On Point: From the Council Chair [Fall 2020]

[Fall 2020 South Atlantic Update Newsletter]

Having been privileged to serve as one of South Carolina’s state-designated Council members since 2012, I was greatly honored at our recent September meeting in being selected as the new Chair of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.  Given the limitations of the meeting via webinar, it was difficult to convey my actual level of gratitude for this opportunity and my deepest thanks for the tireless dedication and outstanding leadership provided to our Council over the last two years by my predecessor, Jessica McCawley. I also have a great appreciation for the high level of professionalism, knowledge, and expert capabilities demonstrated over the past eight years by Council staff, our state and federal agency partners, fisheries participants, and private sector stakeholders - all playing essential roles in the successes we have achieved to date.

From my dual careers in the U.S. Navy and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources I am keenly aware that our successes and achievements within an organization, or as individuals, are only possible due to the perseverance, hard work and many sacrifices of those who have served before us at all levels within any organization or team. The Council team has collectively made significant strides in marine fisheries management and natural resource stewardship throughout the South Atlantic Region for nearly five decades and I am proud to have been chosen to take on this leadership position at this time.

As we move forward through the rest of the year and into the next it is certainly an understatement to note that 2020 has thus far provided us all with unprecedented impacts, challenges, and social stresses in our personal and work-related lives. While as a nation we are still experiencing the difficulties, frustrations, and losses brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, I take great heart in the level of strength, commitment and resiliency that I have witnessed firsthand by our fisheries, our Council staff, and among the entire Council team.  Our U.S. fisheries as a whole were undeniably subjected to significant economic losses and hardships due to severe market and business disruptions and imposed operational restrictions across the board, but they are doing their absolute best to hold on, adapt, and weather through these current challenges in an impressive manner.

As in many areas of life, extraordinary challenges often provide great opportunities for improvements and even benefits. In this vein we have seen our Council team collectively adapt to adversity, adjust our means of doing business and press on to carry out the essential activities of the Council in as timely a manner as possible. No one probably more than I wishes to get out of the virtual meeting world and get back to face-to-face business. However, we are extremely fortunate to have a staff and partners with experience in using the available technology and necessary procedures to keep us on track with our schedule of Council, Advisory Panel, and Committee meetings, as well as public scoping meetings, staff, interagency and working group meetings, and public hearings. Despite the issues and awkwardness this “virtual world” has had at times in conducting business, I am grateful that we could carry on as we have and I assure you that we will get back to the “real world” of operating as soon as we are able to do so safely.

The operational limitations imposed by the pandemic were never seen as an excuse for inaction or delay in moving forward, and our Council team is ready to continue to take on the pressing fisheries management issues we currently face.  As we finish up 2020 and head into 2021, we will be pressing hard into a wide variety of topics and challenges, including addressing the outcomes of recent stock assessments and completion of new ones, considering allocations in mixed use fisheries, improving our data collection abilities, dealing with range expansion in some fisheries, continuing on with existing and new management issues and plan amendments, and continuing our current campaign focusing on “best practices” in many of our fisheries.

Once again, I am honored to be able to serve as Council Chair and extremely proud of our entire Council team. I have great confidence that together we will skillfully carry on the important mission set before us and make 2021 as successful, beneficial, and productive a year as possible.

Thank you!

Mel Bell, Chair

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

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