National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Jackson State University Program in Fish Stock Assessment

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There is a great need to recruit and train students in fish population dynamics/stock assessment to meet the staff needs of state agencies, universities, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA/NMFS), and international aid agencies in order to more effectively manage our fisheries resources. The need prompted the U.S. National Research Council to convene a workshop in 2000 to discuss ways of increasing the number of fisheries stock assessment specialists in the United States. In 2001, NOAA and Jackson State University (JSU), a historically black institution, established a three-year summer program consisting of a four-week course at JSU and a four to eight-week internship at NOAA/NMFS laboratories. The program, the first of its kind in the United States, was funded by NOAA Educational Partnership Program. Students majoring in biology, mathematics, computer science, or related fields from various institutions were recruited and exposed to fisheries science, particularly fish stock assessment. Forty-one students from 18 institutions and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Pascagoula Laboratory participated in the short course; 23 of the students were undergraduates. Eighteen of the students interned at NOAA laboratories after taking the short course. Seven of the participants are currently in graduate programs in fisheries science/applied mathematics, four of whom belong to underrepresented groups. The program was subsequently expanded, and funds were secured from the National Science Foundation to conduct an interdisciplinary training of students in biological and mathematical sciences with emphasis on fisheries stock assessment.


Increased human population in coastal watersheds coupled with technological development has created environmental problems locally, regionally, and globally. The Pew Ocean Commission report (2003) and the U.S. Ocean Commission report (2004) have emphasized the influence of point sources from industrial/public owned treatment plants and non-point sources of pollution from land uses within coastal watersheds on water quality in estuaries/near coastal waters. These human activities impact living marine resource populations, recreational usage (swimming and shellfish harvesting), and aesthetics in these coastal water bodies.

As the human population increases, demand for fish will be much greater than current levels, and many fisheries in the world are already overexploited (NMFS, 1999; 2006). To meet demands for fish, we must (1) improve our fisheries management practices, (2) provide better estimates and minimize the discard and by-catch of fish, (3) assess and reduce the effects of fishing on the environment, (4) identify, protect, and enhance the quantity and quality of essential fish habitat, (5) increase our understanding of the influence of climatic variation on marine ecosystems, and (6) develop novel ways of increasing fish production via aquaculture. All these activities are essential for achieving a comprehensive ecosystem-based fisheries management (Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel, 1998) and will require the expertise of marine scientists, including individuals trained in fisheries stock assessment and management. There is, thus, a need to recruit and train students, especially individuals from minority populations in this area to meet the staff needs of the NOAA/NMFS, state agencies, universities, consulting firms, and international aid agencies, in order to more effectively manage our fisheries resources. The need for NOAA/NMFS to recruit scientists in this area is so great that a workshop was convened on July 17, 2000 by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) to discuss ways of increasing the number of fisheries stock assessment specialists in the United States (NAS, 2000). The shortage has also been considered so critical that NOAA/NMFS has developed a predoctoral fellowship in this area, and NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center has more recently (in 2004 and 2005) organized workshops in "Marine Resources Population Dynamics" for undergraduate and graduate students in collaboration with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. …


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