GLOUCESTER, Mass. (AP) — For nearly half a century, David E. Pierce has toiled in the vineyard of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, first as a marine biologist and later as only the third director in the history of the state fishery management agency.
After four years as director and decades as one of the region's most experienced and highest-profile fishery managers, including his role as a voting member of the New England Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission, Pierce will spend his last day at DMF on Nov. 1.
"After 48 years of working at DMF, I just concluded it was time," Pierce said. "There's no real reason to leave except I'm at the stage of my life where I have other interests to which I want to commit more time. I also thought that once I reached 70 and if I was in good health, which I am, it would probably be a good time to go."
Pierce, born and raised in New Bedford, lives in Sandwich with his wife Diane, whom he married in 1971. They have two children and four grandchildren.
He joined DMF in 1972, not long after earning his bachelor's degree in marine biology from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.
He later earned a master's degree in 1981 from UMass Dartmouth in marine biology and a doctorate in environmental science from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1996.
Pierce serves as a Roman Catholic deacon at Christ the King parish in Mashpee.
He also is an adjunct professor in the fisheries and oceanography department at UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology, where he teaches courses in ocean policy and marine fisheries management.
"This will give me more opportunity to volunteer my services," Pierce said. "I'm also looking forward to developing more and different courses on fishery management at SMAST."
He is also candid enough to admit that he will keep his finger on the pulse of the region's fisheries, even if it is from a slight remove.
"I'll still keep close tabs on what happens with the council, mostly because it's such challenging, interesting work," Pierce said. "I can't just step away and forget everything that's going on and everything I've been a part of."
Pierce said his final act as director will be to attend the ASMFC annual meeting in Portsmouth at the end of October.
His final NEFMC meeting as a member was this week in Gloucester and the council paid fitting tribute to him and another outgoing longtime member — Doug Grout, head of the marine division of New Hampshire's Fish and Game Department — with a luncheon and printed farewell.
"Dr. Pierce has been involved in council activities for over 40 years, almost from the council's inception," the council noted. "He brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, and his focused attention on herring and hands-on involvement in the management of all fisheries greatly benefited the council during many challenging discussions."
Pierce, it went on to say, "witnessed the evolution of the groundfish and scallop fisheries" as they evolved to closed access fisheries from open fisheries.
"To many, he will be long remembered for championing fair and measured management of the spiny dogfish fishery," the council stated.
Council Chairman John Quinn pointed out that Pierce was the champion of long, intricately constructed motions.
"Through your balanced reasoning and careful study, you often made us think deeply about hard issues," Quinn wrote. "We want to express our thanks for the countless contributions you have made to our work over your storied career."
Pierce also offered an homage to his colleagues at DMF and those with whom he served on various fishery management boards.
"I've been fortunate to work with some truly great people," Pierce said. "My four years as director were really the highlight of my career."
It now will be up to Ron Amidon, the state commissioner of the Massachusetts Fish & Game Department, to come up with a recommendation for Pierce's successor at the helm of DMF. The state Marine Fisheries Commission then will vote on whether to approve Amidon's recommendation.
"I expect a nice, smooth transition to the next director," Pierce said.
The process, however, is not always a smooth one.
In 2015, following the retirement of longtime DMF Director Paul Diodati, Pierce was named interim director of the state fishery management agency. He and DMF Deputy Director Dan McKiernan were considered by many as the top two candidates to succeed Diodati.
But the first choice of then-Fish & Game Commissioner George Peterson — by way of Gov. Charlie Baker — was NOAA Fisheries staffer Douglas Christel. Christel's candidacy, however, was scotched by the state Marine Fisheries Commission on a 4-3 vote.
Peterson then recommended Pierce, who was serving as interim director, to the commission as Diodati's successor. In a process that took almost no time or discussion, the commission voted unanimously to appoint Pierce as the agency's new director.
Information from: Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times, http://www.gloucestertimes.com