Retiring Government Employees Replacing Stakeholders Highlight 2017 Appointments to North East Fishery Councils

White House

US Commerce Appointments to New England & Mid-Atlantic Councils

On June 28, 2017 the US Commerce Department announced appointments to the 8 regional fishery councils.

The Magnuson Stevens Fishery & Conservation Act established the Councils to do the detailed work of regional fishery management. Technically, the councils develop and amend fishery management plans in federal waters, advising NOAA Fisheries; which is the agency within the Commerce Department that carries out the authority of fishery management.

Each appointment is for a three-year term which begins on August 12, 2017. A member may be reappointed to no more than three consecutive three-year terms. After serving a maximum of nine years; a member must be off a council for one year prior to being nominated again.

Besides certain voting and non-voting seats filled by government officials such as state directors of marine fisheries; each state has one obligatory seat. Councils also have several at-large seats, which may go to any state.

The nomination process is different in each state however at some point the Governor of each state submits to the Secretary of Commerce three names as nominees for each seat. Usually the list of three is ranked and it is somewhat rare that the nominee at the top of the list is not appointed.

Here is a link to the official 2017 press release:

US Commerce Announces Appointments to Fishery Councils

The following is a review & analysis of the 2017 appointments to the New England & Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Councils from the perspective of conservation and recreational fishing:

New England Fishery Management Council

The NEFMC includes members from CT, ME, MA, NH & RI. 2017 appointees will fill four at-large seats.

Peter Kendall of New Hampshire has been re-appointed to a third term on the council.

His first term began in 2011. “PK” was a commercial fisherman for over 30 years and is the former owner of the 50 foot stern trawler Elizabeth Ann. He holds a degree in resource economics from UNH. He is largely considered a moderate and a swing vote on a council known for almost always choosing the highest amount of harvest; no matter what the risk. He has always been open minded to the opinion of both the recreational & conservation communities and many times has voted for pro recreational and pro conservation alternatives.

Elizabeth “Libby” Etrie of Massachusetts who has ties to the “Godfather” scandal has been re-appointed to an at-large seat.

Although nominated at the top of the list this was the one incumbent many observers thought might not get re-appointed due to MS. Etrie’s ties to the Carlos Raphael “Codfather” investigation.

Since at least the 2012 fishing year, Libby Etrie has been an authorized point of contact for Carlos Rafael’s sector, Sector IX.  As the sector ops plan says, “In addition to the Sector Manager,   Elizabeth Etrie, or acting program director of Northeast Sector Service Network is authorized to act on behalf of the Sector.”

Her current financial disclosure form (as of 7/11/17) states the following: “Employee of Northeast Sector Service Network (NESS), a Northeast Groundfish Sector Umbrella Organization which provides technical and organizational support services to Member Sectors. Current NESSN membership is comprised of Northeast Fishery Sector (NEFS) I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XI, XII, XIII. Each of these NEFS entities membership annually consist of individual businesses that hold qualifying limited access Multispecies Groundfish permits which are voluntarily enrolled in the Sector entity. Individual members of NEF sectors are not members of NESSN. (January 2011- present).”

The NEFMC must eventually address the specific loopholes in the monitoring system that let Carlos Seafood; with whom Ms. Etrie clearly had a relationship; fraudulently sell millions of dollars of mis-reported fish. To re-appoint someone who was tied to a participant in this massive crime is surprising.

Under questioning by an international conservation association regarding MS. Etrie’s ability to vote on decisions regarding disposition of permits that might be taken from Carlos Seafood; NEFMC Executive Director Tom Nies provided the following statement: “Please note we are in possession of a letter to GARFO that says Libby is no longer the secondary POC for sector IX. NOAA GC already discussed this issue with Libby. We do not view this as an issue that would require recusal under current NMFS COI guidance.”

Although she votes mostly with the commercial fishing interests; Ms. Etries’ voting on matters related to conservation and recreational fishing have been all over the place.

John Pappalardo of Massachusetts has been re-appointed to a second (really his 5th) term.

He has previously served a three term 9-year stint including serving 5 years as NEFMC Chair. John is the CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. He is viewed as a cutting-edge modern day thinker who strikes a balanced approach representing both the small boat traditional New England commercial fleet and the conservation community. He has an excellent voting record when it comes to both conservation and recreational fishing issues.

Ernest F. Stockwell of Maine has been appointed to the at-large seat being vacated by Marybeth Nickell-Tooley.

Ms Tooley has been a a notorious representative of the industrial herring and scallop fleets who is leaving the council after serving a full three terms over 9 years. The appointment of Mr. Stockwell as opposed to another stakeholder rep from the Industrial fleet has many in the council community scratching their heads.

Mr. Stockwell; better known as “Terry” has commercial fishing experience but has primarily been a government fisheries bureaucrat. He has a BA in Government & Studio Art from CT College and attended the Maine Maritime Academy’s Harbor Masters Program. His full time job is the Director of External Affairs for Maine’s Department of Marine Resources. His primary responsibility in that job has been to be the DMR Commissioner’s designee to the NEFMC & ASMFC. This 1st term appointee has been on the council for the last 11 YEARS (since 2006) and has served as NEFMC Chairman since 2012.  The unconfirmed rumor is that Mr. Stockwell will immediately retire from Maine DMR and in August slide into the appointment missing not a single NEFMC meeting.

From a recreational fisheries position; Mr. Stockwell is viewed as a nice guy in a horrible job. He has been a major player at the NEFMC for over a decade including the collapse of groundfish. The lobster Industry in Maine wants as much bait (herring & menhaden etc.) as cheap as possible and that means both at NEFMC and ASMFC. Maine never votes for conservation of forage fish. Now this long time and as of June 28, 2017; current government employee has been appointed to fill a seat designed to be held by a citizen/industry stakeholder. This is a case of principles before personalities and the principles of this move stink of government manipulation and corruption.

Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council

The MAFMC includes members from DE, MD, NJ, NY, NC, PA & VA. 2017 appointees will fill obligatory seats for MD, NC, NY, PA and one at-large seat.

Earl Gwin is replacing Howard King, a 3 term Council Member from Maryland.

Mr. King spent over 40 years in fisheries, retiring in 2007 as Director of Fisheries Service for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  He is a well-respected middle-of-the roader, who always strove to find compromise.  With recreational fisheries, forage and habitat issues he was generally pretty good.  Often siding with industry, but equally with conservation of the resource.

Mr. King was a swing vote.  It was tough to figure out which way he would vote.  But he would always listen to reason.  Comparatively a very good council member.

Little is known about his replacement, other than that he has owned a commercial fishing vessel and is the owner a small organization in the finfish farms industry located in Berlin, MD.   It is expected that Mt. Gwin will be firmly on the side of industry as a Council Member, which is unfortunate.

Francis “Dewy” Hemilright of North Carolina will retain his seat.

Mr. Hemilright is a full time commercial fishermen.  He has historically represented the interests of North Carolina’s commercial fishing industry, and has shown an apparent distain for recreational fishing on numerous occasions.  Rarely has he supported conservation measures.

Steven Heins of New York will replace 3 term Council Member Capt. John McMurray.

McMurray was a well-respected charter boat captain, outdoor writer and photographer but above all, a knowledgeable conservation advocate.  McMurray represented recreational fishing interests on the Council, vigorously supporting forage fish conservation and habitat protection.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Capt. McMurray is one of the founders and main writers behind

He was often unpopular with the “for hire” fleet because of his support for precautionary management of summer flounder.  But he had vast support from the majority of the recreational fishing community who believed in keeping a few fish in the water.

While the party boat fleet always felt they needed to be able to kill more fish, McMurray’s term on the Council was characterized by emphasizing that abundance equals more opportunity for the recreational fleet.

Steven Heins is a career bureaucrat, who is retiring from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) after a 35 year stint as a biologist and eventually #2 in command at the DEC Bureau of Marine Resource.  As a DEC employee he served as the state rep on the Council and the designee at ASMFC.

As a DEC employee Mr. Heins has consistently supported industry positions at the table.  Rarely has Mr. Heins supported conservation initiatives.  He could always be counted on to vote the way industry voted.

Before passing judgment here though, we should acknowledge that his views may change significantly now that he is retired and merely a “recreational” fisherman.  Let’s hope so…

G Warren Elliott of Pennsylvania will retain his Council seat and his vice chairmanship on the Council.

Mr. Elliott currently serves as the Pennsylvania Citizen Representative to the Chesapeake Bay Commission and as a member of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

He has been quite good on forage fish conservation and habitat protection.  His primary concern on the Council is river herring and shad.  Rarely does he speak up at the table, but generally he votes the right way on important issues, although there have certainly been times when his votes were “disappointing”.

Mr. Elliot is another swing vote on most issues.  In general, he’s a good Council Member, although we wish he’d speak up more.

Overall, the bend the Mid Atlantic Council is likely to change significantly as a result of these appointments.  Having lost its Chair and Vice Chair last year (Rick Robins and Dr. Lee Anderson), both of which emphasized conservation and long term sustainability, and now McMurray and King, a lot of us expect the Mid Atlantic Council to act a lot more like the New England Council.  To some extent we’ve already seen the beginning of such a metamorphosis.


What both Councils really lack right now is representation from the conservation minded angling community.   And that is unfortunate.

Yet what is really important right now is that we continue to let our Council Members know that we are watching.  And that they need to represent our interests too.

Stay tuned.