NORTHEAST FISHERIES SCIENCE CENTER
18, 2003 — The NOAA Northeast
Fisheries Science Center comprises five laboratories and one field
station in five states and the District of Columbia, with headquarters
in Woods Hole, Mass. The Center’s pedigree as a scientific institution
stretches back some 132 years to the founding
of the federal fisheries service and the beginning of the nation’s
serious, systematic inquiry into the lives of marine animals.
The Northeast is home to 25 species of federally protected marine animals,
including endangered stocks of large whales, fish and sea turtles. The
Northeast’s commercial fishing industry is the nation’s oldest
and most complex, with extensive cultural — as well as economic
— significance. The region’s commercially important marine
fish species were heavily exploited by industrialized international fleets
prior to U.S. extension of a 200-mile marine economic exclusionary zone
in 1975, and many have only recently begun to improve as a result of better
management. These factors often contribute to the Northeast’s reputation
as a proving ground for the interplay of science, policy, and natural
resource management in the public interest.
Baird, the first U.S. Fish Commissioner, was appointed in 1871 by
President Grant to investigate a precipitous fish decline in nearshore
New England waters. He based this and subsequent efforts out of Woods
Hole, Mass., and this is generally accepted as the first step in establishing
what is today’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA
Fisheries). Baird hired the first federal fisheries service employee
Edwards, who served from 1871 until his death in 1919 at age 79).
He is also credited with attracting numerous colleagues from around the
world to his lab, laying the groundwork for the gathering of institutions
that would eventually make Woods Hole famous as a village of scientists.
in Woods Hole began a program of fish propagation and baseline studies
of the marine environment. The original lab campus, completed in 1885, included a large research aquarium,
the forerunner of today’s Woods Hole Science Aquarium — the
nation’s oldest public research aquarium. It was homeport to the
nation’s first research ship built expressly for fisheries research,
a sailing vessel called the Albatross.
The present-day Albatross IV
— the fourth in the line — is also homeported in Woods Hole,
and just passed her 40th birthday.
its history, scientists of the NEFSC have produced seminal works in marine
science and have played leading roles in developing methods to model the
population dynamics of commercially important marine species, the overall
productivity and biodiversity of large
marine ecosystems, and the distribution of highly
migratory marine fishes and mammals.
Scientists here began large-scale biological surveys in nearshore waters
in the early 19th century, collecting both qualitative data
and specimens. Extension and expansion of this work over the last century
has resulted in one of the world’s oldest and largest biodiversity
indices for a large marine ecosystem.
is presently organized into six broad areas:
large scale monitoring of marine life and environmental conditions
on the Northeastern continental shelf; population
biology and dynamics for commercially and ecologically important marine
species — as well as social science investigating the economics
and culture of commercial fishing; aquaculture;
ecosystems processes, particularly
in nearshore areas where human activities are most influential; the systematics
of marine fish, shellfish, and cephalopods; and large
marine ecosystem definition and modeling.
The NOAA NEFSC Milford, Conn., laboratory is a center for aquaculture.
Working with fish and shellfish, scientists in the Milford laboratory
develop methods suitable for commercial captive rearing and for enhancing
and restoring wild stocks. This includes fish and shellfish diseases
that hamper both commercial production and recovery of endangered or
threatened species, such as Maine’s wild Atlantic
salmon. Federally-backed aquaculture research in Milford dates to
1923 when a scientist named Herbert F. Prytherch first reported on his
work with artificial propagation of oysters. The NEFSC facilities in
Milford today comprise two laboratory/office buildings, support buildings
housing raceway and circular tanks and a 49-foot vessel (R/V Victor
Loosanoff) used for nearshore research.
D.C.: The NEFSC’s National Systematics Laboratory
is housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Scientists
in this laboratory describe and name new species and revise existing
descriptions and names of fishes, squids,
crustaceans and corals of economic or ecological importance to the United
States. Because some important species are highly migratory and many
exotic species are introduced into U.S. waters or markets, the laboratory's
research is worldwide.
Jersey: The nation's first saltwater sport fish lab was
established in 1961 in Sandy Hook, N.J. Parts of the laboratory were
destroyed by an arsonist in 1985. By 1993, all of the laboratory buildings
were renovated or replaced and now house exceptional capabilities for
studying marine processes. The new lab is shared with other research
agencies and was named for James J. Howard, a long-time New Jersey congressman.
The Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory has a state-of-the-art seawater
system that includes a two-story,
32,000 gallon research aquarium housed in a sound-retardant room.
Daily and seasonal changes in light intensity and photoperiod can be
simulated for any time of the year, and for any place in the world.
Scientists in this laboratory study the effects of natural and human-induced
environmental factors on fishery resources, with an emphasis on the
study of reproductive activity and the early life stages that are generally
the most vulnerable to environmental variation.
Island: The NEFSC’s Narragansett Laboratory was established
in 1966 to study important Atlantic gamefish. The lab’s gamefish
roots are apparent in a nearly 40-year-old cooperative
shark tagging program that has created the world’s largest
database on distribution and range of Atlantic sharks. Scientists at
the Narragansett Laboratory have a reputation for incubating “big
ideas” that become national and international programs. Today’s
National Status and Trends Program is rooted in the Marine
Resources Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction (MARMAP) Program
originated by Narragansett Lab scientists in 1974. A current international
effort to identify and manage the world’s large coastal marine
ecosystems began in a 1984 symposium at the Narragansett Lab.
The Woods Hole Laboratory occupies the same site as the original
fisheries laboratory. In addition to the center’s directorate,
the lab is home to research efforts directed at improving marine resource
monitoring; providing regular assessments of productivity, growth and
change in important fish and shellfish populations; understanding the
social and economic dynamics of marine resource management; the biology
and ecology of marine mammals in the region; and understanding the interrelationships
among marine populations. Other large-scale programs administered at
Woods Hole include those for defining and managing large marine ecosystems,
the region’s fishery
observer program (which collects scientific data aboard commercial
fishing vessels) and a resource sharing program with selected universities
— the Cooperative Marine
Education and Research Program. Just more than 10 years old, the
CMER program encourages development of marine science expertise at all
levels of higher education by supporting student and faculty research
projects of mutual interest.
The NEFSC also supports a field station in Orono, Maine, that
deals exclusively with cooperative efforts to restore endangered wild
Atlantic salmon to rivers and streams in Maine from the lower Kennebec
River north to the U.S.-Canada border. These include the Dennys, East
Machias, Machias, Pleasant, Narraguagus, Ducktrap, Sheepscot Rivers
and Cove Brook.
off the northeastern United States are some of the world’s best
studied and best known. As marine research becomes more interdisciplinary,
the understanding of the ocean and how best to manage its use will take
its next steps forward. These waters are ripe for such new approaches,
due largely to the wealth of long time-series data on which to base broad,
interdisciplinary work. An excellent example is recent work to model natural
variability on Georges Bank, which is combining wide expertise and large
datasets to understand the basic mechanisms of a defined marine ecosystem.
In the tradition of its forerunners, the NEFSC expects to be in the forefront
of new discovery, owing to the unusual concentration of information and
expertise it maintains.
Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Fisheries Historical Information
Marine Fisheries Service
Ship Albatross IV
Migratory Marine Fishes
NOAA's Fisheries and Ecosystems Monitoring and Analysis Division
Resource Evaluation and Assessment Division
Aquaculture and Enhancement Division
Ecosystems Processes Division
of Marine Ecosystems Studies
National Systematics Laboratory
James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory
James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory: Research Aquarium
Cooperative Shark Tagging Program
Marine Resources Monitoring, Assessment, and Prediction (MARMAP) Program
Woods Hole Laboratory
FISHERY OBSERVER PROGRAM
Cooperative Marine Education and Research Program
Fisheries Maine Field Station, Orono, Maine
NOAA Fisheries, (301) 713-2370.