The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) named Chad Thomas the 2021 Fisheries Biologist of the Year at their 75th annual meeting, held in Roanoke, Virginia Oct. 17-20. Thomas currently serves as the coastal region fisheries supervisor for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC).
“Chad Thomas has served as an exemplary steward of North Carolina’s fisheries resources throughout his 28-year career,” SEAFWA President Paul Johansen said. “From advancing a web-based, user-friendly statewide fisheries data repository to using emerging genetics techniques in coastal fisheries management efforts, Chad has repeatedly demonstrated a passion for fisheries and a long-term view of their management.”
Perhaps the most impactful area of Thomas’ career involves leadership in the management of the world-renowned Roanoke River Striped Bass fishery and his effective coordination and communication with the NC Division of Marine Fisheries on joint management of Striped Bass, American Shad, and river herring.
Thomas has also been a key player in supporting fisheries research to evaluate the resiliency of resident sport fishes, which are subject to hurricane-induced fish kills. After extensive fish kills caused by hurricanes Floyd, Isabel, and Irene, his leadership in evaluating Largemouth Bass stocking projects led to a response plan for evaluating impacts and communicating with anglers throughout the region. Coastal region staff continue to use the response plan when hurricanes are anticipated to impact fish populations in coastal rivers of North Carolina.
“Chad is a consummate professional, superb mentor, and excellent supervisor,” said NCWRC Executive Director Cameron Ingram. "Well known for his kind demeanor, ability to successfully deliver on diverse tasks, and willingness to take on challenging assignments, there is little doubt that his encouragement, on-the-job training, and leadership have proven beneficial for the career development of the numerous employees he has mentored.”
An excellent communicator, Thomas excels in non-technical communication and outreach to the public. He has given countless presentations to civic and school groups, always tailoring the message to his audience. He has represented the agency on several television shows and radio broadcasts. In 2000, he developed a basic fish identification guide for training new wildlife officer recruits, and he has personally taught fish identification to over 245 officers.
Thomas graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor's in fisheries and wildlife science and obtained a MS degree in Biology from Tennessee Technological University. He is a member of the American Fisheries Society.
The Association’s Biologist of the Year Awards are presented to two career biologists of state wildlife agencies, one each in the categories of wildlife and fisheries, who, in the opinion of the SEAFWA Awards Committee, have made outstanding contributions toward wildlife/fisheries conservation.