- THE FIRST TEN YEARS
ten years of NOAA's existence was a period of substantial growth and
expansion -- a period which confirmed both the need for and benefits
of an agency designed to improve our understanding of the earth system
and its ocean and coastal resources. The Seventies saw the addition
of numerous new programmatic responsibilities, largely the result
of new legislation, which identified NOAA's role in national efforts
to protect and conserve our environmental resources. These were years
of intense environmental activity and NOAA's responsibilities were,
in many cases, both obvious and essential.
at the Agency's budget over the first ten years provides a sense of
the magnitude of the change this period brought. In 1971, NOAA activities
were funded at nearly $300 million. By 1981, the Agency was fulfilling
responsibilities requiring a close to $900 million budget. The Nation
and NOAA were investing in a future that demanded a better understanding
of how the oceanic and atmospheric systems defined the nature of the
environment in which we lived and the resources on which we depended.
The following chapter will highlight some of the more significant
events in the first ten years of NOAA's life.
task for NOAA's first Administrator was, of course, to design a management
structure which would effectively coalesce the numerous, disparate
programs and offices which were to make up this new Agency. By January
1971, an interim organization had been established around the following
six major programmatic components.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (managed through five regional
The Environmental Research Laboratories (composed of ten facilities
across the country);
The National Weather Service (managed through six regional offices);
The Environmental Data Center (composed of the National Oceanographic
Data Center, the National Climatic Center, and the National Geophysical
The National Ocean Survey (with Atlantic and Pacific Marine Centers,
the Lake Survey Centers, and a number of seismology and geomagnetic
stations and centers which supported NOAA's geodetic [Ed. geophysical]
The National Environmental Satellite Service (responsible for the
Nation's operational weather satellites).
the Administrator was supported by five line offices responsible for:
The NOAA Corps
The National Sea Grant College Program;
Environmental Systems (including the Data Buoy Project office, the
Marine Minerals Technology Center, and the National Oceanographic
program planning; and
administration and technical services.
organized, NOAA was ready to begin the challenges facing a new Agency.
As you might expect, this new Agency, with its numerous specific responsibilities,
would undergo several reorganizations during its formative years.
In some cases, organizational changes were associated with the enactment
of legislation (e.g., the creation of a line organization for Coastal
Zone Management); in other cases, organizational moves were made to
combine related activities and improve management efficiency. Each
of these reorganizations reflected NOAA's growth and maturity as an
Agency. As our understanding of the earth system and its resources
has grown, we have refined the management structure for the agency's
related science and service responsibilities. Now let's look at some
of the more significant moments, in NOAA's early history.
resource activities of NOAA, and the Nation, took a dramatic turn
in 1976. Often referred to as the most significant piece of
fishery legislation in the history of the United States, the Magnuson
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) established an innovative
new management regime for U.S. commercial and recreational fish stocks
within 200 miles of our coast.  Congress enacted the MFCMA in
response to declines in U.S. commercial landings and dramatic increases
in foreign catches off our coasts -- an area which supports 15-20%
of the world's traditionally harvested fish resources.  The MFCMA
established an exclusive U.S. Fishery Conservation Zone (between 3
and 200 miles off our coast) and charged the Department of Commerce/NOAA
with responsibility for implementing the unique, new management system
authorized by the Act. Regional Fishery Management Councils were established
to prepare management plans for each major fishery. These management
plans must take into account social and economic as well as biological
and environmental factors affecting each fishery; and identify specific
management objectives and the management measures required to achieve
those objectives. The MFCMA charged the Secretary of Commerce, acting
through NOAA, with responsibility for approving and implementing these
Fishery Management Plans (FMP's) and, along with the Coast Guard,
enforcing the associated fishery regulations. Thus, in 1976, NOAA
and the Department of Commerce acquired specific management
responsibilities in addition to the more traditional research and
information collection activities required to provide the scientific
underpinning for effective industry and management decisions. This
legislation, and the dramatic new responsibilities it brought, have
dominated the nature and focus of most of NOAA's fisheries programs.
In addition to "management and conservation," the MFCMA carries with
it a charge to enhance the "development" of domestic U.S. fisheries.
In many cases, this involves the increased utilization of species
not traditionally harvested by U.S. fishermen. NOAA responded to this
charge in the late 1970's by significantly enhancing their work with
other Federal agencies, state and local governments, industry and
consumers to develop such "underutilized" species. This effort has
involved, among other activities:
continued research on seafood product quality and safety;
the provision of information on domestic and international market
collaborative efforts with the State Department to remove barriers
to U.S. exports; and
support for the development of new technologies.
the late seventies, NOAA and the Department of Commerce have remained
committed to an appropriate partnership with industry and the States
in the development of U.S. fishery resources.
of heightened environmental awareness which characterized the 1970's
brought with it a greater understanding of the critical role that
coastal and estuarine habitats play in the life support system of
many commercially important fish stocks.
the seventies saw the establishment of a strong "habitat protection"
program in NOAA. The nature of NOAA's activities in this area has
largely been determined by statutory requirements for NOAA analyses
and comments on the environmental impacts of federal activities including:
Environmental Impact Statement requirements of the National Environmental
Protection Act, construction projects by the Army Corps of Engineers;
dredge and fill permits associated with coastal development; and waste
discharge permits under the Clean Water Act. Fulfilling these requirements
involved the development and maintenance of strong NOAA research programs
on the habitat requirements of important species and consistent monitoring
of the quality of the marine environment.