Amy Van Atten

Amy Van Atten Image
Location of Interview
Collection Name

The Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project


The Working Waterfront Festival Community  Documentation Project is an ongoing oral history project documenting the history and culture of the commercial fishing industry and other port trades. The project was begun in 2004 in conjunction with the Working Waterfront Festival, an annual, education celebration of commercial fishing culture which takes place in New Bedford, MA. Interviewees have included a wide range of individuals connected to the commercial fishing industry and/or other aspects of the port through work or familial ties. While the majority of interviewees are from the port of New Bedford, the project has also documented numerous individuals  from other ports around the country. Folklorist and    Festival Director Laura Orleans and Community Scholar/Associate Director Kirsten Bendiksen are Project Leaders. The original recordings reside at the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Maryland with listening copies housed at the Festival's New Bedford office.

Date of Interview

Janice Gadaire Fleuriel

Biographical Sketch

Amy Van Atten, born in 1968 in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a dedicated professional in the field of marine conservation. Growing up as the oldest of five children, Amy aspired to study whaling and marine mammals, particularly focusing on the impacts of whaling and the reasons behind it. Over time, her passion evolved to include fisheries and accidental interactions between marine mammals and fishing activities. She pursued a career in the field of wildlife and fisheries biology and attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in wildlife and fisheries biology with a minor in forestry. Later, she earned a master's degree in wildlife management from the University of Maine in Orono. Throughout her education, Amy's focus remained on managing natural resources, sustainability, and addressing diverse perspectives on resource utilization. In 1991, Amy entered the world of fisheries observer work after a brief stint as a mate on a bluefish charter boat in Barnegat Light, New Jersey. Her interest in marine populations and conservation led her to work on a harbor porpoise survey, contributing to the estimation of population size in the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy through line transect survey methodology. Over the years, Amy's involvement in the field expanded, leading her to become the NOAA Observer Program Operations Coordinator. Her responsibilities grew to encompass program management, observer training, data collection, and analysis. 

Scope and Content Note 
The interview with Amy Van Atten, conducted on September 22, 2007, at the New Bedford Harbormaster House, delves into her personal and professional journey as a dedicated contributor to marine conservation efforts. Amy discusses her early interests, educational background, and how her fascination with marine mammals gradually evolved into a focus on fisheries and resource management. Throughout the interview, Amy provides valuable insights into her role as the NOAA Observer Program Operations Coordinator, including the challenges, responsibilities, and benefits of being an observer in the field. She discusses the training process for observers, the importance of data quality, and her involvement in the complex regulatory landscape of federal fisheries management. Amy also touches on the significance of her role in ensuring a balanced approach to resource utilization while fostering understanding between fishermen and observers.

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The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

Voices Oral History Archives does not verify the accuracy of materials submitted to us. The opinions expressed in the interviews are those of the interviewee only. The interviews here have been made available to the public only after the interviewer has confirmed that they have obtained consent.