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Evolving Science and Surveys in the Birthplace of NOAA Fisheries

May 05, 2022

Dive into the diverse science collected in the Northeast region and learn about the historic origins of Woods Hole, which today is an epicenter of oceanography and home to several institutions, including the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

 Color image taken during daylight from the upper deck of a research vessel, facing toward the rear of the vessel as it sails through a canal. Land is visible on each side of the canal, and the ship leaves a wake in the water. Two steel framed bridges are in the image. The ship has just passed under the bridge used by vehicles. The railroad bridge is in the distance. View over the stern of the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, exiting the Cape Cod Canal headed east toward Provincetown, Mass. at the beginning of Leg 3 of the 2021 Northeast Fisheries Science Center fall bottom trawl survey. The two bridges spanning the canal are used by trains (background) and vehicle traffic (foreground). Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katelyn Depot.
Original lab building.
U.S. Fish Commission residence building from ‘Garbage Beach,’ Woods Hole Massachusetts, about 1925.

Editor's Note December 4, 2023: Endangered North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction. There are approximately 360 individuals remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females. Human impacts continue to threaten the survival of this species.

There’s a strong case that the birthplace of U.S. oceanography is Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a little coastal village in Cape Cod at the point closest to Martha’s Vineyard. The nation’s first federal conservation agency was founded there in 1871. That agency would ultimately become NOAA Fisheries, the body tasked with regulating and protecting our marine resources.

In this episode of Dive In With NOAA Fisheries, we continue our series on surveys and data collection with a look at the Northeast region and the historic origins of Woods Hole. Today, it's an epicenter of oceanography and home to several institutions, including the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. John Sheehan speaks with Dr. Jon Hare, the Director of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, about the center’s mission, history, and the challenges it’s facing today. From spring and fall trawl surveys and long line surveys to aquaculture research, a whole suite of marine mammal surveys, and passive acoustics, our scientists conduct a truly amazing breadth of science within Northeast waters. 

Two color images side-by-side. At left a spidery, transparent lobster larva about two inches long is held by its tail  between the thumb and middle finder of the researcher. Its eyes, body and legs are clearly visible. At right, the same animal is laid flat on its back on a steel counter, its eye stalks and legs splayed out to see them clearly.
Larval lobster found on 2022 Spring Bottom Trawl Survey. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Megan Barry
Breaching Right whale, bubbles.
Right whale breaching. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christin Khan

Endangered North Atlantic right whales primarily occur in Atlantic coastal waters on the continental shelf. They also are known to travel far offshore, over deep water. North Atlantic right whales were hunted nearly to extinction in the early 19th century, and today there are fewer than 350 remaining, and not even 100 breeding females.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to trying to conserve and rebuild North Atlantic right whale populations. John Sheehan also speaks with Dr. Danielle Cholewiak, a leader for the large whale program and a protected species branch at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. She explains how technology has evolved to help us study these endangered creatures.

Last updated by Office of Communications on May 09, 2024