Steven Bowman was awarded ASMFC’s highest honor at the ASMFC 2022 summer meeting. Pictured above at the awards ceremony are, from left, ASMFC Chairman Spud Woodward, Bowman, ASMFC Awards Committee Chair Jim Gilmore and ASMFC Executive Director Bob Beal. Contributed photo.

Former Va. Marine Resources Leader Honored for Fisheries Contributions

The fisheries managers for the entire East Coast honored Virginia’s recently-retired marine resources leader for his important role managing sensitive species like menhaden.

Steven G. Bowman, former Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) commissioner, was presetened with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) highest honor, the Captain David H. Hart Award, at their annual meeting last weekend in Arlington, Va.

ASMFC instituted the Hart Award in 1991 to recognize individuals who have made outstanding efforts to improve Atlantic coast marine fisheries. The Hart Award is named for Captain David H. Hart from the state of New Jersey, one of the commission’s longest servingmembers who dedicated himself to the advancement and protection of marine fishery resources.

Bowman began his marine fisheries career at VMRC in 1992 as Deputy Chief of the Law Enforcement Division, was promoted to Chief of Law Enforcement in 1996, and in 2006 was appointed to commissioner of VMRC by then Governor Timothy Kaine. He served as commissioner under two subsequent governors.

Throughout his long history with VMRC, Bowman served as a member of the Law Enforcement Committee and as Virginia’s Administrative Commissioner on ASMFC’s Executive Committee and Interstate Fisheries Management Program Policy Board, along with several species management boards.

As Virginia’s Administrative Commissioner to the commission, Bowman gained a reputation for his ability to successfully bring divergent viewpoints of stakeholders to a reasonable and agreeable compromise, ASMFC says.

When Virginia faced a non-compliance finding under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act for exceeding the Atlantic menhaden Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery cap in 2019, Bowman was instrumental in transferring menhaden management authority from the Virginia General Assembly to VMRC.

At that time, Atlantic menhaden was the only marine species managed by the General Assembly. Bowman worked with political parties, recreational anglers, conservationists, and the reduction industry to navigate a non-compliance finding.

Once the management authority was transferred to VMRC, Bowman ensured that regulations were quickly prepared and approved to avoid a possible moratorium on menhaden fishing in Virginia waters.

This monumental accomplishment is a microcosm of Bowman’s skillset. It demonstrated the trust Bowman had from all corners of the marine fisheries management world: industry, anglers, conservationists, state and federal politicians, and his fellow commissioners, ASMFC says.

Bowman’s efforts ultimately resulted in the protection of the Chesapeake Bay as a critical nursery area for many iconic species such as striped bass, bluefish, and summer flounder which will provide coast-wide benefits for years to come.

-Larry Chowning