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Commerce Department Announces Regional Council Appointments

Washington, D.C. – June 29, 2021 – Yesterday, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced the 2021 Regional Fishery Management Council (RFMC) appointments. The recreational fishing community thanks the Administration for considering their preferred candidates and appointing many recreation-friendly council members. These include: Mark Alexander of Connecticut and Mike Pierdinock of Massachusetts to the New England Fishery Management Council; Skip Feller of Virginia, Adam Nowalsky of New Jersey and Thomas Schlichter of New York to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Thomas Roller of North Carolina, Arnold “Spud” Woodward and Judy Helmey of Georgia to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council; Jonathan “J.D.” Dugas and Billy Broussard of Louisiana, and Dale Diaz of Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; Corey Ridings of California to the Pacific Fishery Management Council; Andrew “Andy” Mezirow of Alaska to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Matthew Ramsey of Hawaii to the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. 

“We appreciate Secretary Raimondo’s attention to the council appointment process and specifically on appointees who will be focused on conservation, access and opportunity for America’s anglers,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “The regional fishery management councils grind out the policies that affect federal fisheries, and bona fide recreational fishing representatives at the table are critical to the future of saltwater recreational fishing.”

“The regional fishery management councils are where the rubber meets the road for federal marine fisheries management, so it’s critically important that the recreational fishing community be well represented,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We look forward to working with these new regional fishery management council appointments to continue to advance marine fisheries conservation and recreational fishing opportunities.”

“Serving on a regional fishery management council is a huge commitment, and we truly appreciate the people who have stepped forward to work for the health and conservation of our marine resources and anglers’ access to them,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “Balanced representation on the councils is critical to policy decisions that are fair to all user groups.”

“Appointees to the stakeholder-driven regional fishery management councils play a vital role in managing our nation’s fisheries,” said Chris Horton, senior director of fisheries policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “We congratulate those who were successful in this round, and we look forward to working with them to ensure we have healthy and abundant marine fisheries, as well as access to those fisheries.”

“We are generally pleased with these recent appointments to the regional fishery management councils,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “Those selected include dedicated people who have the on-the-water experience and a deep understanding of our sport which is greatly needed in the council process. We are also pleased to see greater representation of the recreational fishing community on some of the councils.”

Alexander is the former Assistant Director of the Fisheries Division within the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, where he began his career in 1982. In this role, he managed the Marine Fisheries Program, giving him a comprehensive understanding of fisheries management issues in Connecticut and New England. Additionally, Alexander has the experience of serving as the state’s representative on the New England Council from 2008 – 2016. 

Pierdinock has been a recreational angler all his life and for more than 15 years has operated his own small business charter boat operation targeting groundfish, striped bass, bluefish, and large pelagics north and south of Cape Cod. Pierdinock is well-known in the region’s fishing community as a knowledgeable and respected voice on fisheries issues. He has an excellent understanding and command of fishery management issues and has applied his expertise in serving on the New England Council Recreational Advisory Panel, the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel, the Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association, the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission and as the United States representative on the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas Advisory Committee. He was recently appointed as the New England Recreational Advisor to the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA), Executive and Advisory Committees.  

Feller is a third-generation owner/operator of a fleet of vessels that includes six recreational fishing and cruising vessels that sail from Virginia Beach. He obtained his 100-ton Masters license in 1984 and has maintained his qualifications since that time. Capt. Feller’s fishing trips specialize in and target tilefish, flounder and black sea bass. He currently serves on the Mid-Atlantic Council advisory panels for summer flounder, black sea bass and tilefish. Capt. Feller also serves on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. 

Nowalsky has demonstrated during his time on the Mid-Atlantic Council exceptional understanding and expertise of the science and legal framework used to assess and manage New Jersey’s most important fisheries. He has proven himself to be committed to striking an important balance between sound conservation and the needs of the fishing community. In addition to his time on the Mid-Atlantic Council, Capt. Nowalsky serves as New Jersey’s legislative proxy to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission; is acting chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, and serves on multiple citizen advisory committees to the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council. Capt. Nowalsky is also working with offshore wind developers to facilitate input from the recreational fishing sector as offshore wind facilities are designed and put into operation.

Schlichter has been an outdoor writer covering the angling community for over 40 years for one of the country’s largest newspapers as well as writing for local, regional and national fishing magazines. This experience as an active and diligent observer has provided him with the insight to effectively engage the management process and advocate for the best needs of the recreational fishing community. 

Roller has extensive experience with state and regional fisheries advisory bodies as well as a strong understanding of the region’s fishing community. He is the owner and operator of Waterdog Guide Service and has for the past 17 years been a full-time nearshore and inshore fly fishing and light tackle guide operating along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. He is currently serving as a field tester for the South Atlantic Council for-hire electronic logbook and as a member of the Council’s Cobia/Mackerel Advisory Panel. He was also appointed to the newly formed Citizen Science Advisory Panel as a member of the Education/Outreach Action Team. He is a longtime participant in North Carolina’s state management process and was reappointed last year to a second three-year term on the NC Marine Fisheries Commission.

Woodward is the former Director of the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He is also a nationally recognized leader in saltwater fisheries management and a passionate angler. During his tenure with Georgia DNR, he was actively involved in management of marine fisheries, both commercial and recreational, at the state, regional, and national level. He has testified about marine fisheries management before Congress and the Secretary of Commerce. Woodward also serves as Georgia’s appointee commissioner to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, where he is vice-chair.

Helmey is the best-known fishing guide in Savannah, Ga. She is the owner of Miss Judy Charters, which provides inshore, offshore and Gulf Stream fishing experiences from a fleet of three offshore boats and seven inshore boats. She started fishing as a small child with her father, Captain Sherman Helmey about whom she authored the book, “My Father, the Sea and Me.” Helmey’s knowledge of fishing in the waters of coastal Georgia and South Carolina is unparalleled, and she readily shares that knowledge through her popular “how-to” fishing clinics and fishing reports featured in several print and digital media outlets. Always a strong voice for conservation, she has supported fishery management by serving on advisory panels and making her facilities and staff available for data collection. 

Dugas is an active and well-respected leader in the Louisiana recreational fishing community. He has 30 years of experience as a recreational fisherman for both inshore and offshore Gulf of Mexico species. He also has a strong understanding of the fisheries management process, having served one term on the Gulf Council and as a state Board Member for the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana.

Broussard has lived every sector of marine fisheries: commercial, charter/for hire, and recreational. A licensed commercial fisherman for 30-plus years, he currently harvests crabs but has commercially fished for various finfish his whole life. He is an avid offshore recreational angler whenever possible, and he spent a decade as a charter boat captain. He owned a general store for 20 years that serviced both commercial and recreational fishermen. He currently serves on the board of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and he served as a member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for four separate governors.

Diaz has decades of experience in fisheries management, marine law enforcement, and additional experience in the banking and auditing industry. Throughout his tenure on the Gulf Council, Diaz has demonstrated a fair and thoughtful approach to the marine fisheries management challenges.

Ridings has built strong support from the conservation and sportfishing industry through her years of advocacy and practical approach to fisheries management. While Ridings is not a formal member of the recreational fishing industry, her well-rounded background will provide California with balanced and informed representation on the Council.

Mezirow has participated in both recreational and commercial fisheries for decades and has the respect of both communities. During his time on the North Pacific Council, he has consistently weighed in strongly in support of fishing communities, conservation, reduction of wasteful fishing practices, improved data collection, and has worked hard to build consensus among all stakeholders through diligent outreach.

Ramsey, a lifelong recreational fisherman, believes the connection between people and our natural resources is a powerful force in bringing about change in resource management. He is the Hawaii director of a conservation organization and previously served as the Hawaii fisheries extension agent for NOAA Fisheries. Ramsey is familiar with the Council process and believes in a collaborative approach to fisheries management. 

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