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Bennett Wynne Selected as Fisheries Biologist of the Year

Nov 15

Written by:
11/15/2012 9:36 AM  RssIcon

Bennett Wynne, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Division of Inland Fisheries, was recognized at the Commission’s business meeting last week for selection as the 2012 Fisheries Biologist of the Year — an honor bestowed on him by the Southeastern Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Gordon Myers, the Commission’s executive director, presented Bennett with a plaque, congratulating him on his achievement and commenting on how well respected Bennett is not only within the agency but with other state agencies, chief among them the Division of Marine Fisheries. Bennett, whose official title is anadromous fisheries biologist, works closely with DMF personnel, coordinating the management of coastal migratory stocks of shad,herring, striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon.

He has devoted his 28-year career with the Commission working to improve fisheries and aquatic habitats, from the mountains to thecoast, with the ultimate goal of providing North Carolina anglers with better fishing opportunities.

Bennett started with the Commission in 1984 as an assistant fisheries biologist in the northwestern part of the state. He was quickly promoted to district fisheries biologist, managing populations of brook, brown and rainbow trout. His career took a different trajectory in 1988 when he accepted the position in the agency’s Habitat Conservation Section as the southeast permit coordinator. Instead of directly managing fish populations, he was working to minimize the impacts of development projects on aquatic resources and developing critical working relationships with scientists, regulators and other environmental professionals to enhance aquatic habitats for the benefit of all aquatic species.

In 2005, he was promoted to a newly created position of anadromous fisheries coordinator, which dovetailed nicely with his unique blend of experience as both a fisheries biologist and habitat conservationist.

And he’s been busy ever since helping to improve coastal stocks of American shad, river herring, striped bass and other fishes. He has led a long-term program to restore American shad in the Roanoke River basin. He coordinates Atlantic sturgeon sampling in the upper Roanoke River basin, which resulted in the first documented capture of sturgeon from the area. He is currently leading the effort to develop plans to enhance river herring stocks in the Chowan River basin.

On the Cape Fear River, Bennett advocated for years in support of construction of a fishpassageway at Lock and Dam 1, which is the first impediment to anadromous fishes that are migrating up the Cape Fear from the ocean. In June 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started building the passageway, and it is now almost complete. The passageway is a landmark achievement because it is the first one built in North Carolina and only one of few in the Southeast.

Wynne continues to be involved in this project, evaluating the passageway’s effectiveness and looking at the potential for similar passage projects on dams upstream.

Despite all his accomplishments, Bennett remains modest and self-effacing, attributing his Fisheries Biologist of the Year honor to the dedication and hard work of his co-workers — those past and present.

“This award is a product of 40+years of Fish Division culture — and yes, it started way before me — more than anything an individual has done over the past year,” Wynne said. “In my view,it took a special work environment for this to happen. I just enjoy the privilege of being a small part of it.  Really, this should be a division award.”

A member of the American Fisheries Society, Bennett holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Fish and Wildlife Management from North Carolina Wesleyan College and a Master of Science degree in biology from East Carolina University.

When he’s not working, Bennett is a self-proclaimed “airhead” but not the airhead most people think of. He is a member of the Airheads Beemer Club, which is a non-profit club for owners of old, air-cooled BMW motorcycles.

“These bikes are called ‘airheads,’ as are the people who ride them,”Bennett said. 

Congrats Bennett and keep up the good work!

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