all key assets that will facilitate a smooth transition from one executive director to the next.
“Cate has received numerous recognition awards and has several professional affiliations, including membership in the American Fisheries Society and the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists, in which she currently serves as president. She has authored or co-authored over two dozen scientific publications and reports.”
Before her present position as vice chair of the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, O'Keefe previously served on the council's Scallop Plan Development Team, Herring, Monkfish, and Skate Oversight Committees, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Atlantic Herring Management Board.
O’Keefe has participated in several Northeast Fisheries Science Center and International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) stock assessment working groups and review panels. She has taught graduate level courses in fisheries management, ocean policy, and scientific communications.
O’Keefe’s doctorate degree from SMAST Cate focused on developing a bycatch avoidance program for the sea scallop fishery. She currently serves as adjunct faculty to SMAST's Department of Fisheries Oceanography, and also holds a master's degree from Boston University.
O’Keefe is currently president of the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biology, previously served as the institute’s treasurer, and is a member of the American Fisheries Society. She is a member of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster Board of Directors, UMass Dartmouth Alumni Association Board, New Bedford Port Society Ladies Branch, and the Society for Women in Marine Science.