Chris Oliver appointed to lead National Marine Fisheries Service

Published on
June 21, 2017

Chris Oliver, the former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, has been appointed as the next assistant administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oliver was named to the position by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, with concurrence from the White House. Oliver replaces Acting Assistant Administrator Samuel Rauch, who will return to his position as the deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs, according to a NOAA press release. 

SeafoodSource previously reported that Oliver had accepted the position in early May.

In his new role, Oliver will oversee the management and conservation of recreational and commercial fisheries, including some aspects of marine aquaculture. Oliver is also charged with the preservation and maintenance of safe sources of seafood, and the protection of marine mammals, marine protected species, and coastal fisheries habitat within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, according to NOAA. The agency has 4,800 people working around the country in five regional offices, six science centers, and 24 labs and fish stations in 15 states and U.S. territories.

“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,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s appointment was backed by major U.S. seafood more than 50 processors and organizations, including Pacific Seafoods and American Seafoods Company. The coalition wrote directly to President Donald Trump to urge Oliver’s hiring.

“We believe Chris Oliver has the experience to increase the economic productivity of our fisheries while also promoting conservation and sustainability, which is critical,” Pacific Seafood General Counsel Dan Occhipinti said.

The National Fisheries Institute, the U.S. seafood trade association, issued a statement on Tuesday, 20 June praising the appointment.

“Oliver brings a high level of experience to this vital position. It is important to have someone with a strong fisheries background and a genuine understanding of how the industry works at the helm. In addition to nearly three decades of experience with NOAA, Oliver holds a degree in business management and an advanced degree in fisheries sciences,” NFI spokesperson Gavin Gibbons said. “NFI looks forward to working with the new Assistant Administrator to ensure NOAA continues to base its decision making on sound science and works to more compellingly communicate its sustainability successes. NOAA’s oversight is in and of itself a success story and no one knows that better than Chris Oliver.  Americans are ready to hear more about the ongoing success of domestic fisheries.”

As executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Oliver initiated the development of limited-access privilege programs and fishery cooperatives and catch-share programs, the North Pacific’s comprehensive onboard observer program, numerous bycatch reduction programs, extensive habitat protection measures, commercial and recreational allocation programs, and coastal community development programs, according to NOAA. He was also responsible for all administrative and operational aspects of the council process, and lead staffer for legislative and international issues. Prior to serving as executive director, Oliver worked as a fisheries biologist and then deputy director for the council.

“Through his long-time participation in the Council Coordination Committee and various international regional fishery management organizations, Oliver gained extensive knowledge of the national and international fisheries issues facing the agency,” NOAA said in its release.

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 has a BBA in business management and a master's degree in fisheries science, both from Texas A&M and is an avid hunter and fisherman, according to NOAA.

“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,” Oliver 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.”

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500