NMFS’ Furuness Honored with Distinguished Service Award

Mary Furuness, a supervisory fish management specialist, receives the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Bob Mace Distinguished Service Award from council chair Simon Kinneen. Image: NPFMC.

Federal fisheries managers have honored Mary Furuness, a supervisory fish management specialist with the agency’s Alaska regional office, with the Bob Mace Distinguished Service Award for her years of work moving in-season management to the electronic system used today.

During its April meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council cited her day-to-day management of some of the most complex and controversial fishery programs in Alaska over the past 33 years, including community development quota, rockfish, Amendment 80 programs and salmon bycatch management.

The award, only occasionally bestowed by the council, is named for Mace, who represented the state of Oregon on the council for 23 years.

Since 2009, when she became chief of the Inseason Management Branch of NMFS, her area of supervision has been responsible for annually publishing the harvest specifications in the Federal Register so that the groundfish fisheries in the North Pacific Ocean can operate.

Once those specifications take effect, Furuness’ branch monitors all groundfish fishery harvest and prohibited species catch, and ends up managing 980 separate accounts each year.

She also closes fisheries to avoid exceeding the total allowable catch or prohibited species catch limit.

A large part of her job is analyzing when re-allocations are necessary and complying with the complex rules governing groundfish harvest in the North Pacific.

NPFMC members said Furuness is known for her integrity, calm demeanor and high level of customer service to the council, fishing industry, public and her co-workers. Nobody should mistake her calm, though, for lack of grit.

“She knows when to be firm and hold her ground and she is not easily swayed by drama and heated emotional arguments,” the council said in a statement, adding that her approach has earned her “respect, confidence and trust from all sectors of the fishing industry, other agency and council staff and her coworkers.”