Chesapeake Quarterly
MDSG Extension Leader Steps Down
Lipton Named Top Fisheries Economist an National Agency
Doug Lipton

Douglas Lipton, director of Maryland Sea Grant's Extension team, has stepped down from his position to pursue a new opportunity. He joins the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the senior research economist at the agency's National Marine Fisheries Service.

He will be missed in Maryland and beyond. "Doug is an icon in the Bay, both as a highly respected and valued economist and as Maryland Sea Grant's Extension program leader," said Troy Hartley, who directs Virginia's Sea Grant program.

Lipton has been with Maryland Sea Grant since 1988, first as a fisheries economics specialist and, since 1993, as the head of the Extension program. The program's agents and specialists reach out to government agencies and communities across Maryland to promote the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the well-being of local communities — whether it's by helping to improve the water quality of local streams or by aiding efforts to restore native oysters to the estuary.

Under Lipton's leadership, Sea Grant Extension grew from six staff members to the 13 on board today. Most of the newcomers work on watershed restoration and the local effects of climate change. In all, the staff members hail from diverse fields and include experts in food safety, business, and aquaculture.

Now a fisheries economist, Lipton first got his start as a biologist, catching, weighing, and analyzing river herring from Virginia and other fish up and down the Atlantic Coast. But he had always been interested in what he calls the "human element" of fisheries — how healthy fisheries can impact local economies and vice versa. Throughout his career, Lipton has been a strong supporter of using results from social science research to inform decisions affecting the Bay's environment and surrounding human population.

In a project supported by Sea Grant, for instance, Lipton surveyed recreational boaters across Maryland to see how they add to the state's economy. He found that boaters generate an average of $1 billion per year for the region. But many boaters might also abandon their hobby if the Bay's water quality becomes too degraded, Lipton notes.

More recently, Lipton helped Maryland's Department of Natural Resources launch an innovative "buy back" program for commercial blue crab fishing licenses. By 2011, the state had purchased more than 700 licenses back from Marylanders, many of whom hadn't fished for crabs in years. In theory, those buy backs could limit the number of fishermen returning to the water now that the Bay's crab population has begun to recover from a lengthy decline; this reduction in fishing pressure could help keep the population from declining again.

"Doug has made a tremendous contribution to our understanding of fisheries economics in the Chesapeake Bay region and at the national level," said Fredrika Moser, director of Maryland Sea Grant. "We look forward to continuing our collaborations with Doug from his new position at NOAA and wish him every success."

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