The dismissal takes effect immediately, with senior deputy director Jack Ainsworth leading the agency until the commission selects an interim and replacement.
"It's disgraceful that the commissioners voted in secret to fire Dr. Lester," Steve Jones, oceans communications specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a written statement. "This isn't over."
In his remarks after the vote, Lester said, “It’s been a privilege to serve the commission for the past 4½ years. If there is a silver lining, I’ve been energized by all the people who came together on this.”