Mark Holliday

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Voices from the Science Centers


Voices from the Science Centers is an oral history initiative dedicated to documenting the institutional knowledge of fisheries scientists and administrators in the labs of NOAA’s Fisheries Science Centers.

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Dr. Mark Holliday has a B.S. in Biology from SUNY Stony Brook, a Master’s in Marine and Environmental Science from Long Island University, and a PhD in Marine Studies from the University of Delaware. Growing up around the water, Holiday always knew he wanted to have a career in marine science. He came to NOAA after finishing his Doctorate through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act before being hired as a fisheries statistician. He later became the Chief Financial Officer for the Office of Science and Technology. Holiday is currently retired from his position as the Director of the Office of Policy at NMFS, an office which he helped to establish in 2003.

Interview contains discussions of: NOAA, NMFS, marine science, Sea Grant Fellowship, Magnuson Stevens Act, Cooperative Institutes, policy, stewardship, catch shares, fishery statistics, technology, science quality, social science, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), electronic reporting, seafood inspection, Fisheries Information System (FIS), and generally leaving the agency a stronger, more prepared, and well-staffed place.

In this interview, Dr. Mark Holliday describes his experience within multiple areas of NOAA during the course of his lengthy career. One of his major contributions was helping to establish the Policy Office, which focuses on long-term projects and planning for different NOAA disciplines. He also significantly increased the NMFS budget as Chief Financial Officer, and aimed to bridge communication between headquarters and the regions, and also between the federal and state governments. He is most proud of his work in creating a national Fisheries Information System.

Holliday considers NOAA to be an excellent place for someone in the marine sciences to work and describes NOAA’s dedication to helping employees continue to learn and advance in their field through education funding and targeted courses. He emphasizes the importance of science quality assurance and integrity to the agency. He also doesn’t feel that there’s censorship within NOAA, has witnessed that scientists work is reviewed but they have the freedom to publish their findings, most likely because NOAA administrators are most commonly scientists themselves.

Holliday thinks NOAA continues to need improvement when dealing with people and social science. Though very strong in natural science like stock assessments and oceanography, he believes the agency needs to work on understanding the impacts and consequences decisions and regulations have on people and economics. Also, he feels they should focus on improving this in the regions, where people work most closely with fishermen and communities.

Lastly, Holliday discusses how electronic reporting technology seems to be to be the future direction of technology at NOAA Fisheries and how autonomous monitoring will make it easier for fishermen to submit data to the government. This technology will allow for more detailed, accurate data and subsequently better management. He also discusses how seafood inspection is split between NOAA, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).

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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.

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