From the Executive Director [Fall 2020]

[Fall 2020 South Atlantic Update Newsletter]


John Carmichael

What a year this has been. Things have certainly not played out as I anticipated when taking over the Executive Director reins in December 2019. Like pretty much everyone else, I never imagined we would still be working remotely, meeting remotely, and dealing with rising COVID-19 cases 9 months after we first left the office for quarantine. We all know this situation we are in, so what I want to write about in this installment is the silver lining in this otherwise cloudy year.

Despite the challenges of COVID, the South Atlantic Council is on track to have its busiest year ever. If not ever, at least in the 17 years I have been here. A good measure of Council-related meetings during the year is the number of Federal Register Notices submitted, and in 2020 we have submitted 41 so far. The way things are going, we may add a few to that yet. For comparison, in 2019 we submitted 28 Federal Register Notices. Another measure is how many Briefing Books are prepared, since these represent the major preparation efforts for Council, Scientific and Statistical Committee, and advisory panel meetings. In 2020, Council staff prepared 30 Briefing Books. Things have been cranking up the last few years, as in 2017 we did 21, in 2018 we did 24, and in 2019 we did 29.  I could not be prouder of the job the Council staff has done in 2020. Pulling off a record level of work, despite the unprecedented challenges and disruption to all of our normal practices this year posed, is truly outstanding.

All of those Notices and Briefing Books are not just work for us, they also represent an incredible commitment by the Council, SSC, and AP members, those serving on a variety of teams and working groups, and the public interested in following and commenting on our actions, to prepare for and participate in many, many meetings. Yet these are still not all the activities, as those of you in these groups also represent the Council at meetings we do not lead, such as those of the Council Coordinating Committee, HMS and ICCAT, other Councils where our members serve as Liaisons, and working groups like the joint effort with the Gulf Council on the Modern Fishing Act. Then there are all the SEDAR activities I did not count in the Council tally. SEDAR adds in another 39 meetings noticed in the Federal Register.

Few of us would have willingly chosen such an extreme experiment in virtual business. There was ample skepticism early in this year as to whether we could accomplish anything in a virtual Council or AP meeting. Nonetheless, through endless technical challenges and the unshakeable echoes of “you’re unmuted on our end,” the Council team has kept things moving along. I’ll speak for all of the staff in saying we are truly thankful for the patience, understanding, and professionalism everyone associated with the Council has shown during this unprecedented experience.

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