Safe Boating Week: Spotlight on Sea Grant Extension Agent Peter Nguyen
Project Coordinator at Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Peter Nguyen works very closely with Vietnamese-speaking fishermen to offer them technical assistance, such as providing information about new regulations and proposed legislation. Peter, a former commercial shrimper, has been with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Outreach Program since 2006. He works at Mississippi State University’s Coastal Research Center in Biloxi and works on fishing gear research, seafood marketing and other outreach efforts.
It’s Safe Boating Week, what is the one thing everyone needs to know about being safe while out on the water?
Commercial fishermen need to have a monthly safety drill to practice man-overboard, fire and mayday procedures. They should also make sure their electronics work properly.
What is something cool you learned while working with commercial/recreational boaters?
Ninety percent of the commercial fishermen in Mississippi are Vietnamese. They’ve been in business so long, they have spots where they fish on certain days. And, sometimes they can predict the weather, tide and current.
What drove you to work on outreach within the boating community?
Before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I was a fisherman myself. I enjoy being out in the field working with people. I like to listen to their concerns and issues and help their concerns get addressed.
Project Coordinator Peter Nguyen of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium works with Vietnamese-speaking commercial fishermen to identify essential information that must be relayed during a mayday call. Credit: Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
How did you get involved with Sea Grant? When did you join Sea Grant?
A family member heard in a nail salon that Sea Grant was looking to hire someone who could speak Vietnamese and knew a lot about fishing and fishing gear. I started working for Sea Grant in 2006.
What is your favorite part about being a Sea Grant Extension agent?
Something different happens every day. I get to meet people every day and learn from the experiences of other organizations/agencies.
What is the biggest challenge you face at your job?
I had been a fisherman for 20 years, and the biggest challenge at Sea Grant was transitioning to a land job. It was a 180-degree turn for me. I had to learn the other side of fisheries and how to communicate with the fishermen to help them better understand regulations.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science?
I always loved science when I was in high school, but I had never thought about it, and I became a fisherman. After Hurricane Katrina, when things were not going so well for me, I wanted to work for Sea Grant extension.
What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
Attending Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission meetings.
What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for someone wanting to explore a career in science?
Popular Science and National Geographic Magazines
And how about a personal favorite book?
“The Perfect Storm”
Do you have an outside hobby?
I love the water. I really enjoy fishing, especially deep sea fishing. I like scuba diving, camping and cooking seafood, and I like to travel anywhere that has beaches.
What surprised you most about working at Sea Grant?
That there are so many well-educated Sea Grant extension agents. And, they all specialize in different things: working waterfronts, living shorelines, fisheries, etc.
Meet other Sea Grant Extension Agents working to help people be safe and sustainable boaters:
Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program Agent Torie Baker
Louisiana Sea Grant Extension Agent Lauren Land
New York Extension Agent David White
Ohio Sea Grant Extension Agent Sarah Orlando