History of NOAA Fisheries in the Northeast
The nation's first federal conservation agency was initiated in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1871. The agency was devoted to the protection, study, management, and restoration of fish.
Conserving America's Living Oceans Since 1871
- The nation's first federal conservation agency was initiated in 1871. It was devoted to the protection, study, management, and restoration of fish.
- This agency was the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, which was usually just called the Fish Commission.
- Later it was renamed the Bureau of Fisheries, and still later it became the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.
- Today its direct descendant is NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, now known as NOAA Fisheries.
Woods Hole as a center of marine science was conceived and developed largely by one man, Spencer Fullerton Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian at the time. He was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1871 as the first U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries. See NOAA Fisheries Historical Highlights: A Timeline for a detailed account of how the agency developed over time.
Since its beginning in 1871, Fisheries has had many research vessels that sailed out of Woods Hole. From 1880 and the Fish Hawk which was the first floating marine hatchery, to the Henry B. Bigelow and the Gloria Michelle which sails today.
- Fish Hawk (1880) was an ocean-going marine fish hatchery outfitted for general scientific research. It sailed out of Woods Hole for 46 years. Learn more about the Fish Hawk »
- Grampus (1886) was a schooner built for fisheries research. This boat's design was revolutionary and it changed the way fishing schooners were built. Learn more about the Grampus »
- Albatross (1882/83) was the first research vessel ever constructed exclusively for fisheries research. Learn more about the first Albatross »
- Albatross II (1926) started out as the ocean tug Patuxent, obtained from the Navy. It was renamed the Albatross II and outfitted for research use. Learn more about the Albatross II »
- Phalarope (1930s) was a small coal-burning steamer used for day long collecting trips around the waters of Woods Hole. Learn more about the Phalarope »
- Albatross III (1948), originally named the Harvard, was built in 1926 as a steam trawler. It fished New England waters until 1939 when she was sold by the General Seafoods Corporation to the Government for $1.00 to be converted into a fisheries research vessel. Learn more about the Albatross III »
- Albatross IV (1962) was designed to meet the operational requirements developed by the staff at the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries' (now NOAA Fisheries) biological lab at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Learn about the Albatross IV »
- Delaware II (1968) conducted fishery and living marine resource research in support of NOAA Fisheries' Northeast Fisheries Science Center in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, and the continental shelf and slope from Southern New England to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Learn about the Delaware II »
Historical Articles and Links
- Fisheries Historical Highlights: A Timeline is a detailed history of Fisheries-related events by decade
- Brief History of Groundfishing in New England follows the development of groundfishing throughout the 20th century
- Historical Development of Fisheries Science reviews the development of fishery science and management
- A Quick History of Woods Hole and the early days of the Fisheries starts when Bartholomew Gosnold first arrived in 1602
- Smithsonian's Spencer Baird archive
- Vinal Nye Edwards's obituary
- R/V Albatross III Research Program (PDF; 7 p) describes the first year of operation
- Online version of Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, first published by Bigelow & Schroeder in 1953
- Report upon the Invertebrate Animals of Vineyard Sound and the Adjacent Waters, with an Account of the Physical Characters of the Region—Report of United States Commissioner of Fisheries, 1874
Historical Photos Archive
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center houses a collection of historical photographs. They provide a visual description of the U.S. Fish Commission, starting when the lab was first founded in 1871 in Woods Hole and continuing through to present time. The photos are mostly of New England fisheries scenes.
NOAA Photo Collection
NOAA Central Library has thousands of historical photos from the weather service, Fisheries, Geological Survey and much more, dating back more than 100 years.