North Pacific council director takes top federal fish job

Chris Oliver, the former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, has moved up the ladder to lead the agency overseeing the all the federally managed fisheries in the U.S.

Oliver, who has lived in Alaska since 1990 and been the executive director of the council since 2001, officially took the post of assistant administrator at the National Marine Fisheries Service effective June 19.

The move places him in the top job at the federal agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that regulates and enforces fisheries occurring in federal waters, which are between 3 and 200 miles off U.S. coasts.

As administrator, he will oversee NMFS’ 3,200 employees, five regional offices, six science centers and 24 labs and fish stations. NMFS works with the eight regional fisheries councils across the country to develop recreational and commercial fisheries policies, providing research and recommendations for conservation and management.

“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 in a NOAA news release.

Oliver has a reputation for practicality and being politically neutral. His new position is a political appointment, which he told the Journal in February could be “a bit of a misfit” because he was able to stay out of the notoriously heated politics of fisheries as the executive director of the council.

Seafood companies with interests in Alaska backed Oliver’s nomination in large numbers, having worked with him first as a biologist and deputy director before he became executive director for the council.

He replaces former administrator Eileen Sobeck, who left as President Donald Trump’s administration began. When he was first tapped for the position in the spring, he said he didn’t know if he’d accept the position were it to be offered.

At the last council meeting in Juneau in early June, the members took time to say farewell. Oliver thanked the council members and said he’d likely be back to visit.

“I want to say what an honor and a privilege it’s been again to work for this council. It’s because of this council that I’m having this opportunity,” he said. “…It’s been a wonderful ride and I’m going to miss all of you.”

North Pacific Fishery Management Council Deputy Director David Witherell will serve as interim executive director until a new one is hired.

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Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

Updated: 
06/21/2017 - 12:52pm

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