Remembering Chris Weld

One of the guys who started it all, who was there from the beginning, is gone.

by Ken Hinman, Wild Oceans President

Chris Weld, a co-founder of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, now Wild Oceans, in 1973, died March 5th in Boston at the age of 84.

When Susie Weld, Chris’ wife of 62 years, called to tell me Chris had passed, I felt a chill, like when a door is left open after someone larger than life, who has meant so much to this organization, to me personally, has left the building.

Chris was a great and influential advocate for the oceans and fishing for over five decades, and a pioneer in the marine conservation movement. Big game fishing off shore in New England in the 1960s brought him face-to-face with large-scale foreign fishing fleets and, recognizing the threat to America’s fishery resources, he got involved in the campaign to establish the 200- mile wide Fishery Conservation Zone around the U.S. coastline. In that effort, he saw beyond “kicking the foreigners out” and worked for a new conservation and management system to protect our fish from over fishing, foreign and domestic, and to give conservation-minded sport fishermen a seat at the table, i.e., the nascent regional fishery management councils. At around the same time, he began working for ocean-wide conservation of Atlantic bluefin tuna, warning of the sharp decline he witnessed first-hand.

This early advocacy as a conservationist led Chris to form, along with Frank Carlton, the NCMC, the first modern- era group dedicated solely to protecting ocean fish and their environment. When I came to work for Chris in 1978, I took my cue from his philosophy on marine conservation, which as I understood it from the beginning was this: always put the health of the resource first; don’t let your ego get in the way of working with others, whether their interest is recreational, commercial or environmental; look for where and how you can make the most difference, as opposed to taking on the is- sue du jour; and in the end, what really matters is that you have an impact, not whether everyone knows it.

Okay, forget that. I think everyone should know the impact Chris had, and appreciate that we’ve lost one of the last of his generation of American conservationists. In fact, based on the comments we’ve received from his friends and colleagues, there are many who already do.

A celebration of his life will take place in Essex, Massachusetts on May 13th.

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