NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator John Bullard recently announced that he will be retiring on Jan. 5, 2018.

Bullard served as the president of the Sea Education Association, mayor of New Bedford, Mass., and director of NOAA’s Office of Sustainable Development before assuming the top position in the agency’s Gloucester, Mass., office.

Working with fisheries from Maine through North Carolina, Bullard also coordinated with the fishery management councils and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to manage 44 fish stocks, including two — scallops and lobster — worth more than $500 million each.

Bullard headed NMFS’ response to the New England groundfish crisis, making the unpopular decision to impose emergency closures throughout the region. He followed up that move by working with Congress and state directors to deliver $32.8 million in disaster assistance to affected fishing families and communities.

Also during his tenure, Bullard took steps to remove approximately 30,000 miles of rope from Atlantic coastal waters to reduce whale entanglements and expand critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales; approved the Mid-Atlantic council’s deep-sea coral amendment that drew lines around 15 deep-sea canyons and a total area of 24 million acres; advanced efforts to protect forage fish; and headed electronic monitoring pilot projects on fishing vessels, according to NOAA.

“I know how difficult these issues are, and I tried to tackle them with courage and compassion,” said Bullard in a press release.

"We wish John well,” said New England council Executive Director Tom Nies. "He is always willing to work with the council to find management solutions and empowers those around him to actively participate in the process, which is one of his key accomplishments. That may go unnoticed by many, but it is one of the reasons our council has been able to complete so many management actions during his tenure."

“It's been an honor and pleasure to work with John. He has been a strong supporter of state/federal cooperation in the management of our shared marine resources,” said Bob Beal, executive director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. “We are grateful for his contributions to sustainable management and wish him the very best.”

Bullard said he he no plans to slow down on his way out.

“There is work left to do before I leave – very important work,” said Bullard. “Still on my list are the Omnibus Habitat Amendment, the New England council’s Deep Sea Coral Amendment, some critical dam removals, electronic monitoring, the Carlos Rafael situation, the summer flounder crisis, and the continuing groundfish challenge, among others.”

The agency will launch a search for Bullard’s replacement within the next several months.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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