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Port Agent Profile: Walt Anoushian

Photo credit: NOAA

Walt is one of eight NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office port agents. Port agents are field staff who provide technical assistance to fishermen and dealers. They help clarify fishing rules and may provide training when changes are made to catch reporting systems and procedures.

“Walt is the quintessential port agent. He knows the answer to almost every question he gets from industry, and when he doesn’t know one he knows who does and gets the answer,” said Greg Power, NOAA Fisheries Port Agent Supervisor.

According to Walt, he has enjoyed being around the water since he was a boy living in Queens, NY. His uncle was a charter boat captain out of Montauk, NY. And, Walt spent countless summer vacations hanging around the docks.  

He turned his love of the sea into a marine science degree at Southampton College on Long Island, NY. Before becoming a port agent, Walt held a variety of positions as a foreign fisheries observer aboard a Japanese mothership in the Bering Sea; and a junior survey technician aboard the NOAA ship Rude mapping navigation hazards, such as boulders and uncharted wrecks, in tanker routes from Newport, RI to Mattituck, NY. He also worked as a tuna and swordfish buyer. Through all this, Walt gained both knowledge of the ocean and working relationships with members of the seafood business.

As a port agent, Walt has a big region to cover. It includes New Bedford, the highest value port in the country, largely due to the recovery of Atlantic sea scallops, and Point Judith, which is struggling with the decline of groundfishing. Still Walt maintains that even though some days are tough, the best part of his job is working with fishermen and seafood dealers. In the Northeast, it is not unusual for fishermen and dealers to hold multiple federal fishing permits so they can catch and sell a variety of fish species. As a result, there are many different fishing regulations that they have to be familiar with. Walt is the one that fishermen and dealers turn to if they need clarification on the regulations.

“Walt has a lot of patience,” said Eric Reid, owner, Deep Sea Fish, and Operations Manager, Seafreeze Shoreside. “It’s difficult to be a fisherman these days. You have so many regulations to comply with and some guys are really struggling under high fuel costs, low prices of fish and lower quotas because some fish stocks are down.” Walt’s job can be pretty tough too. I’ve been in Walt’s office when a fisherman has come in pretty upset and Walt has handled the situation like a professional.” 

Donald Fox, owner of fishing vessel Lightning Bay and fleet manager for the Town Dock in Point Judith, echoed Reid’s praise for Walt’s ability to deal with a tough situation and his willingness to go that extra mile to answer a question.

“Today I manage six boats out of Point Judith, RI, but for nearly 25 years I ran my own boat so I’ve known Walt for a long time,” said Fox. I can’t say enough about him. He’s tremendously helpful and accessible.  I’d always make a point of stopping in to see Walt before fishing, so I was sure I was up on current regulations. And recently, several of my boats needed small mesh exemption letters of authorization, which he issued for us.”

Both Fox and Reid agree that knowing they can walk into Walt’s local office or call him on the cell, makes having port agents like Walt in the field extremely valuable to the industry.