Commerce Department Tabs Another Rhode Islander For Fisheries - The Fisherman

Commerce Department Tabs Another Rhode Islander For Fisheries

On June 21, former Rhode Island Governor turned U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced the selection of Janet Coit to lead NOAA Fisheries as assistant administrator under the Biden-Harris Administration. For the past 10 years, Coit has been director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), effectively turning her and Commerce Secretary Raimondo into coworkers once again.

Coit will also serve as acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator, for which she will support and manage NOAA’s coastal and marine programs.  She succeeds Paul Doremus, Ph.D., who had been acting NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator since January 2021.

“Janet understands the direct link between natural resources management and economic vitality for our nation,” Secretary Raimondo said in a statement, adding “She is a tremendous addition to our NOAA team, who brings a wealth of experience in supporting fisheries, promoting the seafood sector, protecting the marine environment, and tackling climate change.”

A former top aide to U.S. Sen. John Chafee, Coit was originally appointed to lead DEM by Chafee’s son, Lincoln, who was elected Rhode Island’s 74th governor in 2010.  Before being selected to run DEM, Coit, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Stanford Law School, was the Rhode Island state director for The Nature Conservancy for 10 years.

“I am excited to join NOAA Fisheries to work with the agency’s incredibly skilled and dedicated employees to rebuild fisheries where necessary, and protect and conserve endangered and threatened marine resources and their habitats,” said Coit. “It’s clear that NOAA Fisheries is already pivoting to capture and incorporate climate impacts into its world-class science capabilities.”

In 2016 under then Gov. Raimondo and DEM director Coit, Rhode Island became home to the first offshore wind project in the nation with the successful installation of the 30 megawatt Block Island Wind Farm.  Non-government environmental organizations are hoping that Coit will prioritize “climate-ready fisheries management” in her new position at NOAA Fisheries.  “Ms. Coit has seen climate change’s effects first hand in her work in Rhode Island, and is the right person to lead the agency as it advances the administration’s commitment to climate mitigation, including balancing offshore wind and fisheries co-use,” Ocean Conservancy said in an official statement.

According to NOAA Fisheries, during her time in Rhode Island Coit focused on improving natural resource conservation, promoting the seafood industry, while also addressing the climate crisis. She worked to improve new infrastructure for commercial and recreational fisheries and to promote sustainable management of fisheries. Coit also chaired Rhode Island’s Seafood Marketing Collaborative and worked with stakeholders to promote supplying seafood locally and abroad.

NOAA Fisheries employs 4,800 people in five regional offices, six science centers, and more than 20 laboratories in 15 states and U.S. territories. As NOAA Fisheries’ assistant administrator, Coit will oversee recreational and commercial fisheries management within U.S. federal waters, coastal fisheries habitat conservation, as well as protection of mammals and overall conservation of marine species.

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