VIMS mourns passing of professor James Kirkley

Dr. Jim Kirkley, professor of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, passed away on September 22, 2011 after a courageous two-and-a-half year battle with cancer.

Dr. Kirkley received his Bachelor of Science, Master’s, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Maryland, and worked as a fisheries economist with the National Marine Fisheries Service before coming to VIMS in 1987.

Dr. Kirkley began his career at VIMS in the Marine Advisory Service Program, and in the early 1990s became a member of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scallop Plan Development Team. His pioneering analysis on limited-entry and effort-reduction strategies was incorporated in a new fisheries management plan that is the basis for much of today’s management foundation for the scallop resource. Today the sea scallop fishery is one of the most successful, best-managed, and profitable fisheries in the U.S.

VIMS professor James E. Kirkley.

Dr. Kirkley later moved into the department of Coastal and Ocean Policy at VIMS, which he chaired from 2001 to 2005. He was an excellent mentor and was a major advisor for 3 Ph.D. and 7 Master’s students and served as a member on many graduate student committees.

Dr. Kirkley’s research was broadly focused on fisheries economics, and his contributions included studies of the sea-scallop fishery, methods to define and measure capacity in fisheries, the economic impact of Pfiesteria, economic valuations of Virginia’s commercial and recreational marine fisheries, and most recently, a study of the economic importance and value of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay Region.

He was one of the first economists to develop a methodology for analyzing the comprehensive economic impacts of recreational and commercial fisheries. His landmark analysis of the importance of Virginia’s recreational and commercial fisheries is still widely referenced.

During his career, Dr. Kirkley produced more than 75 peer-review publications, co-authored a book, and produced many reports and technical manuals. He had extensive advisory service responsibilities including service to the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, the fishery management councils, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. In 2005, Dr. Kirkley received the prestigious Environmental Hero Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Throughout Jim’s battle with cancer, he remained upbeat and incredibly productive. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, three daughters, Kelley, Kara, and Krista, one son, Jamie and four grandchildren, Dylan, Zach, Kylie and Kingston.

A celebration of life will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26, at Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown.  View and post condolences on the online guestbook at