Tom Bigford Receives Stanley A. Moberly Award for Fish Habitat Conservation

August 23, 2022

Contact: Beth Beard
[email protected]


(Spokane, WA) August 23, 2022 – Tom Bigford received the Stanley A. Moberly Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievements and Contributions to Fish Habitat Conservation. American Fisheries Society (AFS) President Leanne Roulson presented the award at a Plenary Session at the AFS 152nd Annual Meeting in Spokane, Washington.

The Stanley A. Moberly Award was established in 2019 and is presented annually to an individual who has achieved significant success in a fish habitat career related to research, policy, management, education, project implementation, communications and outreach, or another endeavor. The award covers freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats, and was developed by the AFS Fish Habitat Section in partnership with NOAA Fisheries and the National Fish Habitat Partnership.

“Tom has been a leader in this field for over four decades and exemplifies every aspect of the purpose of this award,” said President Roulson. “Tom has spent his entire career focused on fish habitat conservation, and we are honored to present this award to him today.”

Bigford started his career as a graduate student working for the University of Rhode Island and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the effects of dredged material and oil spills on marine fauna. After graduating, he became the lead marine policy expert for the Center for Natural Areas, where he worked on marine sanctuary, coastal zone, fishery, and natural resource management issues. Bigford entered federal service in 1980, where he became an Environmental Policy Analyst in the NOAA Office of Policy and Planning, and later, Chief of the Habitat and Protected Resource Division in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In this role, he worked on fish habitat and Endangered Species Act issues from Maine through Virginia.

Bigford then transitioned into Chief of the Habitat Protection Division in the Office of Habitat Conservation at NOAA headquarters, where he managed 23 staff members, a large budget, and covered issues such as hydropower, essential fish habitat, deep-sea coral and sponges, wetland loss, and ocean governance. Even while juggling a huge portfolio of complex issues, Bigford still contributed to the state of our science by publishing over 25 peer-reviewed articles ranging from recovery plan criteria for threatened and endangered species to conserving coastal and estuarine habitat to sea level rise to coral reef conservation. He held this critical position until 2014 when he retired, receiving numerous awards for his many achievements.

After retirement from NOAA, Bigford accepted a position as the first Policy Director at the American Fisheries Society, where he created and oversaw the AFS Policy Program. He wrote a monthly policy column in Fisheries magazine, established Policy Fellow and Policy Intern programs, coordinated policy tasks in cooperative agreements with federal agencies, and convinced leaders to add a second position to the AFS Policy Program. In addition to his work as the AFS Policy Director, Bigford also served as an officer in the Fish Habitat Section, was on the Policy Committee for the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, and continues to serve on the Editorial Board of the journal Coastal Management. He has authored over 40 columns in Fisheries magazine on habitat and fish policy and has actively participated in AFS and The Coastal Society for over four decades.

Importantly, Bigford was a key contributor to the formation of the National Fish Habitat Partnership and helped ensure that NFHP would cover fisheries habitat from the mountaintop to the continental shelf. He attended many of the NFHP meetings as a Board Member or a NOAA Representative. He ensured that NOAA played a key funding role within NFHP, and helped the agency put funding on the ground for partnerships to use for coastal habitat protection and restoration projects.

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Editor’s Notes: Founded in 1870, the American Fisheries Society (AFS) is the world’s oldest and largest fisheries science society. The mission of AFS is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. With five journals and numerous books and conferences, AFS is the leading source of fisheries science and management information in North America and around the world.

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