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Fisheries History: Spencer Baird's Legacy

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portrait of Spencer Baird /
Portrait of Spencer Baird

Actually, the roots of the U.S. Fish Commission lie deep in the Nation's history. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson discussed the Federal interest in fisheries in 1791, noting how fishermen had been devastated during the Revolutionary War and reviewing their importance in trade and as "a nursery for forming seamen."

Jefferson was not the only Founding Father or President interested in fisheries. Benjamin Franklin had made early observations of marine life, and his charting of the Gulf Stream allowed mariners to greatly cut travel time to and from Europe. And later, in 1822, John Quincy Adams collected and published a volume on "The Duplicate Letters, the Fisheries and the Mississippi" for the treaty negotiations at Ghent where protection of U.S. fishing rights had been of prime importance.

By the time that Spencer Baird was named Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1850, interest was also stirring in the European rediscovery of trout and salmon culture. Many believed that fish culture would help repopulate New England waters with Atlantic salmon, trout, shad, and other depleted species. And by the middle 1860s, a handful of New England states had set up small state "fish commissions" to explore the possibility of fish culture.

Baird began his own marine studies at Woods Hole, Mass., in 1863, and his later coastal excursions made him acutely aware of the fishermen's concerns about fish declines. In 1870, he persuaded Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry to allot $100 for his summer marine study with a 30-foot sloop borrowed from the Treasury Department. Later that winter, Baird drew up a plan for a Federal inquiry into New England's fishery problems, which led to the creation of the new U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, at first a Commission of one: Baird in an unsalaried position and operating out of his own home.

Congress' first charge to the Fish Commission in 1871 was to study the reasons for the decline of several New England and lake fishes and recommend solutions. But just a year later Congress gave it a new task -- fish culture -- and $15,000 to study and promote it.

By then, interest in fish culture had been growing for 20 years, and it was widely seen as a panacea for decimated New England Atlantic salmon and shad runs. Much of the Commission's efforts to promote fish culture were rooted in the concept as expressed by Baird's assistant, George Brown Goode, that it was far better to make fish abundant and cheap so they could be fished with fewer restrictions than to just pass stricter laws to protect fewer and fewer fish.

A related drive, fish "acclimatization," introducing new fishes to new waters, was also growing, and the new U.S. Fish Commission would play a major international role in both enterprises. In fact, fish culture would command the lion's share of the Fish Commission's program for nearly a century.

The new U.S. Fish Commission not only gave American fish culture a strong boost, it also spurred the establishment of state fish commissions. In 1871 there were only 11 small state fish commissions, but just 6 years later 26 state fish commissions were operating. In large part, this growth was due to Baird's advocacy of state commissions for more effective fish cultural work.

In addition, Baird and the U.S. Fish Commission became a hub of fish culture information and a major source of fish and fish eggs for distribution not only in America and Europe, but as far away as Australia and New Zealand. In a very real sense, then, part of Baird's legacy lives on in today's spectacularly successful fish farms for trout, salmon, crayfish, shrimp, catfish, and many other species -- a fast-growing multi-million dollar international industry.

The First Years: 1871-1896

When the U.S. Fish Commission began, America's primary fishing areas were situated off the east coast and in parts of the Great Lakes. The great fisheries of the Pacific coast states and the Territory of Alaska were virtually unmapped and untapped, and most major U.S. southeast and Gulf of Mexico fisheries were awaiting exploration and study by Fish Commission scientists.

Baird quickly organized the Commission's work into three categories:

  • Systematic studies of U.S. waters and fishes and their biological and physical problems,
  • Studies of past and present fishing methods and compilation of fish catch and trade statistics, and
  • The introduction and propagation of "useful food-fishes" throughout the Nation.

The first part comprised the Commission's pioneering biological, ecological, and oceanographic studies. First pursued off New England and in the Great Lakes, they would later expand to the Southeast, the Pacific coast, and across the Pacific into Asian waters.

G.B. Goode
George Brown Goode

Studies of fishing methods had more practical aspects. As George Brown Goode put it in 1880, "Fishery methods and apparatus must be examined and compared with those of other lands, that the use of those which threaten the destruction of useful fishes may be discouraged, and that those which are inefficient may be replaced by others more serviceable." Similar research today is producing better fishing nets and techniques to harvest only the species wanted and to exclude and protect creatures like sea turtles and marine mammals.

Likewise, the fish catch and trade statistics generated by Baird had practical applications -- particularly for Congressional reviews of international treaties or in the imposition of tariffs, and also as marketing guides for the fishing industry and for educating consumers.

But it was the third element, fish culture and introductions, that quickly assumed prominence. Congress' initial 1872 fish culture appropriation was $15,000, three times the amount allotted for the New England and Great Lakes studies. In addition, its scope was nationwide, and it fostered corollary research into fish physiology, embryology, diseases, and more.

To cope with the lack of Atlantic salmon eggs, Baird sent prominent fish culturist Livingston Stone to California in 1872 to search for a source of eggs of the "quinnat" or chinook salmon which was renowned for its great size and abundance. Stone soon built the first Federal fish cultural station on California's McCloud River from which salmon eggs were sent not only to the east and Gulf coasts but also around the world.

By 1880, the Commission's fish culture work was famous worldwide. At the International Exhibition in Berlin that year, the first-honor prize, a gold medal from the Emperor of Germany, was awarded to Baird partly to commend the Commission's exhibit but also to honor him as "the first [premier] fish culturist in the world."

Thus, the Commission's first few years set a research agenda which, with few modifications, served it well for over a century. In fact, many of the types of work started in the Commission's first decade are still fruitfully pursued in the protection and restoration of the Nation's fisheries.

Woods Hole Lab in the 1880s
Woods Hole Lab in the 1880s

For the first few years, the Commission conducted marine studies from a series of summer stations, the first set up by Baird at Woods Hole, Mass. Later summer stations were set up at Eastport and Portland, Maine; Noank, Conn.; Salem and Gloucester, Mass.; Newport, R.I.; and other east coast and Great Lakes sites.

Growth and change for the Commission accelerated in the 1880s. To pursue the Nation's high-seas fishery and oceanographic studies, Baird also needed a large, specialized research vessel. Thus, he inaugurated construction of the Albatross, a new state-of-the-art research vessel, launched in 1882, whose pioneering studies over the coming decades would open up new fisheries on both coasts and truly globalize U.S. biological and oceanographic research.

Further growth in the Commission's work also required a permanent research facility. Thus, the Fish Commission's new Woods Hole Laboratory, completed in 1885, became the first U.S. marine science station and the second such in the world after Anton Dohrn's famous research station at Naples, Italy. Initially, the Woods Hole Laboratory was a combination research station and cod hatchery.

Finally, in 1887, a great era in American science came to an end when Commissioner Baird died at the Woods Hole Laboratory on August 19th. He was succeeded temporarily by his assistant, George Brown Goode, and a few months later, permanently by noted fish culturist Marshall McDonald, the first full-time, salaried U.S. Fish Commissioner.

Albatross I in Alaska
Albatross I in Alaska

As interest grew in Pacific coast fisheries, the Albatross was dispatched in 1888 to conduct research from California to Alaska, along the South American coast, and into Asian waters as well. In addition, the Albatross was indispensable for patrolling and protecting fur seal herds in the North Pacific.

An immense and pioneering work on the nutritional values of fish -- another field in which the Commission and its successor agencies became deeply involved -- was published in 1888 by W. O. Atwater. Also that year, the Fish Commission was fully separated from the Smithsonian Institution. G. B. Goode had set up four formal divisions: Administration, Scientific Inquiry, Fish Culture, and Statistical Inquiry, and the latter was soon renamed the "Division of Fisheries," working on fishery methods and, later, on fish technology and marketing. Still, the agency's overall administrative framework would last almost unchanged for nearly 60 years, adding only an Alaska Division in 1911 and a Law Enforcement Division in 1930.

Much early Commission work was devoted to exploring the Nation's virtually untapped fisheries. This ranged from experimental fishing to helping develop new or improved fishing gear and techniques, perfecting new ways of preserving, packaging, and marketing fishery products, and developing new fish cooking techniques -- particularly for the new species being brought to market. Meanwhile, researchers studied various pollution problems. This ranged from helping fish processors properly dispose of fish wastes to studying the effects of industrial wastes and pesticides on aquatic organisms, and more.

In the 1890's, Livingston Stone, who had ranged the Pacific coast seeking the best sites for salmon culture, grew disillusioned about the prospects for the yet abundant Pacific salmon. Fearing they would go the way of the buffalo, he had proposed in 1889 a "National Salmon Park" for Alaska, and, on the basis of his recommendation, part of Alaska's Afognak Island was set aside as a "Forest and Fish Cultural Reserve" in 1892. Later, in 1896, Congress moved to regulate Alaska salmon fishing with net restrictions, closed seasons, spawning escapement requirements, etc.

Concerns also mounted in the 1890's for the future of the northern fur seal. In 1893, the Fish Commission was given responsibility for fur seal research, and the Albatross patrolled the Pribilofs and the high seas to ward off poachers.

Unfortunately, the Albatross was just one vessel in a vast northern sea, and law enforcement remained a problem.

A New Century: 1897-1921

Scientist in lab
Scientist in lab

The turn of the century; the Nation's "progressive conservation movement" era brought many advances: national wildlife refuges and national forests were being set up, and new laws were passed to protect the Nation's fish and wildlife resources, notably the Lacey Act and the Black Bass Act.

For the 30-year-old U.S. Fish Commission, it brought a new home. Formerly independent, the agency was renamed the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) in 1903 and placed in the newly established U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor. A year earlier the Nation's second Federal marine science laboratory had been built at Beaufort, N.C., and in 1905 the first Federal fish hatchery in Alaska was set up at Yes Bay.

Pacific coast fisheries and oceanographic research had greatly expanded with entry of the Albatross into the Pacific and saw further growth in 1909 as a Pacific Fishery Investigations group was set up at Stanford, Calif., under ichthyologist Charles H. Gilbert. And as Alaska fishery research and management progressed, the Bureau's "Alaska Fishery and Fur Seal Service" was upgraded to an operating Division in 1911. Then, in 1913, Congress separated the Departments of Labor and Commerce, with the Bureau of Fisheries remaining with the Department of Commerce.

While the Bureau had long worked to improve fishery marketing and product development, the onset of World War I and associated food shortages accelerated those studies. Bureau scientists at Woods Hole and other research sites emphasized the immediate increase of aquatic food supplies. In addition, Bureau research on the healthful and nutritive values of fish oils began during this era. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy commandeered the Albatross for WWI Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea patrols and occupied the Bureau's Woods Hole and Beaufort Laboratories for specialized war-related research.

Depression and War Years: 1922-1946

men working on dock
Men working on dock

This was an important era with new challenges for the Bureau of Fisheries, coming at the end of WWI and including the Depression years and WWII. Now the Federal government was promoting commercial fishing and wider use of fish as economic and health measures and to improve food production in a Nation under siege.

Research on oyster culture and the nutritive and vitamin content of fish oils continued to advance, as did concern for Pacific salmon fisheries. Congress passed the White Act in 1924 in an effort to reduce the salmon catch with fish traps in Alaska; that new law also set "escapement levels" to allow enough salmon to move upstream to spawn.

Research also began in the 1930’s on ways to pass salmon safely around new dams and water diversion projects on Pacific coast streams. And in 1930 the Sockeye Salmon Fisheries Convention was signed to address conflicts between U.S. and Canadian fishermen.

Fish marketing and promotion efforts also increased in the 1930’s. A new fishery market news service was set up, including publication of a monthly Fishery Market News journal. In addition, the growing role of law enforcement led to creation of a "Division of Law Enforcement" in 1930. Another major west coast Bureau facility, the Montlake Laboratory, opened in Seattle in 1931, and in 1934 the Columbia River Investigations Program was initiated to study salmon problems associated within the region's water developments.

By the late 1930's problems in the large California sardine industry led to establishment of the Bureau’s California Current Resources Laboratory (CCRL) to study regional fishery problems. Also, just before the War, Congress appropriated $100,000 for a 1-year study of the Alaska king crab, setting the stage for what would, after the war, become another important national fishery. The researchers also found enormous, latent reserves of sole and pollock off Alaska.

Fundamental reorganization came to the agency in 1939: The Commerce Department's Bureau of Fisheries and the Agriculture Department's Bureau of Biological Survey were transferred to the Department of Interior. A year later the fishery and wildlife units of both Bureaus were merged as “divisions” within Interior's new "Fish and Wildlife Service."

Likewise, during World War II (and also the Korean War), the Bureau's research aided crucial production of foodstuffs and other critical national defense missions and operations. Federal fisheries laboratories turned their studies to ways of supplying growing needs for protein, often from unusual forms of marine life, including sharks, sea lions, and other creatures of the sea. And with the onset of the nuclear age, Bureau scientists helped make new assessments of the environmental effects of radiation and began pioneering studies of the peaceful use of irradiation to preserve seafood.

The World War II era marked another type of milestone for the U.S. and global fisheries. Whereas a few nations had begun moving into international waters to fish before the war, that fishing effort mushroomed once the war ended. Increased fishing by European and Asian vessels and factory ships just off U.S. coasts posed a challenge for scientists, commercial fishermen, and diplomats as well. It was an entirely new era that, 25–30 years later, would result in new Federal laws, particularly the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) of 1976, to protect U.S. fishery interests and resources. But until then, it required far more research into the species fished and potential fishery problems.

At the close of the war, President Harry S Truman issued a proclamation asserting U.S. jurisdiction ". . . over the natural resources of the continental shelf under the high seas contiguous to the coasts of the United States and its territories, and providing for the establishment of conservation zones for the protection of fisheries in certain areas of the high seas contiguous to the United States."

Progress and Change: 1947-1971

fisherman with fish on pitchfork
Fisherman with fish on pitchfork

The late 1940's and 1950's brought additional programs, studies, and progress to the Federal fisheries agency. Many new fishing grounds were discovered, and better ways were found to fish them. Healthful benefits of fish oils continued to be discovered, as were pitfalls with such pesticides as DDT -- for example, their toxicity to fish and other aquatic life, particularly during early stages of life.

But perhaps the most important facet was international: Fisheries were fast becoming globalized. The United Nations was set up in 1945, as was its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Foreign fishermen found that they could use huge factory trawlers in "international waters" just 3 miles from U.S. coastlines, and two new international fisheries commissions were soon organized: the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). These new developments brought added responsibilities for enforcement.

In addition, U.S. fishermen opened their own distant-water Pacific fisheries, targeting tuna, and the 80th Congress, in 1947, declared a policy of developing and maintaining the enormous fishery resources of the tropical and subtropical Pacific Territories. Thus, the Bureau's Pacific Oceanic Fishery Investigations unit (POFI) was set up at Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, to explore, investigate, and develop those high-seas fisheries.

Fish promotion and “home extension" type work brought the Bureau added recognition, as its staff home economists created thousands of new fish recipes, put on countless fish cookery demonstrations, and helped large food service groups (schools, hospitals, military units, etc.) learn to use fish. Other technological research initiatives included a major study on freezing fish at sea, work on the still untapped walleye pollock in the Bering Sea, and a new technological research laboratory set up in Boston.

New mobile research laboratories, devised for special on-site investigations, were deployed from the College Park, Md.; Boston; and Seattle Technological Laboratories. Also in 1950, the agency's Pascagoula, Miss., field station was set up for Gulf fishing and gear research. Studies located new brown and pink shrimp fishing grounds, discovered a new royal red shrimp fishery, and helped establish a longline fishery for tuna and swordfish in the Gulf.

fishing boats at sea
Fishing boats

Meanwhile, Federal fishery research in the northwest Atlantic in 1951 found commercial quantities of tunas, leading to a new and growing east coast tuna industry. On the opposite coast, the Columbia River Fishery Development Program began, concentrating on fish passage problems at the river's large hydroelectric dams.

The middle 1950's was another period of progress and change. On the east coast, a British vessel, the Fairtry, became the first of the large foreign factory trawlers to fish in then international waters on the Grand Banks in 1954. Its success brought many other high-volume fishing vessels that spurred later declarations of 200-mile zones by northwest Atlantic nations.

That same year, the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act was passed. Under this law, money was earmarked for fishery-product and market research; fisheries development, including development and implementation of voluntary grade standards for fishery products; and other fisheries research.

Protection of North America's Pacific salmon from foreign fishing on the high seas became increasingly critical, particularly since little was known of the salmon’s ocean travels. A major study of salmon distribution in the eastern North Pacific Ocean began in 1955, and within 5 years their general distribution was firmly established and vital protective measures were initiated. Continuing talks with Japan led to an agreement in 1958 that Japan would abstain from catching salmon in the North Pacific east of long. 175deg.W; research continued to determine the proper dividing line to separate stocks of Asian and North American salmon.

In yet another major reorganization, the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 reestablished two Bureaus within a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF), the latter with an Office of the Director, an Office of Loans and Grants, and four Divisions: Administration, Biological Research, Industrial Research and Services, and Resource Management. Thus, the BCF was reformed with most of the types of units and duties of the original Fish Commission and Bureau of Fisheries, except for freshwater fish culture and sport fish research.

The new Fish and Wildlife Act specifically charged the BCF with helping the U.S. fishing industry by locating new fishing grounds, promoting trade and marketing fish, developing new foods and products from fish, assisting with new fishing technologies and vessel financing, and more. The Fisheries Loan Fund, for example, created in 1956, was increased in 1958 from $10 million to $20 million.

BCF work in the late 1950's identified new tuna fishing grounds in the northwest Atlantic, led to more efficient two-trawl rigs for the Gulf shrimping industry, and found new fishing grounds for Pacific ocean perch off Alaska and for shrimp off the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

On the international level, the first U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea was held in Geneva in early 1958. And for the United States, a new interim convention to protect the northern fur seals and a new protocol to further protect sockeye salmon of the Fraser River were also concluded.

Finally, in 1959, the Bureau's long-term management of Alaska's territorial fisheries ended as the new State of Alaska assumed that responsibility. BCF research and law enforcement activities, however, continued, as did its protection and management of the northern fur seal.

By 1960, the Bureau's original Woods Hole Laboratory moved into new buildings. The original structure, occupied in 1885, had served for nearly 75 years. The early 1960's also saw new research laboratories opened at La Jolla, Calif.; Sandy Hook, N.J.; and Milford, Conn. Meanwhile the number of fisheries attachés posted overseas increased to three, and the foreign fishery reporting program received regular fishery reports from about 90 U.S. embassies and consulates.

The 1960's also ushered in an even more aggressive era of foreign factory trawler fishing near U.S. coasts. However, cooperative research between Bureau scientists and those of other nations to assess the fisheries and identify potential problems and solutions also grew.

Salmon culture and research, early mainstays of the Fish Commission and Bureau of Fisheries, remained important, but for different reasons: emphasis swung to restoration and maintenance of runs on the Columbia and other western rivers, and also moved into salmon ranching and net pen culture studies, the latter now an important source of fresh salmon.

In the late 1960's, of course, the Nation's interest in ecology and the environment began to grow. Concern over marine and atmospheric programs led Congress in 1966 to set up the "Stratton Commission," formally termed the “Commission on Marine Science, Engineering, and Resources.” This group recommended a new "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency," leading a wholly new era for the BCF.

With President Richard M. Nixon's Executive Order 11564, the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was indeed created in 1970 under the Department of Commerce to use a "unified approach to the problems of the oceans and atmospheres." The BCF was then renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), placed in NOAA along with Interior’s marine sport fish research laboratories, and given a new mandate including the study and conservation of saltwater sport fishes and marine angling.

Primary NMFS functions were assigned to three areas: Resource Research, Resource Utilization, and Resource Management. And NMFS research was soon consolidated under four major units, the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and the Northwest and Alaska Research Centers, each with associated satellite laboratories.

1972-1996

crew member with shark on line
Crew member with a shark on the line

As the Nation grew in environmental awareness, the holistic aspects of marine research and ecology, pioneered in the 1870's by Spencer Baird, gained added impetus. NMFS published large volumes on ocean variability and the relationship of the ocean's physical and chemical processes to fish distribution, abundance, and stock composition. In the middle 1970's the new NMFS-wide Marine Resources Monitoring Assessment and Prediction (MARMAP) program began to collect uniform data for fisheries management and this information has been crucial to the ecosystems approaches later developed by the Fishery Management Councils.

New laws were passed to protect endangered species and the marine environment and its resources. These included the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and others. Research advances also brought new concepts and better understanding of the resources and better ways to protect and manage them.

And in 1976, Congress passed the landmark Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act the first real step toward comprehensive management of marine fishes. The new law set up eight regional Fishery Management Councils to manage the Nation's fisheries within the newly created 200-mile fishery conservation zone (FCZ).

Another new marine environmental research initiative was the Ocean Pulse and Northeast Monitoring Program which was later expanded nationwide as NOAA's Status and Trends Program in 1984–85. Others were the Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (FOCI) program, the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP), etc.

In 1985, the NMFS Woods Hole Laboratory was rededicated, celebrating a full century of marine fisheries and environmental research. And in 1991, NMFS published a new report, "Our Living Oceans," the most thorough assessment ever of the status and abundance of the fishes and marine mammals within the U.S. 200-mile EEZ.

Summary

Man holding large fish
Man holding large fish

Over the past 125 years, the NMFS and its predecessor agencies have played a crucial role in the development, use, and protection of the Nation's marine resources:

  • Its early work fostered and advanced the Nation's now huge aquaculture industry.
  • Its research into fish biology and ecology has greatly improved the assessment of fish populations and the ways to protect, manage, and restore them.
  • It promoted the establishment of many state fish commissions and their fish cultural work, research, and management.
  • Its assessment of the nutritional and healthful values of fish and fish oils have materially contributed to the Nation's food supply and health.
  • Its work has greatly advanced the safety and preservation of fishery products through research to prevent botulism, detect and prevent red tide problems, and more.
  • Its research into pollution and pesticide problems helped generate environmental awareness and protective measures.

When Spencer Baird set up the U.S. Fish Commission in 1871, the U.S. fishing industry was locally important, and fish harvests, preservation, transportation, and sales were limited. Lack of ice, cold-storage facilities, and rapid transit limited fresh fish sales to nearshore cities and local markets. Canned, dried, and pickled fish sales remained small. Most of the /products we see now in our fish markets were nonexistent.

But the Nation's fishery potential was huge, awaiting research and development to unlock it. Progress in fishery development began to accelerate after 1900 and moved far faster after World War II. The U.S. tuna industry is just one example.

Serious tuna fishing began in 1903 in southern California when albacore was successfully canned for the first time. Eventually, U.S. tuna vessels would roam farther and farther south during the 1920's and 1930's, finding the tropical tunas, yellowfin and skipjack, in great abundance, and by the 1930's, tunas were a major source of food. In addition, Atlantic Ocean tuna fishing became important.

Development of the U.S. tuna and other important fisheries has required exploration for new fishing grounds, creation of new fish products and markets, assistance in coping with foreign competition, finding better ways of chilling, freezing, holding, and packaging fish, and more. In addition, Bureau and NMFS scientists studied the oceanographic processes that affect the fishes as well as fish biology and behavior -- gaining information needed by commercial fishermen and for fishery management programs.

Today, American consumers are no longer limited to a few fish or fish products. Owing to NMFS research, our own U.S. fish products are sold around the world in many forms, and our fish markets provide a broad variety of fresh, frozen, and prepared food products from species from around the globe.

The Future

load of dogfish on deck
Load of dogfish on deck

As NMFS moves into 1996, a review of its 125 years of science and service reveals some surprising similarities with its early years:

  • The study of marine resources and ecosystems, home to our important fisheries, is just as important now as when Spencer Baird initiated such research in 1871.
  • Working with the people -- the commercial and sport fishermen, fish culturists and processors, and conservation and environmental groups -- remains a top priority of the agency.
  • Studying the biology, systematics, and environmental and habitat needs of the marine fishes, mammals, and other species continues to be important.
  • Working with various research and management groups -- Fishery Management Councils, State agencies, interstate commissions, and international bodies -- remains a key part of protecting America's fishery resources.
  • Researching and assessing the effects of various pollutants and disease organisms are still important agency tasks.

Today, most U.S. fisheries are at a mature stage, requiring research, management, and in some cases restoration. With its solid background of 125 years of biological and oceanographic research and achievements, the National Marine Fisheries Service is well established and ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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Baird's Legacy: the History and Accomplishments of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, 1871-1996, by W.L. Hobart, Editor. December 1995, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/SPO-18.

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