What We Do
We work in partnership with fisheries managers and constituents to provide reliable scientific advice that enhances the stewardship of living marine resources. We strive to advance scientific knowledge and promote diverse and sustainable fisheries through innovative research and development activities and the use of advanced technologies.
NOAA Fisheries’ stock assessments are key to marine resource management. They provide high-quality science information to managers to answer important questions such as:
- What is the current status of a stock relative to established targets? (e.g. Is the stock experiencing overfishing or is it overfished?
- How much catch is sustainable while maintaining a healthy stock?
- If a stock becomes depleted, what steps are required to rebuild it to healthy abundance levels?
Answers to these questions help managers make the best decisions to ensure sustainable fisheries, healthy ecosystems, and productive coastal communities. NOAA Fisheries’ scientists work with other scientists, fishermen, resource managers and others from around the country and world to ensure NOAA stock assessments represent the best science information available.
Scientists from the Sustainable Fisheries Division also conduct innovative research to better achieve NOAA strategic objectives, such as:
- Examine the effects of ecosystem, habitat and climate attributes on managed species.
- Explore opportunities for alternative management strategies that amplify the economic value of recreational and commercial fisheries, while ensuring sustainable harvest.
- Identify and develop approaches that foster robust management of data-limited stocks.
- Conduct research that advances our understanding of the biology of managed species, and the fisheries that prosecute these species.
Stock Assessment Process
Fishery stock assessments of domestic species are typically conducted under the SouthEast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) process. Search for specific assessment projects on SEDAR: Find by Species.
A stock assessment is the process of collecting, analyzing, and reporting demographic information to determine changes in the abundance of fishery stocks in response to fishing and, to the extent possible, predict future trends of stock abundance. Fisheries managers use stock assessments as a basis to evaluate and specify the present and probable future condition of a fishery.
Fish stock assessment models represent the processes of birth, natural death, growth, and fishery catch that affect the fish stock over time. Scientists calibrate the model by using observed data from fishery catch, fish abundance surveys, and fish biology. Conceptually, this is similar to NOAA’s National Weather Service dynamic atmospheric models, which use multiple weather observations to calibrate complex atmospheric models that forecasters can use to make informed predictions.
The Atlantic Fisheries Branch conducts stock assessments and related research on federally managed species in the U.S. South Atlantic (Florida to North Carolina) to enable their sustainable management. Some of the species assessed include: South Atlantic red porgy, red and vermilion snappers, black sea bass, tilefish, Groupers (red, black and snowy), king and spanish mackerels, menhaden, croaker, greater amberjack, gray triggerfish, cobia, scamp and red drum.
The Caribbean Fisheries Branch conducts stock assessments and related research on federally managed species in the U.S. Caribbean Territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to enable their sustainable management. Some of the species assessed include: Caribbean spiny lobster, red hind, blue tang, yellowtail snapper, queen triggerfish and stoplight parrotfish.
Gulf of Mexico Fisheries
The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Branch conducts stock assessments and related research on federally managed species in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (Texas to Florida) to enable their sustainable management. Some of the species assessed include: Gulf of Mexico red drum, speckled hind, red, vermilion, gray and lane snappers, (gag, red, goliath, snowy, yellowmouth and yellowedge) groupers, gray triggerfish, greater, almaco and lesser amberjacks, spanish and king mackerels, scamp and cobia.
Highly Migratory Species
The Highly Migratory Species Branch conducts stock assessments and related research on Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) to enable their sustainable management. Their responsibilities include: tunas, swordfish and other billfish, sharks, pelagic fishery bycatch and bycatch mitigation. They also actively participate in research and stock assessment activities conducted under the auspices of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and lead the United States scientific delegation to meetings of ICCAT's Standing Committee on Research and Statistics.
Data Analysis and Assessment Support
The Data Analysis and Assessment Support Branch serves the role of taking data from various federal and state databases, processing the data for use, performing analyses, and providing interpretation of results to clients, including SEDAR, ICCAT and HMS stock assessment modellers, fishery management Councils, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office (SERO), and other NOAA Fisheries offices. Branch staff develop best practices with input from data providers, stock assessment analysts, and clients and regularly share methods, tools and code used in all data analyses to facilitate adoption of best practices. The branch also maintains an archive of all activities and products in such a way to ensure repeatability and allow for easy continuity of operations. Staff also conduct research and development activities to improve software and automation tools, and advance the science of data analysis and our general understanding of fish, fisheries, and the ecosystem in our region.
Shannon L. Cass-Calay, Ph.D.
Shannon Cass-Calay is currently the Director of the Sustainable Fisheries Division. During her twenty years at the science center, Dr. Cass-Calay has conducted numerous stock assessments of marine fishes in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, including assessments of red snapper, red grouper, yellowedge grouper, vermilion snapper and king mackerel, as well as yellowfin, bigeye and bluefin tunas.