Paul Doremus takes over as acting head of NOAA Fisheries after Chris Oliver departs

Paul Doremus has taken over as acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries following the departure of Chris Oliver, who had served as NOAA Fisheries’ assistant administrator since June 2017.

Doremus has worked at NOAA for the past 16 years, including as chief strategy officer from 2005 to 2011, assistant secretary for conservation and management from 2017 to 2018, and chief of strategy and operations, as well as lead for seafood production and aquaculture from 2011 until his recent promotion.

Oliver, the former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, was a political appointee, and resigned during the transfer of power between former U.S. President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, who was inaugurated 20 January.

“It has been the greatest honor in my professional career to serve in this role as the NOAA assistant administrator for fisheries,” Oliver wrote in an email sent to his NOAA Fisheries coworkers. “The final year of my tenure has been unprecedented for both the industry and the agency. 2020 has been extremely challenging for all of us and there may be more months of struggle ahead, but I believe we can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel.”

Oliver thanked the staff of NOAA Fisheries for its efforts in effectively managing and regulating the U.S. seafood industry, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic made that job more difficult to do.

“Through the dedication of NOAA’s professional staff, I know the agency and the industry will come out stronger than ever before,” Oliver wrote in the letter, which was provided to SeafoodSource by the agency. “We have systems in place to ensure sustainable management of our ocean resources while amplifying the economic value of commercial and recreational fisheries. The science and management partnerships built between the industry, regional fishery management councils, interstate fishery management commissions, NOAA Fisheries, and our many partners will enable us to identify the challenges the future holds and work collaboratively to address them head on.”

Oliver, who did not divulge his next professional move in the email, said the agency was well-positioned to weather the change in administrations.

“My experience over the past four years has renewed my respect for, and confidence in, the dedication and performance of our entire NMFS workforce,” he said. “As I have said before, political appointees come and go, but the career workforce of NOAA Fisheries are the foundation of our successful science and management mission.”

Doremus, who has spent much of his time in the past few years working on the Trump administration’s efforts to increase domestic aquaculture production, said in an October SeafoodSource webinar focused on Trump’s executive order on seafood many of the initiatives NOAA Fisheries has been focused on are of national importance regardless of which political party holds power in Washington D.C. Specifically, Doremus cited food security, economic resilience, and health and nutrition as issues that will continue to be priorities for NOAA Fisheries moving forward.

“These aren’t really partisan issues,” he said. “These are issues where we may tack a little left [or] a little right in terms of how we go about addressing them, but they are really top-level policy concerns that will need to be addressed next year, and the year after that, and [after] five and 10 years [and onwards]. It’s a really long-term response strategy that we have to lay in and patiently execute.”

Doremus said the team at NOAA Fisheries is capable of continuing to push forward issues and initiatives it has identified as priorities.

“We’re extraordinarily excited about the future for the seafood sector as a whole in the United States, and for aquaculture development as a whole. We have a strong, vibrant industry that’s been extraordinarily challenged under COVID, and the direction we’ve been given under this executive order is a pathway for building a stronger, more resilient, sustainable seafood sector, and aquaculture sector in particular, that can serve our public health and nutrition needs, that can serve our long-term environmental and climate resilience needs, and that can serve a lot of the long-term economic development objectives that are laid out clearly in the executive order,” Doremus said in an October SeafoodSource webinar focused on Trump’s executive order on seafood. “We’ve been working together, all of us here in the federal community, for some time, it’s a wonderful group of people to work with on a daily basis, and we’ve got a really strong team. We’re looking forward to providing an even better environment for industry development over time.”

Photo courtesy of NOAA


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