Janet Coit named to lead NOAA Fisheries; Rick Spinrad confirmed as NOAA administrator

Published on
June 22, 2021
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management head Janet Coit has been appointed to lead the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management head Janet Coit was named to lead the National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, on Monday, 21 June, a move met with wide approval from a variety of stakeholder groups.

Coit will oversee a governmental agency that employs 4,800 people in five regional offices, six science centers, and more than 20 laboratories in 15 states and U.S. territories. It is responsible for the management and conservation of recreational and commercial fisheries, including some aspects of marine aquaculture. 

Coit served as the director of the Rhode Island’s DEM for a decade. Her move to NOAA Fisheries – her official titles will be assistant administrator, deputy NOAA administrator, and acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere – means she will once again work for U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who served as Rhode Island’s governor until appointed to her current position by U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Janet understands the direct link between natural resources management and economic vitality for our nation,” Raimondo said in a press release. “She is a tremendous addition to our NOAA team, who brings a wealth of experience in supporting fisheries, promoting the seafood sector, protecting the marine environment, and tackling climate change.”

Seafood Harvesters of America President Chris Brown said in a statement that he was happy to see Coit appointed to the job and looks forward to continuing to work with her. Brown also serves as the president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association.

“Janet will be a thoughtful and steady [administrator], carefully listening to stakeholders while keeping sound science, not politics, at the heart of the agency,” Brown said. “She won the respect of the commercial fishing industry in Rhode Island, and I expect her to do the same [at NOAA].”

National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly said Coit has a reputation of working with stakeholders and is a promoter of seafood both locally and abroad. In Rhode Island, she made sure seafood was harvested responsibly while streamlining agency processes, Connelly said in a statement.

“This same approach is needed at the federal level,” Connelly said.

Sally Yozell, a former NOAA official who now serves as the director of the Stimson Center’s Environment Security Program, said she has worked with Janet for years. She noted Coit’s role in getting fishermen engaged in the Block Island offshore wind project.

“Her effective management style in Rhode Island will easily translate into the steady and tireless leadership required to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing globally, manage our domestic fisheries, expand offshore wind energy, and help President Biden meet his ‘30 by 30’ goals to protect habitats important for sustainable fisheries,” Yozell said.

Coit’s appointment comes days after the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Rick Spinrad as NOAA administrator. Spinrad was nominated to the position in April 2021.

In a statement after the U.S. Senate’s Thursday, 17 June, approval by voice vote, Raimondo said Spinrad has been a successful scientist, educator, and executive whose career work has focused on promoting and protecting the oceans and their resources. Previously, he served as NOAA’s chief scientist and an assistant administrator for oceans services and coastal zone management. Among his chief priorities will be to develop a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development, according to Raimondo.

“I am grateful for his ongoing public service to the agency and the nation, and I look forward to working alongside him as we tackle the climate crisis, conserve our oceans, and grow our blue economy,” Raimondo said.

Paul Doremus had served as acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries following the departure of Chris Oliver, who had served as NOAA Fisheries’ assistant administrator since June 2017. Oliver recently joined American Seafoods as a special advisor on government affairs. Doremus remains at NOAA as chief of strategy and operations and NOAA lead for seafood production and aquaculture.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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