Michael Sissenwine

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Collection Name

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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Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Michael Sissenwine was born in 1947. He earned his B.S. in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his M.S. in Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He began working as a scientist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center at Woods Hole in 1975, eventually rising to the position of Center Director at the Woods Hole lab and later, Director of Scientific Programs and Chief Science Advisor at NOAA Fisheries. In addition, he held a number of other positions including President of ICES and Distinguished Senior Scientist at UMass Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology.

Interview contains discussion of: University of Rhode Island Oceanography program, development of modern fishery management, disagreements between the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the fishing industry, International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic [ICNAF], Total Allowable Catch [TAC], 1976 Fishery Conservation and Management Act, forming the Fisheries Management Councils, defining “overfishing,” Northeast Multi-Species Plan, fish mortality, challenges facing scientists, ecosystem-based fishery management and the effect of climate change on fisheries.

In his interview, Michael Sissenwine gives a vivid description of his career studying fisheries and oceanography and working as a scientist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. He details many of the challenges he faced throughout his career, particularly regarding conflicts between NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council.

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