Fisheries Historical Highlights: 1980s

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Georges Bank map


On March 12th, scientists of the NWAFC Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division discover a large concentration of walleye pollock eggs in Shelikof Strait, Alaska, near Kodiak Island. In subsequent years researchers measure the spawning population and trace the movements of the eggs and larvae. This research has expanded into The Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (FOCI) program, a joint effort with NOAA scientists at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

The original FCMA is officially renamed The Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) in honor of Sen. Warren Magnuson.

The Mississippi Laboratories achieves success with its prototype satellite-linked sea turtle tracking tag in the Gulf of Mexico.

The NMFS Mississippi Laboratories Harvesting Systems Division develops the first turtle excluder device to prevent capture of endangered sea turtles in shrimp trawls.


NEFSC staff become part of the boundary dispute that had been simmering between the U.S. and Canada over how to divide Georges Bank in light of 200-mile EEZs claimed by both countries. Outlining species distribution, abundance, spawning areas, and traditional uses of commercial fishermen in the areas, the staff reports generated over several years formed the basis of the ICJ decision dividing the Bank.

The SWFC promotes cooperative interregional rapport on west coast groundfish research and oversees an NMFS technical committee to plan a groundfish conference as an annual forum for reviewing and coor- dinating NMFS groundfish research with the states, academia, and Canada. The first Groundfish Conference is held in Gleneden Beach. Ore. November 18-20

A computer-based albacore fishery and resource modeling effort is under- taken by SWFC staff and University of Washington contract scientists.

SEFC Charleston Laboratory

A major compilation of the research on the chemical composition and nutritive values of fishes and fish products is published by SEFC Charleston Laboratory scientists.

The Southeast Area Monitoring and assessment Program (SEAMAP) is initiated. It is a collaborative State/Federal University effort for collection, management, and dissemination of marine data from the U.S Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean regional waters.

New Lacey Act Amendments are passed to make it illegal to trade in fish wildlife, or plants taken in violation of any U.S. or Indian tribal law, treaty, or regulation.

The NMFS Northwest Regional Office moves to the first completed building at the new NOAA Western Regional Center at Sand Point in Seattle.


The Northern Pacific Halibut Act is passed to enforce the terms of the U.S.-Canada agreement prohibiting fishing by unauthorized foreign vessels.

The Southeast Region's SEAMAP Resource Survey begins in cooperation with the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.


The SEFC begins a series of research cruises to develop an effective strategy to understand latent or underutilized fishery resources. The studies help generate new fisheries for the Gulf butterfish and other species. Coastal herrings and associated species are estimated to have a potential yield of up to 5 million metric tons per year.

SEFC scientists develop yield-per-recruit models for the major species found along the southeastern U.S. coast and set the pattern for reef fish management by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils.

On March 10th, the FCZ is designated as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by Presidential Proclamation.

On August 15-18, the NMFS sponsors the Symposium on Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes in La Jolla, Calif., an international symposium dedicated to the memory of its late scientist Elbert Halvor Ahlstrom.


Dr. James Hanks steps down as Milford laboratory director after 22 years.

The NWAFC's Center Director's Office and its RACE and Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) divisions move to the new NOAA Western Regional Center at Sand Point in Seattle. The National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) also moves to the new facility.

On August 18th, a plane carrying four biologists from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory crashes into the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean during bowhead whale surveys. Miraculously, all survive.

The Eastern Pacific Tuna Licensing act of 1984 is passed to issue and enforce rules protecting designated species of tuna under the Eastern Pacific Tuna Fishing Agreement

The Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act is passed to assist in the conservation, restoration, and management of the species and enforce compliance with the Interstate Fisheries Management Plan for Striped Bass.

Cooperative U.S.-Japan squid surveys in the Gulf of Mexico are initiated at the NMFS Mississippi Laboratories.


An arsonist destroys the Sandy Hook laboratory building housing the research aquarium facilities, many records, and the library.

The NMFS Southwest Region signs the first Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA/NMFS for fisheries habitat enhancement.

aerial photo Woods Hole lab

The NMFS Northeast Fisheries Center's Woods Hole Laboratory is rededicated in August, celebrating its first century of research accomplishment and service.

SEFC scientists begin a new fish oil program to help the biomedical community ascertain the effects of the omega-3 fatty acid subcomponents on human health.


National Systematics Laboratory staff publish a paper identifying various species of spiny lobster from the tails alone. This was to address difficulties military purchasers were encountering with buying "U.S. origin only." The paper was reprinted by Osprey Books as a mass-market illustrated guide popular with processors and buyers.

The SWFC develops strategic plans for the joint SWFC-SWR-California Department of Fish and Game Marine Recreational Fisheries Program.

The Congressionally mandated, 5-year program to survey dolphin populations in the eastern tropical Pacific is launched, and the first expedition is carried out using two NOAA research vessels.

NMFS petitions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to seek affirmation of menhaden oil and partially hydrogenated menhaden oil as being Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), culminating 9 years of research into the chemistry of fish oils and the history of their safe use.

The Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act of 1986 is passed to distribute Federal money to the states for use in developing research programs to enhance the management of interstate fisheries.


A multi-year collaboration among NEFSC scientific staff and outside colleagues results in publication of a comprehensive atlas of Georges Bank, a benchmark work published by MIT Press under the title "Georges Bank"

The SWFC plays a vital role in the development and signing of the MEXUS-Pacifico agreement for fisheries cooperation between Mexico and the United States.

The South Pacific Tuna Treaty between the governments of certain Pacific Island States and the U.S. government is signed in Papua New Guinea, giving U.S. tuna fishermen access to over 10 million square miles of rich fishing grounds in the South Pacific.

NMFS signs a joint Memorandum of Agreement with the Port of Los Angeles for the largest wetlands restoration project (600+ acres) in southern California (Batiquitos Lagoon).

The Driftnet Impact Monitoring, Assessment, and Control Act is passed to monitor, assess, and reduce adverse impacts of driftnets on marine fisheries.

Using data collected by the Sandy Hook laboratory the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closes the 12-mile sewage sludge dumpsite in the New York Bight.

1987-88 John Pearce of the NEFSC chairs the New Jersey Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Incidents which leads to a State of the Ocean report, quelling rumors and misperceptions about the New York- Middle Atlantic Bight water quality.


The SWFSC receives the Group Award for Excellence from the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists, in recognition of the Center's outstandinq achievements in marine biological research.

The South Pacific Tuna Act is passed by Congress, implementing the treaty between the United States and various Pacific Island states, covering prohibitions and licensing procedures for tuna fishing and authorizing NMFS to carry out U.S. obligations under the treaty. The SWR establishes a field office in Pago Pago, American Samoa, to take species composition and length-frequency samples of U.S. catch from the Treaty area, inspect vessel logbooks, and facilitate the placement of observers aboard vessels.

The NWAFC is divided into the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center

The Maurice Stansby Fish Oil Biomedical Test Materials Laboratory is dedicated at the NMFS Charleston Laboratory.

The first comprehensive film on shrimp trawl design and performance is produced by the Mississippi Laboratories Harvesting Division.

NMFS receives a report of three gray whales trapped in ice near Barrow Alaska. For three weeks, NMFS leads an international rescue operation that allows two of the whales to swim free from the ice on October 28th.


New James J. Howard Marine Sciences Labratory - Sandy Hook NJ

A groundbreaking ceremony is held for a planned state-of-the art laboratory facility for oceanic and estuarine marine research to replace the Sandy Hook laboratory facility destroyed by fire.

The Coast Watch Program begins receiving satellite imagery of sea surface temperatures used to study and manage red tides and sea turtle/fishery interactions.

The winter run of chinook salmon in California's Sacramento River is listed as a threatened species.
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(File Modified Feb. 16 2018)