In a move that surprised commercial and recreational fishermen alike, Dr. Louis Daniel, III resigned as director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries this afternoon. 

John Evans, chief deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality sent an e-mail to all NCDEQ personnel that Daniel had stepped down, effective immediately, and that Col. Jim Kelley of the N.C. Marine Patrol would serve as acting director until a replacement for Daniel is selected.

Daniel, who received his B.A. in Biology from Wake Forest University, a M.S. in Marine Science from the College of Charleston, and a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the College of William and Mary, School of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, followed Preston Pate as the DMF director on Feb. 1, 2007.          

Daniel worked a year with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before joining DMF as a biological supervisor in 1995. Before being appointed director, he served nine years as an executive assistant to director Pate, working extensively with the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC). Daniel served as chairman of the SAFMC from 2004 to 2006.

Daniel began as the North Carolina commissioner to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2007 and was elected ASMFC Chair in 2013. He is a recipient of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Distinguished Service Award and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Outstanding Service Award.

Col. Jim Kelley, who will serve as acting DMF director, has been with the N.C. Marine Patrol for nearly 25 years and was selected as the Marine Patrol Commander in Jan. 2014.

"Since I traded texts with Louis as late as 2 p.m. (Monday) to get clarification on some issues, this news came as a bit of a shock when I heard it at 4, on the way home from a meeting," said Jerry Schill, president of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a trade group representing commercial fishermen. "Even though everyone involved with fisheries management knows that the director's position can be a very difficult one, Louis was in that position for over nine years and is second only to Pres Pate in longevity.

"As for our relationship, we were very far from agreeing on everything but kept communication open and respectful. He was always available to talk, and for that I'm very grateful.

"I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason, so this will end up being good for Louis and his family. It will probably add years to his life, given the stress involved.”

David Sneed, the executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina, said finding a replacement for Daniel will be difficult, but he sees it as the beginning of a new era in marine fisheries in North Carolina.

“CCA NC recognizes that the position of the DMF director can be a challenging one," Sneed said. "We also know that the Division will be going through a tough time as they seek new leadership and transition from the old. It is our sincere hope that the closing of the door on the tenure of Dr. Daniel will be seen as the opening of a new path for fisheries management in North Carolina. 

“The Division has a wonderful opportunity to create a new vision for fisheries management in North Carolina, a vision that puts the well-being of our resources first. North Carolina has some of the largest and most potentially productive saltwater nurseries in the world, and it is time these public-trust resources are protected for future generations to experience and enjoy, and managed for more abundance ahead of maximum economic harvest.”