As Oregonians once again prepare for the start of the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season, I am wrapping up my second year as an Oregon Sea Grant fellow. And what a year it has been!
I left the office back on March 6th for a long-awaited trip to Morocco. My husband and I were planning to travel around the country for two weeks including a solo road trip that would take us from Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert and countless incredible spots along the way. A few days in to our trip and just before that road trip was set to begin, we found ourselves frantically searching for options to get home due to the new COVID-19-related travel bans being issued which were quickly closing off many of our options for traveling back. As we stood in the Marrakesh Airport amidst thousands of other travelers in the same situation, I sent an email to my supervisor letting her know what was going on, and that I’d likely need to quarantine for two weeks and figure out a way to work remotely when I get back. After taxiing two hours to Casablanca, we managed to get seats on one of the last available flights before all international travel in and out of the country was restricted. When we finally arrived back in Newport, I settled in for what we all thought would be a few weeks of working from home. I never would have believed that I’d be sitting in my kitchen-office writing this nine months later, having just spent several days preparing a full Thanksgiving meal for only two people.
Like so many others, the ongoing pandemic and other unprecedented events taking place in our country have shaped so much of the last year for me. On the one hand, my ill-fated Morocco trip is just one of many missed opportunities from the last nine months. And yet, as so many others have noted throughout this blog, this time has shown me how incredibly resilient the people around me are. Meetings, conferences, and workshops have transitioned to virtual platforms, seemingly without skipping a beat. In my own work, all three West Coast states are making substantial progress towards drafting Conservation Plans (CPs) to reduce the risk of whale entanglements in Dungeness crab gear. While I hope that it is safe to resume in-person work in the somewhat near future, I’ve been inspired by the immense capacity for adaptation and the ways that people have found to “come together” while staying apart.
As my fellowship comes to a close, I’ll be transitioning to a limited duration position with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife working through June 2021 on finalization of both Oregon’s CP and Dungeness Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP). For the CP, this will involve drafting the remaining sections to ensure a statutorily complete draft which will be submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as part of the state’s Incidental Take Permit application under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. Following submission, NMFS will initiate their formal review process including National Environmental Policy Act evaluation, a Biological Opinion, public comment, and the resulting permit issuance determination. For the FMP, a complete draft has been developed and is being reviewed internally. There will be an opportunity for public input when the draft is released later this winter, prior to being presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission for potential adoption. I’m looking forward to being able to see each of these plans through to completion and continuing to be a part of ODFW’s Dungeness crab team.
I’m also incredibly grateful for my two years as an Oregon Sea Grant fellow. Not only has it exposed me to all of the interesting and important work taking place within the Oregon Dungeness crab fishery, it’s also provided invaluable connections within the Oregon Sea Grant community and professional development opportunities which will serve me well as I continue working on issues which affect Oregon coastal communities and ecosystems. Finally, of all the things that I’ve gotten out of my time as a fellow, this might be the most exciting… In my very first blog post, I wrote that I had yet to take the obligatory headshot of myself holding a crab to use in work-related presentations. Well, I can officially report, that is no longer the case!