Today, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA administrator, appointed Eileen Sobeck as assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. She assumes her new position on January 27 taking the helm from Samuel Rauch, who has served as acting assistant administrator since 2012. Rauch will return to his previous position as deputy assistant administrator for Regulatory Programs.
As assistant administrator, Sobeck will oversee the management and conservation of recreational and commercial fisheries, and the protection of marine mammals, marine protected species, and coastal fisheries habitat within the U.S. exclusive economic zone. NOAA Fisheries employs 4,800 people in five regional offices, six science centers, and12 laboratories in 15 states and U.S. territories.
“Since the beginning of her career, Eileen has sought to strike a balance in management of natural resources to ensure sustainable uses while protecting and preserving our marine ecosystems for future generations,” said acting NOAA Administrator, Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan. “Her background and expertise will be an asset at NOAA Fisheries as they work to continue turning the corner on overfishing, protect endangered marine species, and promote smart management approaches to build sustainable fisheries, and vibrant coastal communities.”
Early in her career, Sobeck worked in the NOAA Office of General Counsel from 1979-1984. She then served at the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division from 1984-2009.
Sobeck currently serves as acting assistant secretary of the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. She has served as deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior since 2009.
“I am honored to be returning to NOAA in this very important role,” said Sobeck. “From managing our nation’s fisheries to protecting endangered marine species and ecosystems to promoting commercial and recreational fishing, the work of NOAA Fisheries is critically important to the nation. I look forward to joining the team and working with the talented men and women within the organization to fulfill its mission.”
During her 25 year tenure at the Justice Department, Sobeck began work in 1984 as a trial attorney in the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division. She then moved through the ranks to become the assistant chief and then chief of that Section, which is responsible for defending NMFS’s regulatory actions. In 1999 she became a deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). She was awarded a Presidential Rank Award in 2003 and the DOJ ENRD Muskie-Chafee Award in 2010.
Sobeck is a graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School. She also has the honor of having a species of Pacific nudibranch, Hallaxa hileenae, named for her. She has been snorkeling and diving all over the world, most recently on a trip with her family to Indonesia.