NOAA 99-R140
Contact: Gordon Helm


NOAA Fisheries document lists requirements for new fleet of research vessels

A recently released report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service provides an action plan for gathering the data needed to more effectively manage the nation's living marine resources. Central to the plan is the construction of a core fleet of four highly specialized fisheries research vessels, administration officials said.

Fisheries research vessels form the heart of NOAA Fisheries' data collection program. At a time when data demands have escalated to unprecedented levels, vessels in the current fleet have aged beyond their useful lifetimes and are technologically obsolete.

"NOAA is responsible for the stewardship of one of the largest and most productive coastal fishing areas in the world," said Penny Dalton, NOAA Fisheries director. "To perform that mission, we must have the proper tools. Recent changes in legislation, management philosophies and scientific advancements have created new opportunities to improve fisheries management. Providing appropriate scientific support will enable NOAA to capitalize on these opportunities, to the economic benefit of the nation and integrity of our ecosystems."

Called the Data Acquisition Plan, the report describes NOAA Fisheries' approach to provide the best possible information upon which to manage the nation's living marine resources. The agency is charged with stewardship of these resources through science-based conservation and management and promotion of the health of their environment. At-sea fisheries research and monitoring is the foundation upon which stewardship is based.

The new ships are designed to take full advantage of technological advances in fisheries research. For example, acoustic quieting allows for more efficient and accurate hydroacoustic surveys of resources. Capable of conducting simultaneous fisheries and oceanographic surveys, the ships will enable scientists to study the relationship between fish abundance and the surrounding environment.

The four, modern fisheries research vessels, coupled with an increasing number of charters from academic and industry research partners, will provide the research platforms necessary to meet the escalating demands for at-sea fisheries and protected species data, used to make effective management decisions.

"Fishermen, environmentalists, and fishery managers all understand the value of accurate, timely data in making critical decisions that affect the environment and your pocketbook," said Dalton. "We now have a road map to reach those goals."

This report responds to a request by the Office of Management and Budget for a plan to outline how NOAA Fisheries' data requirements will be met over the next five years. A large number of factors were considered to achieve the maximum flexibility to properly manage a dynamic system in a dynamic environment. Some of the factors include the evolution of NOAA Fisheries' mission, the current state of its research fleet, effects of legislation on the natural resource stewardship process, changes in management philosophies, and impending technological advances. These changing factors will influence the way resources are researched, monitored and managed in the future.

The report also covers how decisions are made on what data are needed, how the criteria for data quality and quantity are established, and what tools are required to collect data that meet these criteria in the most cost-effective manner. Available research platforms were evaluated, including NOAA or other fishery research vessels, chartered fishing vessels and university ships.

The report is available for download on the Internet at:

As part of the NOAA fleet of research ships and aircraft, the new fisheries ships would be operated and managed by commissioned officers and civilians of the Office of NOAA Corps Operations. The NOAA Corps is the nation's seventh uniformed service.