David Whitaker

Term: 2018-2020

720 Tennent Street
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 953-9392


Current Employment/Affiliation:

Whitaker retired from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in June 2018 after over 41 years of service.   At retirement, he was serving as Asst. Deputy Director at DNR in Charleston.  He grew up in Americus Georgia where he graduated from Georgia Southwestern College with a degree in biology. He subsequently got an MS degree in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston in 1978, where he studied offshore squid biology.


Whitaker’s entire working career was with the SC DNR.  He started as a field biologist working on shrimp and blue crab assessment, migration, and population dynamics.  Later he became Asst. Director of the Office of Fisheries Management, Director of the MRD Environmental Office, Director of the Office of Fisheries Management and then Asst. Deputy Director of DNR.   He has served on the SAFMC’s Science and Statistical and Habitat Advisory Committees. In 1981 he wrote the biology and habitat sections of for the SAFMC’s Profile of the Penaeid Shrimp Fishery in the South Atlantic.  During his career, he conducted numerous tagging studies of shrimp and blue crab. He served on regional committees to address fish and sea turtle bycatch on shrimp trawlers.  He conducted research on fishery potential for offshore octopus and he coordinated a large cooperative research grant that involved more than 50 research projects and over 500 participating recreational and commercial fishermen.   He initiated South Carolina’s in-water sea turtle assessment program in 1999 and conducted a biological inventory of coastal hummock islands in 2003-04 and he led a study of Best Management Practices for maritime forests.  Whitaker was an adjunct faculty member for the College of Charleston for 29 years, serving on 25 thesis advisory committees.  In retirement, he continues to work of personal research projects, but also enjoys gardening, fishing and wood working.

Fisheries Management Philosophy:

Contrary to what was generally believed 30 or 40 years ago, ocean fishery resources are finite and can be overharvested, which can result in cascading impacts on other marine resources. Not only can overharvesting be a problem, but changing environmental conditions in the ocean can influence productivity and distribution of marine resources, and all of these factors should be considered when trying to understand population trends.    I also think that the fishing industry, both recreational and commercial, should be integrated into research and monitoring programs where applicable.    I have found that good lines of communication with fishermen assists managers in better understanding the resource and helping gain the fisherman’s confidence.