Beaufort Laboratory

A laboratory of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center.

Our Location

The laboratory’s proximity to Cape Hatteras places it near the associated zoogeographic transition zone between the northeast and southeast US continental shelf large marine ecosystems, as well as the Gulf Stream, which in turn corresponds with increased diversity of marine species.  Many fish species occurring in NC waters are estuarine-dependent coastal migratory species from northern and southern biogeographic provinces, taking advantage of NC estuaries, the second largest estuary system in the continental United States. Coastally, Cape Hatteras is the closest point of land to the Gulf Stream along the mid-Atlantic coast, concentrating pelagic fauna relatively close to shore. Offshore hard-bottom communities harbor a diversity and size of snapper and grouper species rivaling those of reefs in warmer water regions to the south.  Of the seven sea turtle species recognized worldwide, North Carolina provides foraging, overwintering, reproductive, and/or migratory habitat for four of these, with a fifth occurring as an occasional visitor. The biodiversity of marine mammals, 34 species from nine families, is higher than reported for other regions and ranges from tropical delphinids to pagophilic seals, estuarine resident bottlenose dolphins to migratory humpback and right whales.

We are co-located at the NOAA Beaufort Lab with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science in NOAA’s National Ocean Service and with the North Carolina Coastal Reserve in North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.  

Our Leadership

Management Team

Our History

The NOAA Beaufort Laboratory was founded in 1899 as part of the United States Fish Commission - it is the second oldest federal marine laboratory.  The site was recognized as important for marine science research as early as the 1850’s and the first continuous marine science program was established by John’s Hopkins University in 1880, using a building in the town of Beaufort.  The U.S. Fish Commission similarly established the lab in downtown Beaufort until Pivers Island was purchased for $400 in 1901; construction of permanent facilities on the island started later the same year. Until 1999, the laboratory was owned by the U.S. Fish Commission and its successor agencies (Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service).  In 1999, the facility was transferred to NOAA’s National Ocean Service.