WELCOME TO BILL'S CORNER!
“It’s Been a Great Run”
Fisheries Chief Bill Hogarth Bids Farewell to the National Marine Fisheries Service
As Bill Hogarth winds down his last days in office as director of the National Marine Fisheries Service to become Interim Dean of Marine Sciences at the University of South Florida, he says he has no regrets about his 7-year tenure as the agency leader.
“It’s been a great run filled with progress and positive change,” he said. “Although there are things that I did not complete that I would have liked to, I believe I’m leaving U.S. fisheries in better condition than I found them. I’d like to thank the Administration for this once in a lifetime opportunity and for giving me complete support to get the job done.”
Still, Hogarth said he’s leaving behind key projects that he hopes his successor will continue to advance, such as Congressional passage of legislation to allow offshore aquaculture in the United States, and stronger international conservation measures for Atlantic bluefin tuna.
“The United States has got to become more self-sufficient in producing seafood, and the only way to do so is through more aquaculture,” he said. “The U.S. government has an opportunity to become a world leader in sustainable and responsible aquaculture production, and we have an obligation to pursue aquaculture as a form of food production and safety for our citizens,” he said.
Hogarth took the helm of the National Marine Fisheries Service in early 2001, during a critical time in the agency’s history. The agency was in the early stages of implementing plans to end overfishing and rebuild the nation’s overfished fisheries, requirements of the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act.
Hogarth says under that law, the agency made a lot of progress to turn around decades of overfishing. The agency implemented rebuilding plans to slow the rate of overfishing and begin to restore fish populations. However, conflicting mandates and vague wording in the law prevented the agency from ending overfishing and caused a high volume of litigation against the agency. One of Hogarth’s first major initiatives was to streamline internal reviews and strengthen impact assessments and administrative processes, which reduced litigation from hundreds of cases to a few per year and a greater success in the outcome.
The Administration’s 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan documents Hogarth’s priorities for U.S. fisheries. The plan calls for more fisheries to come under quota-based management, which would allow fishermen to become more profitable and independent business managers. It also calls for an end to overfishing, which led to a revision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that strengthened the overfishing provision and agency actions to end overfishing by 2010.
Hogarth is well-known for advancing the National Marine Fisheries Service to become a more transparent, open, and accessible agency. He prioritized face-to-face meetings with stakeholders to improve relationships, and he had an open door policy with his staff.
Hogarth considers his initiative to promote the seafood and health message to be one of his most important and lasting accomplishments at NOAA. Under Hogarth’s leadership, the agency sprang into action days after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma hit the Gulf Coast to test fish and sediment for potential contaminants and to ensure safety of the U.S. seafood supply. He forged new partnerships with the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies to increase seafood monitoring. He also funded a comprehensive study through the National Academy of Sciences that found the benefits of seafood outweigh the risks.
“Seafood is confusing for a lot of people,” he said. “I’m proud of our investment in sound research that gets to the bottom line on the issue of seafood and health: seafood is nutritious, and people should eat at least two servings per week.”
Hogarth is proud of accomplishments in other key areas of the fisheries world. For example, a three-year study of the pelagic longline fleet in the North Atlantic found that by modifying fishing techniques, gear and bait, fishermen could greatly reduce interactions with endangered sea turtles. This scientific discovery led Hogarth to reopen prime fishing grounds to the swordfish fleet, under tight restrictions that protect turtles. This new technology is now used by international fishing fleets throughout the world.
On a recent conference call with the media, a reporter asked Hogarth his thoughts on the future of U.S. fisheries. He said the new law requiring an end to overfishing by 2010 will be tough on fishermen, but he has no doubts that this short-term sacrifice will lead to long-term prosperity for the oceans, American fishing fleets, individual fishermen, and coastal communities.
“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot left to accomplish before our work is complete,” he said.
The fisheries world undoubtedly hasn’t seen the last of Hogarth. He will remain active as the U.S. commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, and will remain a trusted advisor and friend to those he leaves behind at the Fisheries Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Dr. Hogarth’s last day in office is December 28, after a trip to Florida this week to chair the annual meeting of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. In January 2008 he will become the interim dean of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida.
Director, National Marine Fisheries Service