Monroe County may be losing the head of its Extension Services and Sea Grant program, but Florida Keys fishermen will be gaining a powerful ally when it comes to federal fishery management issues.
Extension Services Director Doug Gregory is leaving the Keys after 21 years, as he was picked to be the next executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
Gregory will oversee a staff of roughly 17 people and the implementation of commercial and recreational fishing rules from Florida to Texas.
"I hope to give the Keys a voice," Gregory said. "Many Keys fishermen don't travel to the meetings, except for (Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association Executive Director) Bill Kelly. If you don't go to the meetings, they tend to forget what your issues are."
Gregory takes the position as the Gulf Council, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are working on a joint management plan that would set up Monroe County or South Florida specific rules for fish that are mainly in South Florida, such as groupers and snappers.
"It's going to be tricky, but I am going to help facilitate that process," Gregory said. "We (the Keys) are a large producer of seafood."
Gregory was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Key West, where he fished and dived as a youth and developed an interest in marine biology. Gregory earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of South Florida and a master's degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida.
He had been a biologist with the Gulf Council for seven years before returning to Key West to work for Extension Services and the Sea Grant programs.
Gregory will start as executive director of the Gulf Council in May, he said.
"We strongly supported Doug's application," Kelly said. "He has been an invaluable mentor to me personally and an adviser to our board for years."