(NEWSLETTER: Winter 2020)
In December 2019 the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Executive Director Gregg Waugh officially bid farewell to a nearly 40-year career working for the Council, earning a well-deserved retirement. A native of The Bahamas, Gregg began his career with the Council in 1980, first working as a technical support assistant in a temporary position. By 1982, Gregg was working on the Council staff as a fishery biologist. Eight years later he would become the Deputy Executive Director, leading the Council’s technical staff in the development of fishery management plans and amendments. Gregg was selected as the Council’s Executive Director following Bob Mahood’s retirement in 2016.
Throughout his career, Gregg recognized the need for better fisheries data and forged a reputation as a proponent for improving basic data collection and funding. He worked closely in the development and support of the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP), the principle source of marine fisheries statistics for the Atlantic coast. ACCSP now involves partnerships between state and federal agencies, regional fishery management councils, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and continues to set the standards for fisheries data collection, streamlining data reporting and processing, data accessibility, and innovation.
Gregg also forged lasting relationships with the fishermen, both commercial and recreational throughout his career. His ties with The Bahamas and master’s degree work at the University of Miami naturally drew him to the management of spiny lobster and gave him a unique understanding of the connectivity between marine habitats. He would later work closely with the Council and both commercial and recreational fishermen in rebuilding the king mackerel fishery. However, one of his proudest achievements was working with a group of commercial fishermen in Florida that were put out of business after the use of fish traps was prohibited. Gregg was able to bring a number of the fishermen back to the table, including Richard Nielsen Sr. and his sons. Using the Nielson family’s fishing knowledge and experience, they worked collaboratively to develop a new deep-water trap fishery for golden crab, a tasty delicacy now featured on menus in South Florida. “It was really rewarding to work with a group of fishermen that had been put out of business by the Council - to build their trust and work together to develop a new management plan,” explained Waugh.
In 2014, Gregg was selected to participate in NOAA’s Voices Oral History project, an opportunity that helps capture a life-time career in fisheries management. During the interview he explains, “The requirements have changed so much for fisheries managers over the years. Our earlier documents were much simpler. With each revision of the Magnuson Stevens Act, things have become more complex.” In the interview he notes the development of annual catch limits, continued data needs, support for law enforcement, and the need for managers to address the challenge of allocations in the future. He is quick to point out the importance of transparency in the management process. “The process has remained open and transparent”, explained Waugh. “This is one of the most important aspects of federal management under the regional fishery management councils.”
More recently, Gregg was acknowledged by the American Sportfishing Association during a farewell retirement reception hosted by the Council at its December 2019 meeting in Wilmington, North Carolina. In presenting the Fisheries Conservation Champion Award, Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association noted Gregg’s contributions to marine fisheries conservation and management. “We thank Gregg for his enduring career and tireless service helping to ensure anglers have clean waters, abundant fisheries, and access to both.” He was also recognized by NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Regional Office for his service.
Several family members, friends, and colleagues attended a retirement dinner hosted by Council staff earlier this year in Charleston, South Carolina. Attendees included David Nielsen, a member of the Nielson family from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida still involved in the golden crab fishery and a member of the Council’s Golden Crab Advisory Panel. Nielson spoke with emotion as he recognized Gregg for his help in working with fishermen to establish the fishery and the personal relationship with the Nielson family. Other attendees, including former Council members, staff, fishery scientists, agency personnel, seafood dealers, and fishermen also acknowledged Gregg’s contributions throughout his career. “I had to come tonight,” explained Dave Hagan, a commercial fisherman from Jacksonville, Florida. “I’ve known Gregg for a long, long time and throughout that entire time he’s always been straight up with me,” said Hagan. “Whether it’s good news or bad news, I’ve always trusted Gregg to be honest.”
“Thanks to all of you for your contributions to the Council process over the years,” said Waugh. It has been an honor to work with you - states, commissions, NOAA Fisheries, Scientific and Statistical Committee, advisory panels, NGOs, councils, fishermen, and staff to manage our fisheries on a sustainable basis. I will miss working with the people and friends made at meetings and hearings, but I will not miss the process,” said Waugh as he bid farewell.
Gregg and his wife Lisa now reside in Greer, South Carolina where Gregg intends to sharpen his fly-fishing skills and learn to play the bag pipes. We wish them all the best!