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Name: Sutton, Michael
Current Position: President

The California Fish and Game Commission took a different tack when it selected social entrepreneur Michael Sutton as its president in early 2013. The avid conservationist replaced Daniel Richards, who resigned after posting on the Internet a controversial picture of himself gleefully holding a dead mountain lion the hunting enthusiast had just shot in Idaho. 

Sutton received a Bachelor of Arts degree in wildlife biology in 1978 from Utah State University. He studied marine biology in a graduate program at the University of Sydney, Australia, between 1978 and 1980.

Sutton began work as a park ranger in Yosemite, Yellowstone, Biscayne, and Virgin Islands National Parks and Death Valley National Monument for the National Park Service while in school. He was there from 1977-1982. Sutton was a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1982-1988 before attending George Washington University Law School, where he earned a Juris Doctor in 1992 in international and natural resources law.

Sutton started law school about the same time he joined the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C. He worked there for a decade, becoming a vice president responsible for the U.S. Land and Wildlife Program in 1992. He helped launch the WWF’s Endangered Seas Campaign in 1995 and formed a partnership the next year with Unilever to co-found the Marine Stewardship Council. The council’s goal was to harness market forces in support of sustainable fisheries.  

Sutton moved to California in 1998 and joined the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Conservation & Science Program in Los Altos as a program officer.   

In 2004, Sutton joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium as vice president and founded the Center for the Future of the Oceans. He was there for eight years, his tenure overlapping with his chairmanship of the Wild Salmon Center board of directors.

Sutton was appointed to the Fish and Game Commission in May 2007 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and was reappointed to a six-year term in March 2009.

He has been vice president of the Pacific Flyaway for the National Audubon Society since 2012, drawing conflict-of-interest charges when he was appointed Fish and Game president from critics who think the commission favors conservationists over hunters, sportsmen and business interests.      

Sutton is an author and lecturer in conservation law on the summer faculty at the Vermont Law School. He has lectured on marine conservation policy at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Tufts, George Washington University and the University of Rhode Island. He has served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of State on marine fishery issues, sitting on two federal advisory committees.

Sutton is married to Hilary LeFort and has two children, Matthew and Callie.


Inspiring Action for Ocean Conservation (by Michael Sutton)

Michael Sutton (LinkedIn)

College of Natural Resources Alumni Profile (Utah State University) (pdf)

Michael Sutton (Seafood Advisory Board)

Utah State University Celebrates 125 Years at Founders Day Event (Utah State University)

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