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Like its predecessor organizations, the BCF brought to NOAA a responsibility for developing and managing programs to define and identify solutions to the problems of commercial fisheries. It is important to note that this was essentially a scientific responsibility designed to foster conservation -- the wise use of marine resources. Specific management and conservation responsibilities would not be given to what is now the National Marine

Fisheries Service until the mid-1970's. Thus what the Bureau brought to the new Agency was largely a program of biological research designed to provide an understanding of the nature, size, behavior, and, most importantly, maximum sustainable yield of commercially-important fish stocks and marine mammals off the coasts of the U.S. Complementing this fundamental research program were Bureau activities designed to assist industry, ensure consumer safety and support U.S. responsibilities under international treaties and agreements. The Bureau conducted resource assessment surveys; maintained a national program of fishery statistics and market news; supported gear development and evaluation studies as well as fishery development research designed to find alternative uses for underutilized fish and shellfish populations; conducted a voluntary grading and inspection program -- paid for by the processor; and maintained a staff of marketing specialists and economists who provided services to Federal and state Governments, industry, and consumer organizations. All of these responsibilities and activities came to NOAA and, in large part, are still part of the Agency's marine fisheries programs.

The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries also brought to the new Agency a number of specialized facilities across the country. These included five regional offices in Seattle, Washington; St. Petersburg, Florida; Gloucester, Massachusettes; Juneau, Alaska; and Terminal Island, California; nearly 30 major laboratories and research centers and nearly 50 smaller installations and offices such as statistics and market news offices. The new Agency's fleet of Coast and Geodetic Survey ships was also significantly expanded by the addition of twenty-five research vessels ranging from 40-footers to the 214-foot MILLER FREEMAN. Many of these vessels are still in operation today.

Marine Sport Fishery Program [17]

The creation of NOAA also involved another element of the Department of Interior's fishery programs -- the marine game fish research program of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. Authorized in 1959 by P.L. 86-359, "A Study of Migratory Game Fish", this program represented much of the Interior Department's marine and estuarine research. Like the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, this program brought significant scientific capability to the new Agency. The Sandy Hook Marine Laboratory, built in 1960, represented a cadre of fishery biologists, conducting research primarily focused on the dependence of certain marine species on the near-shore and estuarine environments. At the time NOAA was created, the Sandy Hook Laboratory had recently begun a research program on the effect of waste disposal on the marine environment -- particularly in the New York Bight, and related investigations of marine fish diseases and their relationship to sewage and other waste effluents.

The Tiburon Marine Laboratory was established in 1962 in several buildings at the former naval base at Tiburon, California. In collaboration with scientists from the Sandy Hook Laboratory, researchers at Tiburon were early pioneers in the use of airborne infrared sensing devices to measure sea surface temperature -- an oceanographic parameter relevant to productivity and often used to locate fish stocks. Most of the Tiburon Laboratory's activities were focused on research on the ecology of shore and reef fish and studies of billfish stocks (e.g., marlin and sailfish), including a major tagging program conducted in cooperation with the Mexican Government and industry associations.

The third facility which this consolidation brought to the new NOAA was the Narragansett Marine Game Fish Laboratory in Rhode Island. Established in 1966, this Laboratory conducted research on big game sharks, the differentiation of races among game fish, experimental aquaculture, and marine game fish statistics. At the time of Reorganization Plan No. 4, scientists at the Narragansett facility were planning to begin broad studies of the impact of environmental factors like currents, temperature and plankton abundance on Atlantic coast game fish and to establish the Laboratory as a center for estuarine research in cold waters.

While a permanent facility was still under construction at the time of the transfer, scientists at the Eastern Gulf Marine Laboratory's temporary facilities in Panama City, Florida were conducting research on estuarine and onshore ecology in the South Atlantic and Gulf regions.

Office of Sea Grant Programs [18]

In October 1966, the President signed P.L. 89-688, the National Sea Grant Colleges and Programs Act to:

• provide for increased utilization of marine resources, including animal and vegetable life and mineral wealth in United States offshore waters, including the Great Lakes;

• develop skilled manpower, including engineers and technicians, and the equipment necessary to use these untapped resources; and

• provide greater economic opportunities -- including expanded commerce and employment -- for the enjoyment and use of the Nation's marine resources.

Responsibility for the program was assigned to the National Science Foundation which provided support for two types of Sea Grant activities. "Institutional support" was provided to major institutions engaged in comprehensive marine resource programs, including research, education, and advisory services. By 1970, nine universities had received Sea Grant Institutional support: Hawaii, Miami, Michigan, Oregon State, Rhode Island, Texas A&M, Washington, Wisconsin, and the University of Southern California. One of the most unique characteristics of the programs at these institutions was their multidisciplinary, interdepartmental approach to solving ocean and coastal resource problems. In addition, Sea Grant provided "project support" for individual research efforts in marine resource development at colleges and universities across the country.

Sea Grant support was contingent upon matching funds from non-Federal sources and this aspect of the program had, by 1970, helped entrain over 30 industries and a half dozen state Governments to participate in ocean science and technology programs.

As the name implies, the Sea Grant program was, in many ways, designed to provide an ocean resource counterpart to the Land Grant College Program. The most obvious analog was the establishment of marine extension services similar to long-established agriculture extension services. Also like the Land Grant Program, Sea Grant was actively involved in the support of undergraduate and graduate education of engineers and the training of hundreds of technicians at the two-year college level.

At the time of NOAA's creation, the Sea Grant program was undergoing a period of rapid growth. Funding for the program during its first four years had grown from $5 million in 1968 (although authorized in 1966, specific funding for the program was not provided until 1968) to $9 million in 1970 and the President's budget for fiscal year 1971 proposed a budget of $13 million.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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