The California Wetfish Producers Association has named economist and Pacific fisheries expert Mark Fina as its new executive director, succeeding the group’s longtime leader, Diane Pleschner-Steele.
Fina brings extensive experience in North Pacific fisheries, including working for the Anchorage, Alaska-based consulting firm Northern Economics. After a year there, he chose to focus his work on fisheries, taking a position as senior economist for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, where he led the analysis of several major fisheries management actions regulating the groundfish and crab fisheries in Alaskan waters. In this role, he also participated in a broad range of community, industry, and stakeholder forums across the state.
After a decade with the North Pacific council, Fina joined United States Seafoods, where he represented the company in the fishery regulatory process. He also served as president of the Alaska Seafood Cooperative, the entity overseeing the harvest of quota in the offshore Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands multispecies groundfish fisheries.
For the past five years, Fina has worked in seafood certification, and currently serves as the chair of the board of the Responsible Fisheries Management program, a North American seafood certification program benchmarked by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Fina has a law degree from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate in agricultural and applied economics from Virginia Tech University.
“I am very happy to be joining the CWPA and look forward to working with members to promote the sustainability of the coastal pelagic/wetfish fisheries in California, through collaborative research and facilitating dialogue both within and outside the industry,” Fina said in a prepared statement from CWPA.
Fina takes the helm from outgoing the CWPA's executive director, Diane Pleschner-Steele, who has been involved in fisheries issues for 40 years.
“My family has been urging me to slow down,” Pleschner-Steele said.
Pleschner-Steele has headed the CWPA for 18 years after creating the nonprofit group with the help of its board of directors. She recently retired from 18 years on the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Coastal Pelagic Species Advisory Subpanel. She previously worked for two decades as a journalist focused on West Coast fisheries, and for 10 years served as a manager of the California Seafood Council, an advisory group to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The CWPA board has asked her to stay involved part-time behind the scenes to help manage CWPA’s extensive research program.
CWPA partners with both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, conducting collaborative field surveys targeting sardine, anchovy, and squid. The goal of these projects is to improve the science governing fishery management policies.
California’s fishing industry faces myriad challenges in the coming years, including competition for ocean area with offshore wind development, NOAA’s initiative to foster ocean aquaculture, and the so-called "30 by 30" campaign to conserve 30 percent of all U.S. land and coastal waters by the year 2030, "threatening to usurp valuable fishing grounds," CWPA said.
“The future of fishing as we know it is threatened,” Pleschner-Steele said. “But the future of California’s historic wetfish industry lies in improving the science underpinning fishery management."
Photo courtesy of the California Wetfish Producers Association