Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meet the Council: Chairman Kevin Anson

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
Do you ever wonder what qualifies members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to make decisions about our fish? After all, they play an important role in fisheries management, and decisions they make could potentially affect us all. 

Council members are tasked with a very difficult challenge; to balance competing interests in the fishery to make management recommendations that achieve the greatest overall benefit to the nation.

Each Council member is selected to serve because they have personal experience, expertise, and interest in the Gulf fisheries. Lets get to know another member of the Gulf Council so that we can better understand his perspective.

Kevin Anson, the Chairman of the Gulf Council, laughs when asked how he got into fisheries. “To this day my parents joke that my entertainment wasn’t a toy but an aquarium,” he said.

Beginning at about age 2, the fish tank in Kevin’s family home mesmerized him, and he could sit in front of it for hours without losing interest.

Kevin with a Nassau Grouper
Kevin’s passion for marine life grew along with him. During his childhood, Kevin’s family moved around the state of Florida where he was exposed to both salt and freshwater environments. His family spent every spare moment at a vacation home in the lower Florida Keys. Kevin would disappear each morning with a goal to bring home dinner. He spent his days diving for lobster, spearfishing, trolling for Dolphin and mackerel, and bottom fishing.

When it came time to choose a career, Kevin decided to attend Florida Atlantic University to pursue a degree in Ocean Engineering. Within a couple of years he realized engineering was not his passion, and he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. Kevin then attended Auburn University where he earned a Master of Science in Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures.

Kevin in the Florida Keys
For a short time after graduation Kevin worked for the Alabama Cooperative Fish Research unit sampling fish populations living in rivers associated with hydroelectric dams. He moved on to work for a tropical fish hatchery in South Alabama. Kevin even worked for a few years at the company’s aquaculture facilities in Belize growing shrimp, Australian red claw crayfish, and tilapia.

Kevin is currently the Chief Marine Biologist for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/Marine Resources Division. He has been with the Department for 14 years, and has served as Alabama’s representative on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council since 2008.

His passion for fisheries extends beyond his professional life. He lives in coastal Alabama and fishes from his 23-foot walk-around boat. If you want to get in touch with Kevin you are welcome to email him directly at: Kevin.Anson@dcnr.alabama.gov

To conclude our get-to-know-you with Kevin, here are his answers to a few questions about fisheries management in the Gulf:

What do you think is the most important issue in our fishery?
“Improvement of fisheries science is a top priority on everyone’s mind, including mine. I want to make sure that more data about artificial reefs and the fish populations living on them are included into the stock assessments and considered by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee to inform management decisions made by the Council.”

What can the Council do to improve the fisheries management around the Gulf?
“We must continue to enhance our relationships with stakeholders. We need to be sure that information is user-friendly and easy to access, and we need to take every opportunity we can to engage the public in the management process. Bringing the Council into the public arena will make it easier for us to collaborate with, and learn from, the folks who are affected by Council decisions.”

What do you believe is the ultimate goal of fisheries management?
“Fisheries management should maximize people’s enjoyment of our resource now, and in the future. Our fisheries should be protected so that we can enjoy them for future generations. At the same time, when populations are healthy and sustainable, we should strive to provide every opportunity to utilize them.”

Do you have a favorite fishing tale you can share with us?
“Some of my fondest fishing memories involve taking novices out for their first taste of saltwater fishing.

“I took a friend offshore for his first time to catch red snapper. We anchored over a nice artificial reef, baited our hooks, and dropped our lines off opposite sides of the boat. Almost immediately, my buddy hooked into a nice snapper and began to pull her to the surface, and I hooked up as he was mid-fight.

Kevin fighting a Tarpon
“My friend reeled his fish to the surface and decided to wait for me to finish my fight so I could help him boat his fish. As he was waiting, he noticed something dark swimming below the boat. I heard the tone of his voice shift, and he was on the brink of panic as he informed me that a shark was after his snapper.

“I quickly released my fish and went over to help him, only to discover that the “shark” causing my buddy so much distress was actually the biggest cobia I’ve ever seen in my life. After boating his sow and poking a bit of fun at him, I tried every trick I knew to coax that big cobia onto my hook. I never did manage to catch him, but really enjoyed the opportunity to see such a huge cobia.”