David Witherell, Executive Director
As Executive Director, David serves as the chief executive officer and is responsible for overseeing all operations of the Council, including all associated fishery management, fiscal, and administrative responsibilities. David has worked for the Council since 1992; first as a Plan Coordinator, then as Deputy Director, and as Executive Director since June 2017. Prior to being hired by the Council, David was a marine biologist for the State of Massachusetts, working on resource surveys and stock assessments. David has a Master’s degree in fisheries biology from the University of Massachusetts. Little known facts: David built a dovetailed log cabin with a sawmill using trees from the property. He also holds the current IGFA all-tackle world sport fishing record for walleye pollock.
Diana Evans, Deputy Director
Diana is the Deputy Director, and also the Council lead on the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan. Diana began her career at the Council as a NEPA specialist, after working as a contractor for National Marine Fisheries Service in Hawaii and Alaska on environmental impact statements. Her Master’s degree is in geography, from King’s College London. She joined the Council in 2002 to work on the Alaska Groundfish Programmatic SEIS, and has since worked on a wide variety of projects and fishery management actions, focusing especially on the Council’s ecosystem and habitat projects, observers and electronic monitoring, and the development of Fishery Ecosystem Plans.
Sara Cleaver, Fishery Analyst
Sara began with NPFMC in 2017 as an Alaska Sea Grant Fellow and was hired on as a fishery analyst in 2018. Sara has most recently been working on IFQ issues and issues pertaining to EBFM, and she is also the GOA Groundfish Plan Team Coordinator. Sara’s holds a master’s degree from Duke University’s School of the Environment, where she focused on fisheries management specific to highly migratory species. Her undergraduate degree was in environmental policy and international development. Before joining the Council, Sara worked as a fish and wildlife technician in Yakutat. Little known fact: Growing up, Sara used to be part of the Battle of Lexington reenactment.
Sam Cunningham, Economist
Sam is responsible for developing economic and social impact analyses of proposed Council actions. His recent projects have addressed Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries, the Observer Program, and the Halibut & Sablefish IFQ Program. He currently staffs the IFQ Committee and is a member of the Electronic Monitoring Committee. Prior to joining Council staff in 2012 he completed a Master’s degree in environmental management at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment where he focused on resource economics and policy. Little known fact: Sam has a trophy mount of the first fish he ever caught — a 5 inch bream.
Maria Davis, Communications/IT Specialist
If you want to hear a Council meeting that was broadcast in 2004, or want to view the current Council agenda on a mobile device, Maria is the person you’d contact. She’s slowly transitioned the Council to an almost paperless system for meetings and documents, and remains a big advocate for anything digital. Before the Council hired her in 1999 as an administrative assistant, Maria lived in King Salmon, AK, where she had been adventuring. While traipsing the world, Maria finally graduated with a BFA in English and Design from Utah State University. Little known fact: Maria was active in Anchorage’s slam poetry circuit in the early 90s.
Michael Fey, Data Analyst, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission
Michael provides data and analytical support to Council staff through AKFIN (Alaska Fisheries Information Network). He joined the Council in 2009 and brought 7 years of analytical experience from TD Ameritrade where he was the Manager of Operation Analytics. In 2002 he completed a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Nebraska. Little known fact: when Michael was young his family would vacation in Arkansas and his Dad would let him keep catfish in the bathtub.
Shannon Gleason, Administrative Assistant
Shannon is responsible for providing Administrative support to the Council staff as well as acting as the primary support for the Council during its meetings. In addition, Shannon is our meeting coordinator and contact person for hotel and travel arrangements. Shannon holds a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistic Anthropology from Northern Arizona University. Little known fact: before traversing through New Zealand studying anthropology she majored in theatre – a skill she still uses to this day.
Kate Haapala, Fishery Analyst
Kate joined the Council staff in 2019. Kate is responsible for work related to the Observer Program as well as the Local Knowledge, Traditional Knowledge, and Subsistence Action Module under the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy from Purdue University where she focused on Alaska halibut IFQ and CDQ issues. Prior to her time at the Council, Kate worked as a Research Assistant on field-based projects related to Indigenous representation at sites of global environmental governance as well as international climate change negotiations. Little known fact: Kate is the proud owner of Loki, a well-proportioned dog who is as long as he is round.
Anna Henry, Fishery Analyst
Anna joined the Council staff in 2018 and works on IFQ and observer issues. Prior to working with the Council, she was a contractor for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center analyzing social and economic impacts associated with management actions in the groundfish fishery and habitat closure areas in New England. She has performed numerous field research positions including as a monitor in the Pacific whiting fishery, as well as managing the stock assessment survey at the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Anna holds a M.S. in Marine Biology and a M.S. in Marine Policy from the University of Maine. Little known fact: Anna has lived in 6 different states but never left the coast.
Sarah La Belle, Administrative Assistant
Sarah La Belle joined the council staff in 2018. She is additional administrative support for website maintenance and document upkeep; making sure the public has the most current and accurate information as possible. She is also the staff administrator for the Advisory Panel. Sarah has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Technologies Leadership with a focus on nonprofit organizations. Little known fact: Sarah has been to 49 of the 50 states- only Rhode Island is left!
Sarah Marrinan, Economist
Sarah has been an analyst with the NPFMC since 2013. She is responsible for conducting social and economic analysis on proposed Council actions. Most recently, Sarah has lead analyses for issues around the Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program, the CDQ program and issues related to the halibut/ sablefish commercial IFQ fisheries and halibut charter fishery. Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Resource Economics and Policy from the University of Maine. Prior to NPFMC, she was a research fellow at the National Center for Environmental Economics in Washington, D.C. Little known fact: Sarah cannot handle food spicier than ketchup, but she has been secretly building up her tolerance.
Sarah Rheinsmith, Fishery Analyst
Sarah joined the Council staff in 2022 as a Fishery Analyst. She is currently the Crab Plan Team Coordinator, the Scallop Plan Team coordinator, and is responsible for many habitat-related issues. Sarah joined council staff after completing her MSc in Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where her research was focused on the ecology and development of the nervous system of sockeye salmon. Prior to her research on sockeye salmon, she worked as a field biologist along the southeast coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Indian Ocean. Little Known Fact: Sarah won the Division II Women’s Lacrosse National Championship in 2016.
Nicole Schmidt, Finance Officer
Nicole joined the Council in 2017, and performs a variety of accounting duties and a range of budget preparation and analysis in support of the Council’s fiscal responsibilities. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her background includes over 12 years in accounting for corporations, governmental agencies, and non-profits in Alaska. Little known fact: Nicole does not like peanut butter, even in cookies!
Diana Stram, Senior Scientist
Diana is Senior Scientist at the Council. Her recent projects have focused upon salmon and halibut bycatch issues in the Bering Sea, overfishing and ACL requirements for groundfish and crab, rebuilding plans for overfished stocks and various conservation and biological issues as they arise in the GOA and BSAI. She holds a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and is a Fulbright Scholar. Little known fact: She won the Seward Halibut Derby with the first fish she ever caught in Alaska.
Nicole Watson, Fishery Analyst
Nicole joined the Council staff in 2022 as a Fishery Analyst. Before joining the Council, she was a Fish Biologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, AK. In her spare time, Nicole is completing her Ph.D. in Fisheries Ecology and Management with a dual degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from Michigan State University. Her Ph.D. research has focused on early life history of Arctic Grayling, predation and competition with resident stream salmonids, and imprinting and migratory behavior. Little known fact: Nicole can shoot a traditional bow either right or left-handed, makes her own traditional archery equipment, and ties her own flies for fishing.