Fisheries managers across the East Coast honored Virginia’s recently retired chief of marine resources for his important role in managing sensitive species like the menhaden.
Steven G. Bowman, former commissioner of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), received the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) highest honor, the Captain David H. Hart Award, during from their annual meeting last weekend in Arlington, Virginia.
The ASMFC instituted the Hart Award in 1991 to recognize individuals who have made outstanding efforts to improve Atlantic seaboard fisheries. The Hart Award is named after Capt. David H. Hart of the State of New Jersey, one of the commission’s most senior members who has dedicated himself to the advancement and protection of marine fisheries resources.
Bowman began his marine fishing career at VMRC in 1992 as Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Division, was promoted to Chief of Enforcement in 1996, and in 2006 was appointed Commissioner of VMRC by then-Governor Timothy Kaine. He served as commissioner under two subsequent governors.
Throughout his long history with VMRC, Bowman has served as a member of the Virginia Law Enforcement Committee and Administrative Commissioner on the ASMFC Executive Committee and the Policy Board of the Inter-American Fisheries Management Program. states, as well as several species management boards.
As Virginia’s administrative commissioner to the commission, Bowman gained a reputation for his ability to successfully bring the differing viewpoints of stakeholders to a reasonable and agreeable compromise, the ASMFC said.
When Virginia faced a finding of non-compliance under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act for exceeding the Chesapeake Bay menhaden Atlantic reduction fishing cap in 2019 , Bowman was instrumental in the transfer of menhaden management authority from the Virginia General Assembly to the VMRC.
At that time, the Atlantic menhaden was the only marine species managed by the General Assembly. Bowman has worked with political parties, recreational fishers, conservationists and the reduction industry to navigate a finding of non-compliance.
Once management authority was transferred to VMRC, Bowman ensured that regulations were quickly prepared and approved to avoid a possible moratorium on menhaden fishing in Virginia waters.
This monumental achievement is a microcosm of Bowman’s skills. It demonstrated the confidence Bowman had in all corners of the marine fisheries management world: industry, anglers, environmentalists, state and federal politicians and fellow commissioners, the ASMFC said.
Bowman’s efforts ultimately resulted in the protection of the Chesapeake Bay as a critical nursery area for many iconic species such as striped bass, bluefish and summer flounder, which will provide benefits to the whole coast for years to come.