NOAA's Laurel Bryant: US seafood industry, regulators should be proud of achieving “gold standard”

Laurel Bryant, the chief of external affairs in NOAA Fisheries’ Communications Office, retired at the end of 2019.

In 1989, Laurel Bryant began her career working for the United States House of Representatives Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, the predecessor to the House Natural Resources Committee. By 1994, she joined the National Marine Fisheries Service where among other positions, she served as the executive director to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, and launched a number of key initiatives to provide more timely information about agency science and stewardship mission, including the weekly electronic newsletter FishNews, and the seafood web interface FishWatch. As chief of external affairs, Bryant focused on building strategic partnerships for the agency to strengthen communications with a broader spectrum of stakeholders involved with the seafood supply chain and coastal fishing communities, and building greater familiarity and public support for U.S. responsibly managed fisheries and seafood.

In an interview with SeafoodSource, Bryant talked about the meaning of the work she engaged in and how U.S. fisheries management changed during her tenure, as well as what its priorities will and should be moving forward.

SeafoodSource: A lot has changed over the last 25 years, and during that time, NOAA has led a transition to more sustainable, more stable fisheries through its management. What have been some of the conservation and industry benefits of NOAA’s management and vision for U.S. fisheries during that time?

Bryant: The U.S. system of fisheries management under NOAA Fisheries is now the global gold standard for managing wild-capture fisheries responsibly. The U.S. fishing industry and the seafood it produces increasingly benefit from that reputation in the market place. Perhaps more importantly for the long term is that the U.S. management process now demonstrates the nature of sustainability – it is not a destination or a ranking, but rather a dynamic process that requires continual monitoring and regular changes to respond to what the best available science determines as sustainable. In an ever-changing environment like the ocean, that’s critical for success. NOAA is working hard to export these practices abroad and help level the playing field for our own fishing fleets who abide by the most robust environmental laws out there.

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