From killer whales slicing through waves to salmon jumping rapids on their journey home, marine life fills and defines the waters of the West Coast. Fishing the Pacific lifts spirits, feeds families and supports the economies of California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho with close to a billion pounds of seafood, worth nearly $1 billion, each year.
The ocean also shapes our communities and culture, from the colorful heritage of Cannery Row to tribes celebrating the season’s first salmon to return from the sea. Parents teach their kids to fish the West Coast’s 7,000 miles of shore and view such wildlife as elephant seals, sea turtles, sea lions and more. Our prolific bays and estuaries nurture Dungeness crabs, oysters, and other delectable shellfish prized around the world.
NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and Southwest Fisheries Science Center work together to apply the latest science to sustainably manage the rich marine resources of the region for generations to come.
On the West Coast and in the watersheds of Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho, we manage commercial and recreational fisheries for more than 100 species of salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagics such as anchovy and sardine, and highly migratory species such as billfish, sharks, and tunas. We work to recover and conserve threatened and endangered marine species and to enable domestic aquaculture production. The West Coast region represents NOAA Fisheries in international venues and domestically with federal, tribal, and state agencies as well as fishing and aquaculture industries.
On the West Coast of the U.S. there are more than 30 species of marine mammals. It's our responsibility to protect them throughout the region and within U.S. waters. Many of these animals are affected by human impacts and environmental changes. Several innovative programs are working to restore threatened and endangered marine animals.
Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries
Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries provide for commercial, recreational, and tribal harvest on the West Coast. Their broad geographic range and migration route, from the inland tributaries of the Pacific Northwest and California to the offshore areas of Alaska and Canada, requires comprehensive management. NOAA Fisheries works in cooperation with federal, state, tribal, and Canadian officials to manage these fisheries.
Salmon and Steelhead Hatcheries
Hatcheries are a tool to help support wild salmon and steelhead stocks and provide fish for harvest, so long as hatchery fish are managed in the context of our overall goals for threatened or endangered fish. Hatchery intervention can also help avert salmon and steelhead extinction—at least in the short-term. Hatchery best management practices bring together conservation goals with the implementation of treaty Indian fishing rights and other applicable laws and policies.
NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council oversee the management of more than 90 species of groundfish in U.S. federal waters. These stocks are harvested in both commercial and recreational fisheries off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. While the trawl fishery harvests most groundfish, they can also be caught with troll, longline, hook and line, pots, gillnets, and other gear.
The survival of protected species and important stocks for fisheries requires healthy habitat. The Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Act direct NOAA Fisheries to protect, conserve, and restore freshwater and marine habitats these species depend on. Quality habitat provides food, protection, and safe areas for spawning and rearing. Degradation of habitat can limit species' survival and undermine the integrity of the ecosystem.
Aquaculture contributes to sustainable seafood, working waterfronts, and restoration and enhancement of marine species. 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, states, the aquaculture industry and non-governmental organizations, to improve and expand opportunities to grow marine products, such as fish and shellfish.
The Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers conduct cutting-edge biological, economic, and oceanographic research, as well as observations and monitoring of living marine resources and their environments.Our scientists also study the impacts of environmental variability and climate change on marine ecosystems and on fishery and conservation socioeconomics.
Chinook Life Cycle Model Informs California WaterFix Biological Opinion
The Southwest Science Center is applying a bio-physical life cycle model to support the management of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The model results and analysis were recently incorporated into a draft biological opinion for California WaterFix. Sacramento River winter-run Chinook have been identified as a NOAA Fisheries Species in the Spotlight.
31st Consecutive Field Season in Antarctica
The Southwest Science Center successfully completed its 31st year of Antarctic field research. This research assesses the status of Southern Ocean krill and finfish populations and their predators through annual ecosystem-based studies at sea and at two field stations on the Antarctic peninsula.
Refining Wideband Echosounder Technology for Fisheries Surveys
The Southwest Science Center is leading the transition from conventional narrow bandwidth echosounders to wide bandwidth echosounders. Among other benefits, the wide bandwidth will increase the accuracy of acoustic-trawl surveys and facilitate the transition from single-species to multi-species surveys. The new technologies take advantage of the our state-of-the-art Ocean Technology Development Tank.
Tackling Ecological Resilience
A new paper by the University of Washington and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center aims to provide clarity among scientists, resource managers, and planners on what ecological resilience means and how it can be achieved. The study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first to examine the topic in the context of ecological restoration and identify ways that resilience can be measured and achieved at different scales.
Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey
For almost 20 years, the Northwest Science Center has conducted the West Coast Groundfish Bottom Trawl Survey to ensure the sustainability of marine fisheries with a focus on ending overfishing. The groundfish fishery includes about 90 commercially fished stocks off Washington, Oregon, and California. The survey provides data on abundance, spatial distributions, sex, length, maturity, weight, and age structure of groundfish in trawlable habitats.
Restoring Predators and Prey Together Speeds Recovery
A new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution reports that restoring predator and prey species together helps accelerate ecosystem recovery efforts. A team from NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University, UC Santa Barbara, and Imperial College London conducted the research.
As the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) slips beneath the surface of the water, Bob Pacunski takes the controls to navigate the ROV deep into Puget Sound. He and his crew are atop a boat from which the ROV was launched, its long cord reaching down to the