DMR Chief Olsen Resigns

ELLSWORTH — Norman H. Olsen of Cherryfield, recently appointed commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), resigned Wednesday effective immediately.

Olsen’s abrupt resignation comes a scant six months into the job. He was nominated by Governor Paul LePage to succeed George Lapointe, who led the DMR for 12 years.

Olsen, who retired after 27 years with the U.S. State Department, was raised in a four-generation fishing family on Cape Elizabeth. He graduated from Colby College with a degree in economics.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Olsen said he was told by one of LePage’s top aides that he had “until Labor Day” to turn around the perception that he wasn’t listening to the fishing industry.

The aide told him that by Labor Day he (the aide) “was going to start calling people who say you don’t listen and ask if Commissioner Olsen is listening now.”

Olsen, clearly angry with the message he was receiving from the Governor’s office, said a study he authorized had found “manifest problems in DMR.”

“The situation is kind of grim,” Olsen said.

He said it had reached the point where a “senior official” at the DMR laboratory in Boothbay Harbor had “come out on the attack.”

Last week, Olsen said, that official ordered an employee not to provide Olsen with information regarding a program that is under review.

“It’s quite a mess,” Olsen said.

Addressing the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources in January, the newly nominated Olsen said: “We have both the opportunity and the obligation to the people of Maine to provide the regulatory and investment climate, as well as the prudent fisheries resource management, that will allow us to build a truly sustainable marine resources industry across multiple species, generate value-added here in the state, and, in doing so, create significant shoreside employment for Maine’s people.”

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Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]