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Alaskan appointed to head U.S. fisheries management for NOAA

WASHINGTON — Chris Oliver of Anchorage has been appointed to manage fisheries nationally for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.

Oliver has since 2000 led the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, for which he has worked for 27 years. He gained broad support for the position from fisheries groups and members of Alaska's congressional delegation.

Oliver's first day as assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries was Tuesday. He relocated to the Washington area for the job. The position is a political appointment but does not require Senate confirmation.

Oliver said in a statement that he plans "to make long-term sustainability the top priority, while looking for ways to maximize fishing opportunities for the benefit of recreational and commercial fishermen, processors, coastal communities, and the economies which depend upon them."

"Oliver's background and expertise will be an asset at NOAA Fisheries as they work to reduce our nation's $11 billion seafood trade deficit," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The agency is responsible for managing sustainable U.S. fisheries under the Department of Commerce, as well as recovery and protection of species of whales, sea turtles and corals.

"I can't think of a more qualified or capable individual to manage America's fisheries than Chris Oliver – the first Alaskan ever to permanently hold this important role," said Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan.

"For so many Alaskans and their families, fishing is a way of life. They can rest assured that Alaska's interests will be well-represented and the concerns and perspectives of commercial, charter and recreational fishermen alike will be valued at (the National Marine Fisheries Service) as we work to protect Alaska's marine ecosystems and sustainably manage our fisheries for abundance," Sullivan said.

In a series of letters sent to Ross and President Donald Trump in recent months, 55 seafood companies, trade associations and conservation groups advocated that the administration appoint Oliver to the position regulating fishing in federal waters.

The groups advocated support in the face of growing international competition.

The letters included support from numerous seafood groups based in the Gulf of Mexico region. Oliver is originally from Texas and worked on Gulf shrimp management issues before moving to Alaska in 1990, according to NOAA.

Oliver is the second Alaskan to receive an appointment with the Trump administration, following Sen. Lisa Murkowski's campaign chief Steve Wackowski, who will consult with the interior secretary on Alaska issues from Anchorage. Another adviser for Murkowski's campaigns as well as Sen. Dan Sullivan, Michael Dubke, served as communications director at the White House but resigned after three months.