NOAA 99-37
Contact: Scott Smullen



Appoints Former Senate Government Affairs Committee Staffer, Sebastian O'Kelly

Commerce Secretary William M. Daley today announced the appointment of Sebastian O'Kelly to the newly created position of Fisheries Ombudsman. In the department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. O'Kelly will act as the liaison between fishermen and conservationists and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

"I've listened to requests of the fishing industry and environmental groups and have provided a new line of communication to federal managers that will allow a more rapid response to constituent concerns and questions. NOAA's new Fisheries Ombudsman will offer an avenue of constructive dialogue in a manner that benefits stakeholders while at the same time helping us better manage and protect our fisheries and marine mammal resources," said Commerce Secretary William M. Daley. "Sebastian O'Kelly has the experience and abilities to improve an often contentious relationship and help ensure the decision-making practices and procedures are reasonable and fair."

Sworn in for duty today, O'Kelly will be working with Commerce and NOAA leadership to facilitate cooperative relationships with constituent groups. His office will be located at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C.

"Becoming the Fisheries Ombudsman gives me the opportunity to make the marine resource regulatory process more transparent and give our stakeholders a voice in final decision making that they perceive is currently lacking," said O'Kelly. "I will work closely with Dr. Baker and Penny Dalton to identify areas of potential conflict that can be resolved before major disputes arise, and advise leadership on how to effectively resolve these issues."

In his former staff position with the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, O'Kelly was responsible for legislative and oversight duties on science, environment, federalism, trade, and government management issues for Chairman and Ranking Member John Glenn for nine years. While in the position O'Kelly helped coordinate the committee response to deflect legislation to dismantle the Commerce Department and NOAA, worked to combat anti-environmental riders, established legislation to elevate the EPA to a cabinet level status, and handled GATT and NAFTA implementing legislation on international government procurement rules.

In general, ombudsman responsibilities include actively consulting with and soliciting the views and opinions of the commercial and recreational fishing community, environmental groups, and other relevant stakeholders.

Constituents may reach the Fisheries Ombudsman's office by phone at (202) 482-4540, or by mail at Fisheries Ombudsman, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 14th & Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20203.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, dedicated to protecting and preserving the nation's ocean wildlife through scientific research, fisheries management, habitat conservation, and enforcement of federal wildlife law.