New England and the Mid-Atlantic have a long and storied history of fishing, beginning with the Native American tribes who celebrated annual fish runs, and continuing with the colonial settlers, the whalers, and the modern fishing fleet.
Fishing still defines our culture today, with lobsters, sea scallops, crabs, and a variety of fish filling our menus and attracting tourists from all over the world. New Bedford, Massachusetts, has been the highest value port in the United States for 16 consecutive years, thanks to the lucrative scallop fishery. Recreational fishing is a popular pastime, contributing $4.3 billion to our economy. Many fishermen still fish in the same places and for the same species as their ancestors hundreds of years ago.
Our work to ensure sustainable fisheries and protect marine life is a joint effort of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and Northeast Fisheries Science Center, offering sound science to help inform management decisions in an ever-changing environment.
Conservation & Management
The Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office is responsible for the science-based stewardship of the nation’s living marine and diadromous resources and their habitats throughout approximately 100,000 square miles of the northwest Atlantic. The region encompasses the large marine ecosystem from Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; the Great Lakes; and the rivers and estuaries within this range.
We work on 14 active fishery management plans with the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, managing both recreational and commercial fishing. We also work with international partners on transboundary stocks.
We protect marine animals listed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, and work to ensure their survival for future generations in three programs: Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles, Endangered Species Consultations (Section 7), and Listed Fish and Species of Concern.
We protect and restore habitats that support our nation’s fisheries. We identify essential fish habitat and work with other federal agencies and the regional fishery management councils to protect these vulnerable areas.
Aquaculture is the third most valuable fishery in the region in terms of economic revenue, behind scallops and American lobster. Landings from marine aquaculture (predominantly Atlantic salmon and oysters, but also clams, mussels, and other species) totaled approximately $219 million in 2013.
We administer a broad range of grants, financial assistance, and program partnership activities to support our core mission.
With a staff of port agents around the region, as well as aquaculture and communications staff in Gloucester, Massachusetts, we share timely and accurate information with and listen to our partners and stakeholders.
Since 1871, when NOAA Fisheries’ first laboratory was founded in Woods Hole, we have conducted a comprehensive marine science program, studying fishery species and fisheries, monitoring and modeling ocean conditions and habitats, developing aquaculture, and providing reliable advice for policymakers. Our work promotes recovery and long-term sustainability of marine life in the region and helps sustain coastal communities.
Understanding the web of life in the ocean is central to our work to promote sustainable wild-caught and cultivated fisheries, and to conserve protected species in the Northeast Continental Shelf ecosystem.
Documenting fishery catches is critical for healthy fisheries. Although vessels and fishery dealers report on catch, a deeper understanding of harvests leads to more accurate stock assessments and more effective fishery rules. Specially trained fishery observers are deployed on fishing vessels to collect a wide range of biological and statistical information on catch, discards, and vessel operations.
Partnering with Industry
The Northeast Cooperative Research Branch brings fishermen and researchers together in projects that require specialized knowledge. Results of cooperative research promote better science and management for fisheries, as well as effective communication and collaboration among fishing professionals in the region.
We conduct the world’s longest-running scientific survey of sea life and ocean conditions. For more than 50 years, researchers and volunteers have gone to sea aboard NOAA fishery survey vessels to collect fish and plankton samples, count marine mammals and seabirds, and take oceanographic measurements. We maintain a large dataset for understanding the age and growth of important species derived from biological samples.
Understanding the complex interplay of the ocean, the life it supports, climate, and resilience in natural and human communities is a tall order. We are well suited to study these connections within a large marine ecosystem.
The Woods Hole Laboratory is home to the world’s oldest public aquarium, which dates from the founding of NOAA Fisheries’ original laboratory in 1871.
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