Md. DNR official named to run U.S. fisheries service

Schwaab, deputy secretary, veteran of 23 years

February 12, 2010|By Timothy B. Wheeler

Eric Schwaab, the deputy secretary of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, has been tapped by the Obama administration to run the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Schwaab, a 23-year veteran at DNR, begins his new duties Tuesday as assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In announcing his appointment on Wednesday, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco noted Schwaab's "experience and proven leadership" and said he would bring "fresh perspective" to the agency's effort to rebuild the nation's fisheries and the livelihoods that depend on them.

Reached at his Catonsville home, where he was shoveling out from Wednesday's snowstorm, Schwaab, 49, said he was sad to leave DNR because he believed the O'Malley administration was "making a lot of progress" on a number of natural-resource fronts, despite the state's budget woes. But he said he was looking forward to working at the federal level to rebuild fisheries nationally.

In the past few years, DNR has pressed for changes in management of the Chesapeake Bay's oysters - expanding sanctuaries where commercial harvest is banned while encouraging watermen to take up oyster farming. The state also imposed major catch reductions on blue crabs in an attempt to rebuild their numbers, another decision criticized by many commercial fishermen.

"I think a lot of the issues that we deal with in the bay are magnified around the country," he said. "There are always going to be battles, but I think with the team I'm going to be joining, and the new Magnuson [federal fisheries management] Act, it should be an interesting time and some opportunities to make some progress."

Schwaab started at the DNR in 1983 as a natural resources police officer and left in 2003 to work for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a national group in Washington. He rejoined the DNR as deputy secretary in 2007. He will be paid $150,000 at NOAA.

Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin called Schwaab's appointment a "boon for our national fisheries management." He announced that Joe Gill, an assistant attorney general who has worked with the DNR for 14 years, would become the department's new deputy secretary.

As the department's chief counsel, Gill oversaw nine lawyers. Griffin noted that Gill had been instrumental in developing the Rural Legacy land preservation program in the 1990s and more recently helped craft the state's more aggressive enforcement policy toward fisheries violators.

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