Spotlight on Council Members
Members of regional fishery management councils recommend actions to achieve sustainable fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Read on to meet some of the members and learn about their favorite parts of the job.
Every January, NOAA Fisheries kicks off the annual process to appoint members to the eight regional fishery management councils. The councils’ voting membership is made up of passionate, dedicated individuals. Governors or tribes nominate candidates by March 15 each year, and the Secretary of Commerce then makes the appointments.
Council Members from Various Backgrounds
Council members come from a wide variety of careers in marine resource-related fields. Whether they are engaged in catching, harvesting or studying fish, distributing seafood or enjoying time on the water, they all bring important perspectives.
Members from the commercial sector may include those who work in harvesting and processing fish or businesses selling ice, gear, and seafood. Recreational sector representatives are typically enthusiastic anglers; some are charter boat captains or for-hire guides. Others have adjacent businesses selling boats, fuel, bait, and tackle. Council members also include individuals specialized in conservation work, tribal and subsistence fishing, non-profit advocacy, scientific research, consulting, policy, journalism, seafood, and other related fields.
Members must be knowledgeable and experienced with fisheries in their region. They also take an oath to uphold the Magnuson-Stevens Act mandates as stewards of our nation's marine fisheries resources. They commit to serve for 3-year terms, and receive a stipend with paid travel expenses for Council meetings.
Council Membership Diversity
Diversity in Council membership helps support strong decision making that represents the communities Councils serve. Appointed Council members have an important role in advancing equity and environmental justice in federal fisheries management. NOAA Fisheries, along with state and Council partners, recruits individuals whose backgrounds and skills bring valuable insights to the Council process and contribute to well-rounded decision making.
Below, we hear from current Council members about what motivates them and why their role in developing management recommendations is critical to achieving productive and sustainable fisheries.
South Atlantic Council
Kerry Marhefka—1st Term
Kerry co-owns Abundant Seafoods, managing the wholesale and retail local seafood company and commercial fishing vessel
“I believe being involved in the fishery management process is the best thing I can do to ensure the sustainability of the resource I rely on for my business.”
Laurilee Thompson—1st Term
Laurilee is co-owner of Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant and active in Indian River Lagoon conservation
“My favorite part of being a council member is enjoying the spirit of camaraderie and desire to get things done shown by council staff, scientists, fishermen, and council members that permeates every set of meetings we attend.”
Spud Woodward—2nd Term
Spud is retired from Georgia Department of Natural Resources as former director of the Coastal Resources Division
“The opportunity to meet people of different backgrounds and life experiences who share a common goal that ocean resources are managed in a responsible and sustainable manner” is Spud’s favorite part of council membership.
Carlos Farchette—1st Term
Carlos is a recreational fisher and serves on the US Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources Fishery Advisory Committee
“My previous employment dealt with enforcement of fisheries regulations, so I thought that it would be great to continue sharing my knowledge of fishery management in developing fishery management plans and networking with the amazing people in the Council family.”
Marcos Hanke—3rd Term
Marcos is a recreational fisherman and charter operator with experience in commercial fishing
Marcos states that being a council member is important “to represent the industry and better guide the decision making.”
Vanessa Ramírez-Perez—2nd Term
Vanessa is a leader in Puerto Rico commercial fisheries and is experienced in recreational fisheries
Vanessa serves as council member “to actively represent our artisanal fishermen and coastal communities in the process of regulations and laws that impact our fishery.”
Gulf of Mexico Council
Susan Boggs—2nd Term
Susan co-owns SanRoc Cay Marina and Reel Surprise Dock Store in Orange Beach, Alabama, selling fuel, ice, and bait, and managing vessels dockage
“It is my civil duty to serve and to fairly and equitably represent all user groups that participate in the fishery and to ensure a healthy and sustainable fishery for future generations.”
Tom Frazer—3rd Term
Tom is a scientist at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science
“My interest in serving as a council member stems from my passion for the oceans, ocean-related research and education.”
Bob Gill—1st Term
Bob is a retired former owner of Shrimp Landing, a dockside wholesale and retail seafood business serving the Crystal River, Florida area
Bob became a council member “to affect fishery management and policy at the highest level possible for a stakeholder.”
Michelle Duval—1st Term
Michelle is a consultant specializing in natural resource management
“Commercial and recreational fisheries are such important contributors to the social and economic fabric of coastal communities, and I want to make sure those voices are heard—plus, I love seafood!” Michelle enjoys “listening to and learning from fishermen and other stakeholders; there is an incredible diversity of experiences and viewpoints out there.”
New England Council
Togue Brawn—1st Term
Togue is the owner of Downeast Dayboat specializing in Maine scallops, and an independent fisheries consultant
“Because so many people have a vested interest in these decisions, and often the folks with the most power and money are able to make their case a lot more compellingly, so it's important to have people that spend time looking into the issues and bringing different perspectives to the table.” Togue’s favorite part of being a council member is “interacting with folks from other areas and different perspectives, especially when we find commonalities.”
State Representative for Massachusetts, Division of Marine Fisheries
“As a council member, you provide a unique view that contributes to the rich history and sustainable future of our region’s fisheries and fishing communities.”
North Pacific Council
Andy Mezirow—3rd Term
Andy operates Gray Light Sportfishing, a charter business in Seward, Alaska, and is an active commercial fisher
“I chose to serve because I wanted to bring the perspective of an active sport and commercial fisher. Taking actions that improve conditions for the resources and for fishermen is incredibly rewarding.”
Corey Ridings—1st Term
Corey works for Ocean Conservancy to promote sustainable fisheries in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem.
“I wanted to be part of making sure that all our great-grandchildren, regardless of gender, race, or income level, could be fishermen and go fishing; that our ocean and fish stocks are healthy and our communities thriving.”
Western Pacific Council
Manny Duenas II—1st Term
Manny is an advocate for fishermen serving the fishing community of Guam
Manny is motivated by “the strong desire to provide a greater understanding of Native Pacific Islander perspectives.”
Judy Guthertz—1st Term
Judy is a faculty at the University of Guam working on public policy, and a lifelong fisher
Judy appreciates “the professional leadership and staff of the Council, and the top-notch data and data analysis that helps drive Council decision making.”