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Gerry Eastman Studds

The Visionary Congressman and the Sanctuary

  In 1996, during the reauthorization of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the members of Congress honored their colleague from Massachusetts, who was retiring after 24 years of service in the House.

As part of the legislation, Congress renamed the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to recognize the many contributions of Gerry E. Studds to marine conservation and management.

During his career, Mr. Studds served as Chairman of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries for four years (the committee was dissolved after 1996 and its tasks assigned to other committees), was Chairman of the Fish and Wildlife Subcommittee and was ranking member of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans. He authored the National Marine Sanctuaries Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 1992, in which the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was officially designated, and the original Magnuson Act of 1973, which extended American fishing jurisdiction to 200 miles offshore.

Among his other legislative accomplishments over the years were support for the Marine Mammal Protection Act, drafting and supporting the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act of 1984, the limitation of oil drilling on Georges Bank, the creation of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and financing for the U.S. Coast Guard.

"Were it not for the gentleman from Massachusetts, Gerry Studds, and his ideas and his enthusiasm and the effort that he
has put into his committee work, many of the programs and projects that we have worked on on a bipartisan basis simply would not be," said Congressman Saxton of New Jersey, "He has built the basis for American ocean policy as chairman of the former Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee," noted Congressman Fan of California. And, Congressman Abercrombie from Hawaii said, "There are few people in this body, perhaps in the history of this body, better able to articulate their thoughts, particularly with respect to ocean policy and environmental policy."

In recognizing his colleagues' accolades, Congressman Studds replied, "One would be hard pressed to find something that would have meant more to me than Stellwagen Bank, which lies between Cape Cod and Cape Ann in Massachusetts... The richness and diversity of the marine life in Stellwagen is a symbol, I think, of why it is that we all came together in this endeavor... I think folks will look back, I hope, and remember that it is possible to be as different as some of the individuals In the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries were and are and yet to work together in a very collegial and ver collaborative and very constructive way on things that truly matter as opposed to so much of whit it is that we spend out time here and our lives in general being concerned about."

Mr. Studds remained involved in marine issues as a consultant on fisheries issues and ocean outreach, as well as branching out into biotechnology and telecommunications through a base in Boston in the decade after his retirement from Congress. He took on the co-chairman­ship of the Board of Trustees of the Island Alliance, the non-profit partner to the Boston Harbor Island National Park and continued to stay informed about and in touch with the National Marine Sanctuary that bears his name.

Unfortuantely, the man who fought tenaciously for protection of the ocean, succumbed to complications from vascular disease and injuries incurred from a fall when walking his dog. Late in 2006, this dedicated advocate for the sanctuary program died at the age of 69.

"It is difficult to capture the full breadth of this man's accomplishments," said Mark Forest, a senior aide to then Congressman Studss and now chief of staff for Congressman William Delahunt. "His legacy lives on in the vast array of important environmental legislation that he helped draft or worked diligently to support," he said.

"Gerry loved the sea, especially Massachusetts Bay and the area that was recognized as a sanctuary. It is hoped that his inspiration will guide others to continue the efforts to protect this national treasure," Mr. Forest said.

"Gerry's leadership changed Massachusetts forever and we'll never forget him," U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy said. "His work on behalf of our fishing industry and the protection of our waters has guided the fishing industry into the future and ensured that generations to come will have the opportunity to love and learn from the sea. He was a steward of the oceans. The Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary put protections in place for our waters that never before existed and has since become a framework for protecting and maintaining marine life in Massachusetts."

Congressman Bill Delahunt, who replaced Mr. Studds as the representative for the Tenth District of Massachusetts, wrote: "While at home he was known for his attentiveness to the district and the interests of our fishermen, his contributions to our nation were much greater. In Washington, he displayed an extraordinary grasp of complex marine policy issues. As chairman of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, he was able to build bipartisan support for many important and controversial environmental laws, a skill that is all too rare in Washington today. Most of all, we will remember Gerry for his quick wit. He once boasted to me that his pivotal role in the revival of the striped bass was not in legislating a recovery plan, but in his inability to catch any."

Mr. Studds was born on May 12, 1937 in Mineola, NY but grew up in Cohasset, Mass., a community located within the district he represented for 24 years. He attended Yale University, where he was awarded his undergraduate degree in history in 1959 and a master's degree in 1961.

From 1961-1962 he served as a foreign service officer in the State Department, then worked as an assistant in the Kennedy White House the following year to develop a domestic Peace Corps. In 1964, he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr. (D-NJ) as a legislative assistant.

Mr. Studds left the political world of Washington for a time, serving as a teacher of government, politics and history at the St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. from 1965-1969. But the lure of the political arena continued to attract, and in 1968 he served as New Hampshire state coordinator for Eugene McCarthy's presidential primary campaign.

In 1970, Mr. Studds entered his first campaign for political office, running against U.S. Representative Hastings Keith (R-MA) in what was then the 12th District. Although he lost the election, his interest in public service did not wane. He learned Portuguese to better communicate with the fishing community in the district and maintained an interest in local issues. When Rep. Keith declines to run in 1972, Mr. Studds stepped in and won his first term in Congress. He continued to garner support from his constituents, and won re-election 11 times.

An eloquent speaker with a quick wit, Mr. Studds held numerous town meetings in the district, answering questions and listening to the concerns of his constituents. After his retirement, he continued to maintain contact with the district, and assisted the sanctuary in the dedication of its Provincetown Visitor Exhibit in 2001, as well as participating in the openings of sanctuary exhibits at the New England Aquarium, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, and a Provincetown art gallery.

Mr. Studds passed away on October 14, 2006. He is survived by his spouse, Dean Hara; a brother, Colin Studds; a sister, Gaynor Steward; and four nephews.


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