NOAA 2002-045
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Increased use of innovative technologies and techniques such as hydroacoustics (advanced sonar), submersibles and the development of advanced modeling of environmental change effects are key elements of the five-year Strategic Plan for Fisheries Research released today by the Marine Fisheries Service of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The plan outlines the agency's science programs and funding needed to rebuild many depleted fisheries and protect essential fish habitats for the nation.

"One of our primary goals in the coming years is to determine the status of all the fish stocks out there that we know little about and this strategic plan will help us get there," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries. "We not only need to find out the true status of these fish populations, but we need to develop a system for baseline monitoring of all federally managed species and incorporate ecosystem considerations into stock analyses."

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) provides state-of-the-art scientific information on marine fish, mammals and sea turtles and their habitats, the fundamental cornerstone of successful state and federal fishery stewardship in the United States. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

Each year, the agency uses harvest and survey data to assess the status of the nation's fish and shellfish stocks. These resources contributed over $50 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product from commercial and recreational fishing activities in 2001.

To meet growing needs for comprehensive scientific knowledge about these important marine resources, NOAA Fisheries requested an additional $74 million for fiscal year 2003 to fund a new research vessel in the northeast and to improve fisheries research programs around the country.

Some additional priorities outlined in the plan include:

  • Collecting comprehensive biological data on more species and on the environmental factors that influence their health and abundance;
  • Expanding stock assessments to more adequately assess fish stock abundance;
  • Improving evaluations of social and economic impacts of fishery regulations on coastal communities;
  • Expanding observer programs around the country to monitor fish catches, incidental catches, and discard rates;
  • Conserving sea turtles and endangered large whales through further research of gear design types that minimize inadvertent catches of these animals.

The strategic plan calls for increased use of innovative technologies and techniques such as hydroacoustics (advanced sonar), submersibles and modeling. Hydroacoustics offer a non-destructive way to study fish stocks (biomass, population sizes, fish sizes), production, environmental conditions related to fish, and species interactions.

Further, NOAA Fisheries uses manned submersibles and remotely-operated vehicles to observe fish and their habitats in deep water.

During the next five years, NOAA Fisheries will develop advanced modeling capabilities to better understand how environmental changes impact fisheries productivity. The agency will also conduct more extensive mapping to identify essential fish habitats, assess bottom trawl impacts to these areas and more closely monitor coral reef ecosystems to better understand the interrelationships between marine life and environments and to monitor the health of the corals.

The public can learn more about NOAA Fisheries' research program in its Strategic Plan for Fisheries Research, a new document that illustrates how regional and national research plans work together and how the agency meets its goals. The new plan also profiles ongoing regional research on specific fisheries conducted by the NOAA Fisheries science centers and outlines how the agency will enhance future research efforts. To obtain a copy, contact Mark Chandler, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301) 713-2363 ext. 152 or download the document at:

NOAA Fisheries, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit