National Aquarium Hires First-Ever Chief Conservation Officer
National Aquarium, a leading cultural attraction and economic engine anchoring Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for more than 30 years, announces Eric Schwaab as its first-ever Senior Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer (CCO). With a realignment of priorities that emphasizes an updated conservation mission, Schwaab’s appointment represents the Aquarium’s new dedication to serve as a national leader in ocean preservation and environmental stewardship.
“With the confirmation of Eric Schwaab as our Chief Conservation Officer, we are setting an agenda for National Aquarium’s future,” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “We are dedicated to our mission of inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Eric’s wealth of experience and passion will help us expand and better promote conservation action to protect the ocean, our planet’s life support system.”
As CCO, Schwaab, who assumes responsibilities July 1, will provide strategic vision and leadership for the National Aquarium’s Conservation and Science Division, a team of 130 professionals, engaging in initiatives ranging from field conservation and biological programs to legislative advocacy and animal rescue.
Schwaab currently serves as Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management for the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this role he works closely with Congress, other agency leaders, partner organizations and local communities to develop policies and take conservation action to ensure sustainable federal fisheries, promote coastal stewardship and enhance protection of ocean habitats. Previously, as Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA from 2010-2012, Schwaab directed the National Marine Fisheries Service. He was responsible for science, management and conservation of federal fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and other protected resources within the United States. Schwaab led the agency’s national requirement to end overfishing, the implementation of “catch share” management programs to better align the interests of commercial fishing businesses with conservation goals, and efforts to improve coastal and ocean habitat conservation.
The National Aquarium is changing the way the world views conservation by instilling a sense of urgency on issues that affect aquatic ecosystems worldwide, including the Chesapeake Bay. In the ocean policy arena, the National Aquarium has recently focused its efforts on a ban on the sale and trade of shark fins, offshore wind development, plastic and beverage container deposits and watershed conservation.
“Through its current work in conservation and science, National Aquarium is redefining the role of public aquaria as catalysts for tangible change in how people care for oceans and aquatic systems,” said Schwaab. “The Aquarium’s role as a trusted source of information and its ability to communicate with millions of people annually provide significant opportunities to influence public policy and personal behavior on behalf of sustainable ocean conservation. I look forward to leading this charge.”
Prior to his work with NOAA, Schwaab spent three years as Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he worked extensively with legislative leaders and other agencies to support important state conservation initiatives, including Chesapeake Bay restoration, forest and park land conservation and fisheries rebuilding. Schwaab’s 20 plus years of conservation stewardship in Maryland also include service as Director of the Fisheries Service (1999-2003); Director of the Forest, Wildlife & Heritage Service (1995-1999); Director of the Forest Service (1992-1995); and Chief of Resource Management for Maryland Forest & Park Service (1989-1992). From 2003 into 2007, Schwaab served as Resource Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, coordinating conservation work on behalf of fish and wildlife agencies across North America.
Schwaab, who currently serves as the NOAA Administrator designee on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from McDaniel College and a Master of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University. He also completed a leadership program for senior executives in state and local government at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.