From floodplains to estuaries, nearshore habitats to kelp forests, urban waterways to rural streams, NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of our nation’s living marine resources and their habitats. The West Coast Region works within the coasts and watersheds of Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. Covering 317,690 square miles of the eastern Pacific Ocean, and more than 7,000 miles of tidal coastline, as well as the ecological functions within the states’ vast rivers and estuaries, we build sustainable fisheries, recover endangered and threatened species, maintain healthy ecosystems, and protect human health.
What We Do
The Sustainable Fisheries Division is responsible for conservation of fishery resources, eliminating overfishing, rebuilding overfished populations, maintaining healthy commercial and recreational fisheries, creating long-term economic and social benefits to the nation from living marine resources, and ensuring that harvest and hatchery decisions are consistent with the Federal government’s Indian trust responsibilities and treaty obligations.
We work with partners to manage salmon and steelhead, groundfish, and coastal pelagic species in ocean and inland waters. We also manage and work together internationally to make sure highly migratory fisheries are sustained and supported. We support salmon fisheries in the Columbia River and Washington Coast through funding and production of hatchery fish at Mitchell Act facilities, and we work with our international partners to fund and implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty. For West Coast groundfish, we employ catch shares and annual catch limits as a tool to rebuild fish stocks and promote healthy fishing communities. Our charge is to manage fisheries sustainably for future generations.
The Protected Resources Division is responsible for the oversight, policy direction, guidance and coordination of management programs mandated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We manage protected species along the West Coast from blue whales, the largest animals to ever live, to invertebrates, such as abalone that fit in the palm of your hand. These species are key elements of the ecosystem and are critically important for our culture, recreation, and economy. Recovery and conservation of ESA-listed fish species, like salmon, also support our sustainable fisheries goal by providing the long-term foundation for commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries. Conserving at-risk habitats contributes to ecosystem resilience.
There are approximately 50 ESA-listed species, distinct population segments, and evolutionarily significant units under WCR jurisdiction, including species of whales, pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), sea turtles, fish, and mollusks. Our ESA program supports a national focus on species needing immediate action to prevent extinction and species with identified actions that can be immediately implemented. Under the MMPA, we conserve and manage marine mammal populations along the West Coast.
NOAA has a multi-faceted role in aquaculture, from supporting science and research to federal policy-making and regulation. The West Coast Region works closely with regional tribes, the states of Washington, Oregon, and California, the aquaculture industry, and non-governmental organizations to improve opportunities to grow marine products, such as fish, shellfish, and algae locally. We also work with our partners to responsibly restore populations of native Olympia oysters, pinto abalone, and Pacific salmon.
The WCR’s Area Offices—California Coastal, California Central Valley, Interior Columbia Basin, and Oregon and Washington Coastal—carry out integrated watershed-based approaches by focusing on the conservation of anadromous fish, their habitats, and the ecosystems on which they depend.
Specifically, these offices implement protections and conservation efforts under the Endangered Species Act, essential fish habitat (EFH) provisions under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and actions under the Federal Power Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act in their geographic areas. These offices consult with Federal, Tribal, and State agencies on actions that may adversely affect protected species or EFH, as well as on projects to improve fish passage or habitat conditions for managed and protected species. They also develop science-based strategies and effective partnerships to recover and conserve West Coast trust resources. This includes developing and implementing salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon recovery plans, with a particular focus on habitat.
Regional Administrator’s Office
The RAO establishes WCR policies, procedures, principles, and priorities. It also oversees and coordinates several cross-division activities, such as communications, aquaculture, and National Environmental Policy Act review that requires coordination among multiple offices and locations throughout the WCR.
The Communications & External Affairs Branch creates compelling stories/content, graphics, presentations, brochures, and literature that engage stakeholders, promote understanding of NOAA Fisheries’ trust resources, convey the science behind our decisions, and advance NOAA Fisheries’ mission. The Branch works with staff throughout the region to help share knowledge, build understanding, and recognize achievements from NOAA Fisheries stewardship activities on the West Coast. Its expertise includes online information and design, intergovernmental relations, education, tribal relations, media relations, and social media.
Operations, Management, and Information Services Division
The Operations, Management, and Information Services Division supports WCR operations through budget planning, formulation, and execution; human resources management (including Equal Employment Opportunity and diversity); oversight of administrative processes; management of information, information technology, and communications systems; and management of environmental compliance, travel, facilities, safety, and property.
Barry Thom has worked extensively on salmon recovery in the Columbia River basin and West Coast, including managing the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, and convening the Columbia Basin Partnership, a collaborative process to establish long-term goals for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. Barry is also the U.S. Commissioner to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, serving as head of the U.S. delegation and as lead U.S. negotiator responsible for potential resolutions for tuna and tuna-like species.
Scott Rumsey, Ph.D.
Dr. Scott Rumsey is the Deputy Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. Scott has also served as the program manager for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund since 2009. Prior to his current role, Scott was the Portland (Oregon) Branch Chief for the Protected Resources Division, supervising Endangered Species Act status reviews, listing determinations, critical habitat designations, protective regulations, and scientific research permitting for West Coast marine and anadromous species.