If you report for a coastal region where fisheries are important, it's a good time to ask: what's new on your regional Fishery Management Council? The eight regional Fishery Management Councils that advise NOAA may potentially influence everything from the price and availability of seafood to the overall health of US marine waters.
Each Council is affiliated with certain states or territories. The Council’s members represent various interest groups and areas of expertise, such as the fishing industry, recreational fishing, environmentalists, and academia. The Dept. of Commerce announced June 25, 2009, that, of the 72 members, 14 are new appointees, and 16 have been reappointed. Roughly one-third of Council members usually are replaced or reappointed every two years as the three-year terms expire.
Delving into the background and philosophy of the new and returning members may provide your audience with useful insights into where each Council and NOAA are heading with fishery issues in the next few years.
Among the many topics typically addressed by the Councils are aquaculture, specific fishing techniques, bycatch, overfishing, coordination with state management efforts, ecosystem-based fishery management, and marine protected areas.
For some of the Councils, all of the appointees are returning members. For others, all are new. And some have a mix. This angle alone offers some story fodder; are the returning ones so good that they had to be kept? Or does the lack of new appointees mean that no one else was interested? If all the appointees are new, does that suggest major changes in Council and NOAA direction and decisions? Or does it merely suggest that the pool of candidates – whose names are submitted by the governors of the states participating in each Council, and from which the Secretary of Commerce must choose – has shifted markedly from what had been submitted by a previous governor?
Another facet that may be worth exploring is the overall makeup of the appointees. For instance, the vast majority are men; does this matter? Were issues of race, ethnicity, geographic location, or political affiliation considered? If so, or not, does that matter? Does each new Council have a balance of points of view on fishery management, or is the deck stacked in favor of certain views?
The appointments also offer an opportunity to investigate how much of a role the Councils play in final NOAA decisions. Do Council recommendations have significant weight, or is their role merely window dressing?
For some of the new appointees, you may need to do quite a bit of digging to get that person’s background. A few of the Councils provide on their Web site a brief bio that can offer starting points.
- Fishery Management Councils (each Council’s Web site is unique in format, but most offer obvious links to upcoming meetings, hot agenda items, recent actions, and other newsy developments).
- NOAA press release, June 25, 2009 (includes names of all the latest appointees, and notation of whether they are new or returning).