HRI Researcher and Islander Alumna Appointed to Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Kesley Banks ’19, Associate Research Scientist in the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was recently appointed to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. She is one of three new members of the Council and will begin her three-year term on Aug. 11, 2023.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is one of eight U.S. Regional Fishery Management Councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council aims to achieve the greatest overall benefit to the nation by sustaining and maintaining responsible fisheries management.

“I’m honored to have been appointed to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and look forward to getting started this August,” Banks said. “As someone who’s involved in the local fishing community here in the Texas Coastal Bend, much of my research is focused on citizen science and making science more accessible and transparent to the general public. I hope that I can do that on an even larger scale as part of my work on the Council.”

Banks’ appointment to the Council fills an at-large seat that was vacated earlier this year by
HRI Senior Executive Director Greg Stunz, Ph.D., after nine years and meeting term limits.

“We are all very pleased to see Dr. Banks appointed and take the reins to represent Texas on this important management body that oversees our federal fisheries,” Stunz said. “I am confident she will do a great job given her science and diplomatic skill to develop wise-management strategies and conservation of key species, such as Red Snapper and other fisheries, that support our local and regional economies.”

Under Stunz’s mentorship, Banks graduated from TAMU-CC with a doctorate in marine biology. She focused her dissertation on movement patterns and habitat use for fishery species of varying life history strategies, including Red Snapper and Shortfin Mako sharks. Her research interests also include population connectivity of sportfish with an emphasis in coastal migratory pelagic and highly migratory species.

Banks came to HRI after earning her M.S. in Environmental Science in 2015 from Troy University where, as the ALFA Research Fellow, she studied federally threatened freshwater mollusks and their sensitivity to various toxicants lacking U.S. EPA Water Quality Criteria. Banks received her B.S. in Biology in 2012 at the University of Tennessee at Martin where she studied the evolutionary relationships within the Millipede suborder Spirobolidea.

Well-versed in fisheries management, Banks has served on the Council’s Coastal Migratory Pelagic Advisory panel, works as a member of the International Commission of Conservation of Atlantic Tunas Advisory Committee, and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Coastal Conservation Association.