Pacific Seafood, fishing groups push Oliver for NOAA chief

A host of United States seafood processors, including Pacific Seafoods and American Seafoods Company, along with fishing groups, are urging the appointment of Chris Oliver as the next assistant administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Oliver is the director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), a position he has held for the past 18 years. Oliver also served as the deputy director and Gulf of Alaska Fishery Management Plan Coordinator.

More than 50 letters of support for Oliver have been sent to President Donald Trump’s transition team from National Coalition for Fishing Communities, which represents seafood companies, trade associations such as the National Fisheries Institute and the Freezer Longline Coalition, and conservation groups.

“America’s fisheries generate millions of jobs and contribute billions to the economy, but we could do a lot more,” said Daniel Occhipinti, general counsel of Oregon-based Pacific Seafood Group and one of the leaders of the coalition. “We believe Chris Oliver has the experience to increase the economic productivity of our fisheries while also promoting conservation and sustainability, which is critical.”

More than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported from overseas, resulting in a USD 13 billion (EUR 12.2 billion) seafood trade deficit, according to the coalition.

“We need a leader of NOAA Fisheries who is committed to the economic productivity of American waters, and we are confident that Mr. Oliver is the right choice,” the coalition’s letter to Trump and Commerce Secretary Nominee Wilbur Ross stated.

Oliver supports easing regulatory burdens and decentralized fisheries management, the group wrote.

“Mr. Oliver has consistently advocated for redistributing resources and authority from NOAA Fisheries headquarters to the NMFS regional offices and to the eight regional councils. Each region is faced with different challenges and fisheries management is not a one-size-fits-all scenario,” the coalition wrote.

At the same time, Oliver understands international fisheries, the groups said. He has served as a delegate to the U.S.-Russia Intergovernmental Consultative Committee for nearly 20 years, and helped develop bilateral agreements on the international boundary line “as well as cooperative research and high-seas enforcement agreements key to the Bering Sea fisheries.”

“I’ve known Chris Oliver for many years, and without a doubt, he has the skills and experience required for this job,” said Lori Steele, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, in a statement from the coalition. “Chris has a keen sense for how to balance competing interests in a way that promotes sustainability, enhances community and, most importantly, optimizes productivity of a fishery.”

“Chris is an ardent believer in the tenets of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. He is committed to achieving optimum yield, while preventing overfishing,” added Mary Beth Tooley, an at-large member of the New England Fishery Management Council and Maine resident.


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