NOAA Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) conducts cutting-edge scientific research to support the management and conservation of domestic and international living marine resources. Established in 1964 to study the sardine and tuna fisheries of the U.S. west coast, the SWFSC provides scientific information to support fisheries management and the conservation of protected species in the California Current, throughout the Pacific Ocean and in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica.
The mission of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center is to generate the scientific information necessary for the conservation and management of the region’s living marine resources.
The SWFSC is the research arm of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in the Southwest Region. Center scientists conduct marine biological, economic and oceanographic research, observations and monitoring of living marine resources and their environment. Center scientists also conduct research on the impacts of environmental variability and climate change on marine ecosystems and on fishery and conservation socio-economics. The ultimate goal of these scientific efforts is to ensure that the region's marine and anadromous fish, marine mammal, marine turtle, seabird, and invertebrate populations remain at sustainable and healthy levels, as functioning parts of their ecosystem and to enhance the quality of life for the public.
Responsibilities include maintaining healthy fish stocks for commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing; conserving and recovering populations of protected species; sustaining ecosystem services; and coordinating with domestic and international organizations to implement and monitor fishery agreements and treaties.
SWFSC scientists conduct research mandated by several U.S. legislative acts including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the International Dolphin Conservation Protection Act, and the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Act. This research provides scientific advice in support of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and in support of many international fisheries councils, commissions and conventions (e.g., the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Council, International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, International Whaling Commission, International Dolphin Conservation Program Act, Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources).
In early 2012, the NOAA Fisheries Chief Scientist asked all Science Centers to revise or develop new strategic science plans. These plans are to be organized by research themes and foci, include infrastructure and support needs, and developed for a 5-year period. The primary goal of these strategic plans is to improve responsiveness to agency and constituent needs and effectively use resources to meet highest priority core mission responsibilities. Read the SWFSC strategic science plan here:
Southwest Fisheries Science Center Strategic Science Plan (PDF) Southwest Fisheries Science Center Strategic Science Plan Summary (PDF)
Research Scope and Strengths
The SWFSC provides national and international leadership and innovation in several key areas of fisheries and marine mammal science and management:
Monitoring and Assessment
- Evaluations and stock assessments of coastal pelagic species (sardine, anchovy, market squid, and krill), highly migratory fishes (tuna, albacore, shark, and billfish), Pacific coast groundfish and salmon, invertebrates (abalone), marine mammals and marine turtles provide scientific advice in support of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and many international fisheries commissions and conventions.
Ecoystem Observations and Climate Change
- NOAA’s longest time series and largest scale ecosystem-based monitoring surveys in the California Current, Eastern Tropical Pacific and Southern Ocean provide the scientific information for ecosystem-based management of living marine resources in a changing climate.
- Assessment and prediction of the effects of climate and environmental variability - from global to local scales - that is important to fish populations, protected species, and marine ecosystems.
- Development of web-based access to a wide variety of oceanographic and biological data (at present some 20 Terabytes of data from almost 300 different datasets can be accessed) providing the most powerful interface to major marine, atmosphere and remote sensing datasets on the web today.
Innovation and Technological Development
- Research and development of Advanced Survey Technology in acoustics and optics for fisheries, protected species and habitat studies and the operation of NOAA’s only instrumented autonomous underwater vessel (AUV).
- Research and development of passive acoustics methods for the detection of marine mammals during line transect surveys and novel analytical methods to identify species of marine mammals from their sounds.
- Advancement of molecular ecology studies and the world’s largest collection of marine mammal, marine turtle and California Current fish tissue used to determine population structure and the “units to conserve” using state-of-the-art genetic methods.
Design and Implementation of New Paradigms in Fisheries Management
- Pioneering innovative socio-economic solutions to trans-boundary and trans-national ecosystem-based fisheries management issues and leadership in international conservation economics.
- Design and implementation of new strategies for the management of marine mammals based on the precautionary principle incorporated into the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
- Development and successful implementation of ecosystem-based management in Antarctica for the conservation objectives of the Antarctic Treaty through a precautionary approach which minimizes risk associated with harvesting practices and takes into account the needs of dependent predators and climate variability.
Education, Capacity Building and Public Engagement
- Education and training of the next generation of marine resource scientists, managers and conservation biologists in partnership with the nation’s leading marine research universities.
- Opportunities for capacity building through collaborative research and training with scientists and students from the global marine community.
- Engagement of the public and interactions with stakeholders on a regular basis to develop an informed community, most recently through a large public art and outreach project, “Green Seas, Blue Seas: The California Current, Climate Change and Sustainable Fisheries”.