Chris Oliver, a special advisor on government affairs to Alaska pollock supplier American Seafoods and former top administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will depart the Seattle-based company at the end of this month.

Oliver, who was hired by American Seafoods in 2021, has joined the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and will be the group's designated representative for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) -- groups charged with managing fisheries in federal waters. Oliver told IntraFish he begins his new role June 1.

In 2017, Oliver was designated by presidential appointment as assistant administrator for fisheries at NOAA, where he was responsible for the management of commercial and recreational marine fisheries and protected species throughout the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which encompasses the Alaska pollock fishing grounds.

Oliver previously worked at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for more than 30 years, as a fisheries biologist, a deputy director, and finally as executive director for 16 years.

A focus on pollock

The move comes as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which determines fisheries regulations for key fisheries resources in Alaska, looks at implementing a limit on the number of salmon harvested as bycatch by Alaska pollock fishing vessels.

Bycatch is non-targeted fish caught while vessels are harvesting a different species. A so-called prohibited species catch limit would require the Alaska pollock fishery to close if it caught a specified number of chum.

Alaska tribes are intensely scrutinizing the Alaska pollock fishery, asking about its role in critically low chum counts on the Yukon River now for several years in a row.

How the North Pacific Fishery management Council works

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has an important role in the management of marine resources off Alaska. The council prepares and amends fishery management plans and regulations for the fisheries occurring in federal waters. The council also works very closely with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Fisheries to coordinate management programs in federal and state waters.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976 to manage fisheries in the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, 3 miles off the coast of Alaska.

The council is made up of appointees from Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. The council, along with the advisory bodies, were formed so federal fishery management decisions could be made at a local level, emphasizing public input.

When reviewing potential rule changes, the council draws upon advisory bodies that include an Advisory Panel (AP), the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), Plan Teams, and other committees. The council will hear reports from the advisory bodies, and hear in-person public testimony at council meetings before taking final action on rule changes. NOAA prepares regulations based on council action.

ADVISORY MEMBERS

  • The Council’s plan teams are standing advisory bodies whose membership includes scientists and managers who review the status of the Council’s Fishery Management Plans, Fishery Ecosystem Plans, and best available social science.
  • The NPFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) is composed of leading scientists in biology, economics, statistics, and social science. The SSC advises the full council on scientific and other technical matters
  • The NPFMC Advisory Panel (AP) members represent major segments of the fishing industry; catching and processing, subsistence and commercial fishermen, observers, consumers, environmental/conservation, and sport fishermen.

The Council meets five times each year, usually in February, April, June, October, and December, with three of the meetings held in Anchorage, one in a fishing community in Alaska and one either in Portland or Seattle.

Source: NPFMC


In February, the council appointed Shawaan Jackson-Gamble to hold the first-ever Alaska Native tribal seat on its advisory panel seat.

The seat was added after years of pressure from Native groups. Alaska lawmaker Mary Peltola, then executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, testified before Congress that Alaska Natives have only had concerns heard "through a Governor’s office that has historically and presently prioritized those with private financial interests in the fisheries over the long-term subsistence interests of Alaska Natives."

In a letter sent to the NPFMC, Jackson-Gamble expressed concerns about depressed salmon runs in northern and Western Alaska and that the council can make rules that will improve outcomes, reported the Ketchikan Daily News.

Jackson-Gamble, who is 25, received a bachelor's degree with honors in Native Environmental Science from Northwest Indian College and has completed seven years of field work in Southeast Alaska.

With endorsements across from both NGOs and fishing groups, the groups lauded his service, particularly in the Alaska state legislature, where he was in charge of drafting legislative citations and drafted a concurrent resolution to establish the Tribal Affairs Committee in both the House and Senate.