Chris Schillaci Joins Greater Atlantic Region's Aquaculture Program

January 06, 2020

Chris Schillaci brings ten years of experience to his new role.

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Line with blue mussel growth from offshore experimental farm site. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

What do you do in your new position as Regional Aquaculture Coordinator for the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office?

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Chris Schillaci, Regional Aquaculture Coordinator

I work with federal and state agencies, industry, and members of the scientific, academic, and NGO communities on a variety of marine aquaculture issues. Our goal is to further the development of a sustainable aquaculture industry in the Greater Atlantic Region and beyond. I join Kevin Madley in our regional office, expanding our capacity in this area.

What are you most looking forward to in your new job?

I am a problem solver. I really enjoy working in a collaborative manner with stakeholders from across sectors to come up with practical solutions to challenging problems. That kind of collaboration and coordination is really what this job is all about.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

The waters where marine aquaculture occurs are some of the most ecologically, culturally, and economically important shared spaces in our country. There is a high density of protected species, sensitive areas, and other user groups. This means we have an obligation to consider all of NOAA’s protection objectives and the various stakeholder viewpoints when developing strategies to foster growth in the aquaculture sector. This is critical for the long term sustainability of the industry. The good news is that through careful siting and management of aquaculture operations, we can minimize user conflict and provide sustainable economic opportunities. We can also improve water quality and bolster ecosystem services that enhance opportunities in other marine sectors.

How long have you been in this position, and what did you do before?

I started December 9, 2019. Before I came on board with NOAA I worked for more than ten years at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). The last five of those, I served as the state’s Aquaculture Program Leader and Vibrio Management Program Coordinator. During my time with DMF I had to opportunity to work on a broad set of topics. These include shellfish sanitation and classification, habitat restoration, environmental permitting, seafood safety, and more. 

What educational and professional background helped you get to your career today?

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Then, I moved out to the East Coast and worked for the Massachusetts DMF on a shellfish mitigation project in Boston Harbor. That led to full time employment and other opportunities with the DMF shellfish program. After working as a shellfish classification biologist and laboratory technician for DMF, I worked my way to leading the state’s Aquaculture and Vibrio Management programs. My time with DMF was a great opportunity to learn just about every aspect of shellfish resource and aquaculture management. I learned everything from project siting and environmental review, to day to day operational management, harvest and handling, all the way to the wholesale and retail level. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers, managers, and industry from around the region. We collaborated on a number of projects aimed at addressing regulatory and operational challenges for the seafood and aquaculture industry. I am defending my thesis this spring to complete a Master’s in Natural Resource Management from the University of New Hampshire-Durham.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love fishing but—despite ten-plus years of working for a fisheries agency—I am pretty bad at it. I spend a lot more time fishing than catching. I am also an avid gardener. I love growing peppers to make hot sauce, which I put on just about everything I eat. 

Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on May 07, 2020