Pacific Fisheries Environmental Laboratory

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Formed in 1969 as the Pacific Environmental Group, the strategic location on the Monterey Peninsula is based on the long-standing association with the U.S. Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC), which is the primary U.S. Government Facility particularly concerned with marine weather and ocean conditions. The Navy's global environmental data network has its major terminus at FNMOC. Their real-time products and archived historical data files provide a unique resource for fishery/environmental research. PFEL facilitates the ability of fishery scientists to immediately and directly access information on ocean properties and processes occurring within the fishery habitats. The coverage is global. Locally, PFEL collaborates extensively with the Naval Postgraduate School, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California Department of Fish and Game, and a host of other marine science institutions in the Monterey Bay area. There is also significant international interaction, partly through the Climate and Eastern Ocean Systems (CEOS) project; in September, 1994, PFEL hosted the first international CEOS meeting, which brought an international group of marine scientists together to discuss research progress on the impacts of climate change on marine resources in upwelling ecosystems around the world.

The staff of PFEL consists of four support/technical staff and nine professionals; educational levels include BA (3), MA (2), and Ph.D. (4). Areas of specialization include oceanography (5), fisheries biology (3), and operations research (1). Visiting scientists, postdoctoral associates, and other collaborators are frequently present at PFEL for terms ranging from several weeks to three years. Research results are published in the open literature. PFEL has modern computing facilities and is Macintosh and UNIX-based.

PFEG Information Web(click to see larger image)


The goals of PFEL are to:
  • Provide appropriate environmental information to fishery scientists and managers
  • Specify linkages of environmental processes to population dynamics of important fish stocks
  • Account for natural environmental variance which presently obscures important signals (e.g. stock-recruitment relationships, multi-species interactions, habitat degradation and/or pollution, etc.) essential for managing human impacts on marine populations
  • Develop the means to effectively forecast effects of environmental variations on availability of fish and on resilience of fish populations to exploitation
  • Assess the effects of global climate change on oceanographic processes important to fish populations and on the population dynamics of the fish
  • Use new approaches and technologies to characterize and evaluate marine fisheries habitat
Marine Ecosystems Reflect the Ocean 
Environment(click to see larger image)

Strategic Plan

The NMFS works to build sustainable fisheries in the U.S. and part of this effort is to advance fishery predictions. The research of PFEL supports the strategic plan of NOAA and the mission of the National Marine Fisheries Service by improving our knowledge of the effects of the environment, including climate change, on marine resources. Lack of understanding of the factors controlling recruitment variation, often considered largely environmental, is considered the major scientific problem hindering effective management of fishery resources. In addition, enhanced understanding of environmental effects on fish distribution would be of economic value to the U.S. fishing industry. Predicting the effects of climate change on fish populations requires both reasonable scenarios on how the ocean/atmosphere system might change, and an understanding of how these factors influence fish. PFEL's particular approach to the fishery/environmental problem area has been shown to lead to new insights on these problems. Specific research tasks at PFEL include:

PFEL also places significant effort on providing researchers with environmental data and environmental index products:
NOAA's Research Advances Fishery 
Predictions(click to see larger image)

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