When it came to ensuring healthy fish populations, Russell Nelson was the perfect combination of scientist and pragmatist.
His unexpected death is a loss to those who knew him, as well as to the fisheries he helped over a long career in public service.
Nelson served as executive director of the Marine Fisheries Commission from 1987 to 2000. He then started his own consulting firm, advising sport fishing conservation organizations and federal agencies on ocean fisheries management and protection.
Nelson earned degrees from the University of North Carolina before taking a Ph.D. in zoology, fisheries ecology and statistics from North Carolina State University.
As director of Florida’s marine fisheries, Nelson guided Florida’s contentious transition after passage of the 1994 net ban, which imposed limits on the nets used by commercial fishermen. He was the author of numerous scientific papers about fish populations in the U.S. and abroad.
Mr. Nelson, 65, was found at his Oakland Park home Saturday night by his wife, Ellen Peel, who is the president of The Billfish Foundation. A celebration of life service is planned for 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach.