About Environmental Research Division

The Environmental Research Division (ERD) is a research unit of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Southwest Fisheries Science Center. The group was formed in 1969 to develop data bases and to conduct research on fishery-related effects of natural environmental variability over a broad range of scientific, management, and operational concerns of the government and the fishing industry of the United States.

In addition to its research mission, ERD distributes environmental index products and time series data bases to cooperating researchers, taking advantage of its long association with the U.S. Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center.

ERD is also the west coast regional site for the NOAA CoastWatch program, which provides rapid dissemination of satellite observation data to governmental, academic, commercial, and public users.


The Environmental Research Division of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center will provide innovative science-based analyses, products, and information on environmental variability to meet the research and management needs of the SWFSC, NMFS, and NOAA, and will serve the agency’s mission of stewardship of living marine resources and the promotion of healthy ecosystems.


Assess, understand, and predict the effects of climate and environmental variability - from global to local scales – that are important to fish populations, protected species, and marine ecosystems; and deliver integrated scientific information for sound decision-making and ecosystem management.

ERD’s objectives and strategies are to:

  • Provide appropriate science-based environmental analyses, products, and information to the SWC and its fishery scientists and managers, as a means to developing more effective ecosystem approaches to management;
    • Understand and describe the effects of environmental variability on oceanographic processes important to the abundance, distribution, and availability of fish populations, the well-being of marine protected species, and marine ecosystem production and structure;
    • Account for natural environmental variability that obscures anthropogenic signals, essential for managing human impacts on marine ecosystems;
    • Specify links between climate change and marine ecosystem dynamics, and develop the means to effectively assess and predict the impacts of climate variability on marine ecosystems and their populations.
  • Enhance the stewardship of marine populations in the California Current ecosystem - and other relevant marine ecosystems - by understanding and describing environmental variability, the processes driving this variability, and its effects on the production of living marine resources and ecosystem structure and function;
    • Use new approaches and technologies to characterize and assess marine fisheries environment, and the impacts of climate variability on marine ecosystems;
    • Develop environmental-dependent and ecosystem-based analyses and simulation models of fishery resources that will assist in the transformation to regional ecosystem fishery management of the California Current ecosystem;
    • Engage, advise, and inform NMFS scientists in developing methods and approaches for explicitly incorporating marine environmental data in fisheries assessments and ecosystem models.
  • Provide science-based environmental data and products for fisheries research and management, to a diverse customer base of researchers, decision-makers, and the public;
    • Investigate and develop environmental indices, integrated assessments, and other fishery-relevant information and databases, and explore new technologies to distribute them to fishery scientists and managers and other users;
    • Partner with NOAA and external integrated, multi-purpose observation and data management systems;
    • Engage, advise, and inform customers on science-based options for effective applications of environmental data and information for integrated marine ecosystem assessments and forecasts.


Formed in 1969 as the Pacific Environmental Group, later known as the Pacific Fisheries Environmental Laboratory (PFEL), the strategic location of the SWFSC Environmental Research Division on the Monterey Peninsula is based on the long-standing association with the U.S. Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center. This close relationship gives NMFS access to the global environmental data base, from which ERD develops and disseminates data sets and associated products and environmental indices relevant to fisheries and marine ecosystems. Fisheries scientists and resource managers use these products to characterize ocean properties and processes occurring within fishery habitats.

Over the past three and one-half decades, ERD has enjoyed an illustrious history. It is recognized nationally and internationally for excellence in research related to understanding environmental variability affecting marine fisheries over a broad range of scientific, management, and operational concerns, and for distributing environmental products and data bases that are critical to marine and climate research. The two-fold tradition of Data Service and Research continues at ERD, responding to the mission and priorities of NMFS and NOAA.

ERD’s organizational goals and strategies have evolved from this original dual emphasis at PFEL on physical oceanography and data products, to a strongly mission-driven, research-oriented program that addresses elements of the NOAA and NMFS Strategic Plans. We continue this strong tradition of providing oceanographic and environmental data, research, analyses, information, and knowledge, as well as advanced scientific and computing technologies, in support of fisheries research, assessment, management, and decision-making needs critical to the task of sustaining fisheries and ecosystem biodiversity, and protecting sensitive species. ERD is strategically positioned to respond to new challenges and opportunities to the agency, including participation and leadership in broad collaborative programs such as the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), the Pacific Coastal Ocean Observing System (PaCOOS), the Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) program, the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), and the Census of Marine Life (CoML).

ERD continues to focus on these areas:

  • A modern Data Service Program to provide science-based, globally-integrated, fisheries-relevant environmental data, products, and information to meet the research and management needs of NMFS and our diverse group of data product customers;
  • A flexible Research Program to assess, understand, and predict climate and environmental variability and its impacts on marine fish populations and ecosystems, to serve the mission of SWC, NMFS and NOAA.


Last modified: 2/2/2015