Geoff is the Marine Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine.
Geoff Smith Geoff is the Marine Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. © Phoebe Parker

Our People

Geoff Smith

Marine Program Director, Maine

Maine

  • Areas of Expertise

    Marine conservation, fisheries management, state and federal policy, strategic communications

Biography

Geoff is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Maine Chapter's Marine Conservation Program, including developing annual workplans, designing and implementing marine conservation strategies, and developing and maintaining productive partnerships with key stakeholder groups. Geoff’s other key responsibilities include supporting the marine conservation initiatives at the Gulf of Maine and North America scale, advancing marine science, and influencing ocean and coastal policies at the state, regional, and national level.

Geoff has over twenty years of professional experience in natural resource management with an emphasis on watershed management and fisheries. He joined the Nature Conservancy staff in February 2006 and is also Staff Lead for TNC’s Gulf of Maine Whole System Conservation Team. He currently serves on the Maine Coast Community Groundfish Sector Board of Directors, the State of Maine Marine Resources Advisory Council, and the New England Fishery Management Council Groundfish Advisory Panel.

Geoff earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Rollins College, a Master of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, and a Master of Studies in Environmental Law from the Vermont Law School.

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Amendment 23 Will Provide Critical Information for Fisheries Management

October 1, 2020

The Gulf of Maine, chilled from artic currents and rich with plankton, has historically been one of the most productive fishing grounds on Earth—one that supports us, providing food for our tables and jobs for our neighbors.

But these waters are facing great challenges. Climate change, habitat loss, ineffective fisheries management and unsustainable fishing practices have pushed the Gulf to a tipping point: a precipitous population decline in key species, a crash in the commercial catch for these fish, and fishing families unable to make ends meet. 

Successful fisheries management depends on accurate information on catch and discards. That’s why the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have required at-sea monitors on a percentage of groundfish trips to collect information on catch rates, species composition, and other relevant factors. Data from observed trips is then used to estimate catches on unobserved trips and set quotas intended to prevent overfishing.

Unfortunately, it has been clear for several years now that the monitoring program is not producing accurate, reliable data, and is having all sorts of bad downstream effects for fish and fishermen. In response, NEFMC has been developing an update to the fishery management plan, known as "Amendment 23,” to overhaul the monitoring program by substantially increasing the number of fishing trips that are monitored/observed.

After a lengthy public comment process, the Council voted on the amendment this week—and endorsed 100 percent monitoring for the fishery. This decision is a gamechanger and sets the course for a future with healthier fish populations and healthier fishing communities in the Gulf of Maine. The Nature Conservancy applauds the New England Fisheries Management Council for taking this action to transition to comprehensive monitoring in the groundfish fishery, while also addressing concerns about industry’s ability to pay for that monitoring.

Looking at a monitor inside a fishing boat cabin that shows fishermen at work on the deck.
Electronic Monitoring A safer, more cost-effective tool to gather information about the health of the fishery. © David Hills

The Nature Conservancy will work with all partners to secure the funds required to achieve the benefits of the Council’s action. This includes contributing significant funds to purchase and install Electronic Monitoring systems – installed video cameras that can take the place of human observers – for any groundfish fishermen interested in using a safer, more cost-effective tool to meet these new monitoring requirements.

I've been working for over 15 years with fishermen throughout the Gulf Maine to try to improve the health of our fish populations and the resilience of fishing communities. I am really proud of our work on this Amendment because it will give fishery managers and scientists the information they need to effectively manage the fishery and level the playing field for fishermen once and for all. We look forward to working with fishing communities to make this a successful transition.