About Fisheries Resources Division

Mission Statement

The Fisheries Resources Division (FRD) monitors fisheries, carries out stock assessments and economic analysis of fisheries, conducts research on environmental parameters affecting stock productivity, determines genetic structure of populations, carries out resource surveys, develops new technologies for resource surveys, and carries out research to improve the precision of surveys and assessments. The work is carried out on species managed or monitored under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan or FMP (sardine, Pacific mackerel, squid, bonito, and anchovy); the Groundfish FMP (rockfishes, hake); and the Highly Migratory Species FMP (albacore, and other tunas, billfish and sharks). These activities support the Pacific Fishery Management CouncilThe previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer management and U.S. commitments to international management of highly migratory species.

FRD Staff assess the biomass of Pacific groundfishes and valuable coastal pelagic fish stocks and evaluates biological and environmental factors that affect their distribution, abundance, and survival. The FRD also studies factors that affect the economics of the fisheries supported by these fishes. This work is done primarily in support of the Pacific Fishery Management Council The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer so that these resources and their fisheries can be managed effectively. Staff also work with Mexico and the state of California on cooperative assessments of coastal pelagic stocks such as sardine, mackerel, and anchovy. The information is based on trawl and ichthyoplankton surveys carried out on research cruises, environmental data monitoring, laboratory and field studies of early life history, physiology, reproduction of fish, and fisheries data gathered from various sources.

The FRD conducts basic fishery analysis and stock assessment research on tropical and temperate tunas, billfishes, and other large pelagic fishes such as sharks. This work is in support of the U.S. commitment to international management of tuna fisheries and to regional management of fisheries for billfishes and other pelagic species. The staff provides technical advice to the U.S. commissioners on the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer (IATTC) and to other U.S. officials. FRD scientists assess stock condition and abundance, determine effects of fishing on stock condition and the impacts of management decisions on the fisheries and resources, provide information on distribution and migration of sport-caught billfishes, monitor developments in the worldwide tuna fisheries, and develop analytical techniques to improve the precision of estimates of the status and health of large pelagic fishes.


Major objectives

  1. To develop methods for predicting year class strength primarily through novel measures of early life
    history parameters and ocean physics.
  2. To provide reproductive data needed for ichthyoplankton-based estimates of stock abundance carried
    out by the Division..
  3. To evaluate airborne lasers (lidar) as a method for estimating the abundance of epipelagic fish stocks.
  4. Develop alternate molecular methods of assessing: stock structure, growth rate, condition, and age
    when conventional methods are not applicable.
  5. Develop and evaluate population genetic models as tools for stock identification, and assessment of
    effects of fishing on genetic stock structure.
  6. Assess habitat and the value of marine ecological reserves as sources of eggs to "reseed" fished areas.

Approach and Methods

The task has a long tradition of innovation. Currently, we have a strong emphasis in four areas. First, the task has pioneered histological methods for measuring in situ spawning rates, fecundity, and maturity. These are pivotal measurements for ichthyoplankton-based estimates of stock abundance. In 1994 we completed a coast-wide estimate of sardine in cooperation with Mexico and presently methods are being developed for hake.

The second is developing molecular biological techniques as a way to answer long standing questions regarding the fishery resources of the California Current. The California Current can influence recruitment success by the physical transport of larvae, and by its influence on productivity. We are attempting to use genetic markers to determine the influence of current patterns on stock structure. We are developing molecular methods to determine the growth patterns of larvae and the impact of climate changes, including ultraviolet radiation, on the survival of fish larvae. We are also developing methods by which the unique genetic identity of a species can be used to identify fish larvae that can not be identified by other means.

A third area of innovation is the application of laser-based (lidar) technologies to estimate the biomass of epipelagic fishes from the air. The task provides the fisheries expertise in a partnership with NOAA's Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) engineers.

A fourth area is the scientific evaluation of the value of marine ecological reserves as a tool in fishery management. This involves intensive sampling of habitat-specific egg production combined with mapping and near-shore oceanography to evaluate optimal size and location of marine reserves to maximize their reproductive contribution to the fished population.


Why is this research important?

The authority for task activities include the NOAA Fisheries' Strategic Plan Objectives: 1) Build Sustainable Fisheries (biological measurements required for stock assessments of west coast groundfish such as hake, slope complex, and coastal pelagic fishes (sardine, anchovy, mackerel) and longer range studies of recruitment variability and unit stock questions; 2) Healthy Coastal Ecosystems Objectives (with projects including identification of essential fish habitats and reproductive output from inshore habitats). More specifically, biological measurements needed for management of hake and the slope complex, and the anchovy are required under federal fisheries management plans. Sardine and mackerel are managed by the state of California using information provided by FRD tasks and a federal management plan for these species (including squid which is pending).

The primary goal of the FRD is to contribute scientific knowledge to allow accurate predictions of stock size and allowable harvest for inherently unstable coastal pelagic species such as market squid and Pacific sardine that undergo extreme yearly fluctuations in recruitment success due to environmental factors. The ultimate measure of success is the proper adjustment of yearly harvest quotas that permit optimal harvest during good years while protecting the stock during poor recruitment years.

Another criteria would be the success of advance predictions regarding the relative abundances of alternative target species within a common gear fishery, (e.g. predictions of the relative abundances of market squid vs Pacific sardine based on recruitment success).


Products and Services

Estimates of economic value of fisheries. Abundance estimates for coastal pelagic species and groundfish. Improved stock assessment techniques. Recommendations for improved management and restoration of depleted stocks. Information regarding the genetic basis for stock identification, and the preservation of genetic diversity. Information on "essential fish habitat". These products are developed as peer reviewed scientific papers whenever possible.


Who uses the outputs or services? Upon whom is the project dependent for inputs?

The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program was established as a joint effort of the California Department of Fish and Game The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer (CDFG), the University of California and Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Marine Life Research Group (MLRG), and NOAA Fisheries. As such, all of the agencies depend on each other for funding and share information.

Information and reports generated by this program are used by (1) the Pacific Fishery Management Council The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer , (2) the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer , (3) State/federal cooperative management efforts, (4) U. S. government agents in fisheries currently or prospectively under international management, (5) U. S. representatives in international fisheries investigations (e.g. MEXUS-Pacifico), (6) government agents that manage marine mammals and seabirds (coastal pelagic species are the primary forage base), (7) other public groups concerned with near shore ocean management. We are the only molecular biology laboratory in the NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Region (SWR) and as such we provide expertise in this area for the entire region.


Collaboration with other facilities, personnel, agencies

The task is integrated and coordinated from the Division level to the international level. At the Division level, the task is integrated with other tasks in the Division as it is a major supplier of biological information for stock assessments and parameter estimates for Division-wide estimations of fish biomass. The task works also with the Fisheries Ecology Division in developing molecular genetic methods for identifying larvae in their fishery surveys. At the Regional level, the Division, as a supplier of economic products, works closely with Southwest Region habitat managers. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) level, the task works cooperatively with Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) in developing new aerial survey techniques, and with Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) in developing a cooperative program on hake. The CalCOFI program is a central integrating element for the Division as a whole, and is linked with state agencies including Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and CDFG. The task also has important new linkages with CDFG in the assessment and management of market squid and in the study of marine ecological reserves. Internationally, the task and the Division as a whole, has a leadership role in the study of small pelagic fishes. This has lead to research technologies developed by the task and Division being duplicated in other countries under international coordinating bodies ( PICES  The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer and GLOBEC International) providing a broad comparative information base for interpretation, or in the case of Mexico, the two counties working together on joint surveys of transboundary species (MEXUS Pacifico).