WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dr. Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, is going to return to academia after three years at the administration.
NOAA staff confirmed an inquiry by News-Times staff that Dr. Lubchenco had announced she would be stepping down as NOAA administrator in February. Ciaran Clayton, NOAA director of communications, said Dec. 31, 2012, that while NOAA doesn’t have any personnel announcements – such as who is being looked at to take over as NOAA administrator – Dr. Lubchenco will be returning to work at Oregon State University, where she was a professor prior to her NOAA appointment.
Dr. Lubchenco said in an email it’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the current administration by leading NOAA.
“Through an emphasis on transparency, accountability, integrity, innovation, team work and effective communication, we have made significant progress on multiple fronts from providing the nation with life-saving weather forecasts to leveling the playing field for fishermen to streamlining regulations,” she said. “I want to thank the entire NOAA staff for their incredible dedication and hard work. I’m proud to have worked alongside NOAA’s staff and know they will continue to devote their energy and talent to fulfilling NOAA’s core mission.”
NOAA has taken action under Dr. Lubchenco that has sparked controversy with fishermen and state fisheries managers. One of these actions was the April 6, 2012, listing of Atlantic sturgeon as an endangered species.
Patricia Smith, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries public information officer, said the listing has the potential to impact several North Carolina fisheries. Due to the species’ endangered status, if sturgeons are found interacting with fishing gear in North Carolina, the state government could be sued for failing to take proper measure to protect them.
“The DMF, along with most other East Coast states, opposed this listing as unnecessary,” Ms. Smith said, “based on available scientific data that show that Atlantic sturgeon stocks are improving coast-wide, partially as a result of the moratorium on harvest.”
One commercial fishing organization is pleased to see Dr. Lubchenco’s time at NOAA coming to a close. Sean McKeon, executive director of the N.C. Fisheries Association, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the state seafood industry, said he thinks everyone in the industry will be happy Dr. Lubchenco is leaving.
“Her time at NOAA was about inaction and refusal to face the corruption at the National Marine Fisheries Service,” he said. “She was the chief of not being accountable.”
Mr. McKeon said there was a lot of corruption in the NMFS system and that Dr. Lubchenco “turned a blind eye to it.” He referred specifically to an investigation in 2010 done by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of the Inspector General of the NMFS Office of Law Enforcement. The Inspector General was looking into accusations of mismanaging federal fisheries law enforcement; then-OLE Director Dale Jones was caught initiating an office-wide effort to shred documents and records after meeting with the Inspector General.
“The man who was caught shredding documents (Mr. Jones) just got moved from a $155,000 a year job to a $150,000 a year job,” Mr. McKeon said. While Mr. Jones was removed as the service’s OLE director, NOAA retained him as a fisheries program specialist.
Mr. McKeon said while people in the commercial fishing industry will be happy Dr. Lubchenco is stepping down, he thinks the current presidential administration will appoint a new director who’s similar to her.
“She was not a friend of the commercial fishermen,” Mr. McKeon said. “Sadly, whoever the administration puts in her place will continue this cow-towing to radical environmental groups and hurting industries such as ours.”
According to the NOAA website, www.noaa.gov., Dr. Lubchenco has been the under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator since 2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as part of his science team in December of 2008.
“Under her leadership, NOAA has focused on restoring fisheries to sustainability and profitability, restoring oceans and coasts to a healthy state, ensuring continuity of the nation’s weather and other environmental satellites, developing a weather-ready nation, promoting climate science and delivering quality climate products, strengthening science and ensuring scientific integrity at NOAA and delivering the highest quality science, services and stewardship possible,” the administration said. “Healthy oceans and coasts and a nation prepared for sever weather, disasters and climate change are keys to economic recovery and prosperity.”
Dr. Lubchenco has served as president for the American Association for Advancement of Science, the International Council for Science and the Ecological Society of America. She was also a board member for 10 years on the National Science Board. She served on the National Academy of Sciences’ study on policy implications of global warming. She has also served on several commissions, including the Pew Oceans Commission, the Joint Oceans Commission Initiative, the Aspen Institute Arctic Commission and the Council of Advisors for Google Ocean.
Dr. Lubchenco has eight publications that have been recognized as Science Citation Classics. She’s an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society and the Academies of Science for the Developing world, for Europe and for Chile.
Dr. Lubchenco has received a number of rewards, including a MacArthur “genius” award and 18 honorary doctorates. She was named Newsmaker of the year by scientific journal Nature in 2010.
Dr. Lubchenco has co-founded three organizations to communicate scientific knowledge to the public, policy makers, media and industry: The Leopold Leadership Program, the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea and Climate Central. She’s also co founded the research consortium PISCO, which studies the near-shore ocean along the coasts of Oregon and California.
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