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AFSC Historical Corner:  1970 - 1979

Agency Timeline
Early Pioneers
Research and Mgmt.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a Reorganization

original NOAA logo
The original NOAA logo, whose design was chosen from three options by NOAA employees in 1971.

NOAA's first administrator Robert White remarked about the design: "A white, gull-like form links the atmosphere to the sea or Earth.  The Earth and atmosphere and the interrelationships between the two are, of course, major concerns of NOAA. The line defining the top of the gull's wings also resemble the trough of a foaming ocean wave against the blue sky.  A creature of sea, land, and air, the gull adds an ecological touch to the Earth-sky motif."

On 3 October 1970, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon signed Executive Order No. 11564 to consolidate various fishery, oceanic, and atmospheric agencies into a new agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the Department of Commerce.

Robert White was appointed the first NOAA Administrator. The new organization was directed toward a better understanding of the Nation's living marine resources, their environment, and the interaction between the two.

The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF) became a component of NOAA and was renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Two years later, NMFS Director Philip Roedel announced that the Agency, under NOAA, had a much broader charter than its predecessor agencies and was now resource-oriented rather than user-oriented.

White established four major "offshore" fisheries research centers throughout the Nation under NMFS: the Northeast Fisheries Center, Southeast Fisheries Center, Southwest Fisheries Center, and North Pacific Fisheries Research Center. Three "coastal" fisheries research centers that reported to regional directors were also established: the Gulf Coast Fisheries Center, Atlantic Estuarine Fisheries Center, and Middle Atlantic Coast Fisheries Center. The basic five-regional office structure was retained.

Established in September 1971, the North Pacific Fisheries Research Center was soon renamed the Northwest Fisheries Center (NWFC) that year on 28 November. Dayton Lee Alverson was appointed Acting Director and Dr. Brian Rothschild was appointed Deputy Director. Located at the Montlake Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, the NWFC was staffed by approximately 200 employees; composed of a Center Director's Office and five divisions:

  • the Marine Fish, Shellfish, and Oceanography Division
  • the Coastal Zone and Estuarine Studies (CZES) Division
  • the Fisheries Data and Management Systems (FD&MS) Division
  • the Environmental Conservation (EC) Division – consisted of individuals from four of the existing independent BCF Seattle research groups: the Seattle Biological Laboratory, the Exploratory Fishing and Gear Research Base, the Biometrics Institute of Seattle Biological Laboratory, and the Pioneer Research Laboratory.
  • the Marine Mammal Management and Monitoring Division – formed from the existing Fur Seals Research and Marine Mammals Laboratory.

Also in 1971, the inaugural issue of the Center's Quarterly Report was published in September with the inception of the North Pacific Fisheries Research Center; the forerunner of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Initially published as a monthly report, the Quarterly Report has highlighted the research and general activities of the Center through 2011.

The passage of two Congressional Acts in the 1970s gave the Center further impetus to conduct research for the conservation and management of the Nation's living marine resources. These were the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The latter established eight regional fishery management councils and a 200-mile fishery conservation zone (later designated in 1983 as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone).

Other significant events:

  • 1971 - Center scientists successfully reared coho salmon in floating saltwater pens – a technique that showed great promise as a commercial salmon production venture.
  • 1971 - Center staff developed a computer program to plot fishing stations of the RV George B. Kelez in the North Pacific.
  • 1971 - Pot fishing and other techniques were developed to capture sablefish. Other inexpensive and lightweight deep-water fish traps were developed at the Center. They were found to be effective and were adopted commercially.
  • 1971 - NMFS Auke Bay Laboratory scientists surveyed prior to and after the detonation of a nuclear device at Alaska's Amchitka Island; no significant damage to marine fauna or environment was found.
  • 1971 - U.S. commercial whaling ended as of 31 December.
  • 1971 - NMFS Exploratory Fishing and Gear Research scientists in Seattle develop steel wire pots for harvesting sablefish.
  • 1971 - A salmon-counting sonar device is developed for enumerating salmon in glacially turbid Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet streams where visual counts are impossible.
  • 1972 - The Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed, establishing a moratorium on taking marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas.
  • 1972 - The Coastal Zone Management Act was passed to provide guidance, expertise, and funding to help states protect and manage U.S. coastal areas.
  • 1973 - The U.S. Endangered Species Act was passed to protect species and populations whose numbers are small or declining. NMFS was responsible for marine species under the law.
  • 1972 - Through 1973, major ships from NMFS fisheries, National Ocean Survey (NOS), and the Environmental Research Laboratories (ERL) integrated in phases to form a consolidated NOAA fleet, operated by the Office of Fleet Operations (OFO), a component of NOS. Under this system, the Fleet Allocation Council (FAC) managed and allocated vessel time for each ship based on user requests.
  • 1974 - On 1 July, the Auke Bay Laboratory (ABL) in Alaska became a part of the Northwest Fisheries Center as a separate division.
  • 1974 - An acoustic-electronic device was developed to remotely measure trawl opening dimensions and trawl distance to seabed.  More >>
  • 1974 - An automated database was developed for North Pacific whaling statistics.  More >>
  • 1974 - Center staff collaborated to develop a conceptual model of the Bering Sea ecosystem.  More >>
  • 1974 - The NMFS-wide Marine Resources Monitoring Assessment and Prediction (MARMAP) program was established. The project formed the basis for uniform data collection necessary for fisheries management and critical to the ecosystems approaches being developed at the time by fishery management councils.  More >>
  • 1975 - On 23 November, the Center's Marine Fish and Shellfish Division was split into the Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) and Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) Divisions.
  • 1975 - In August, the Auke Bay Laboratory used the power barge Murre II to conduct the first cruise for acquiring information on the abundance and distribution of humpback whales in Southeast Alaska.
  • 1975 - NOAA received over 100 acres of land on Sand Point in Seattle in which to build the Western Regional Center campus – dedicated in 1983 and completed in 1984, it became the new home to several Center groups.
  • 1975 - Gravel incubators were used to enhance pink salmon return to Auke Creek, Alaska.  More >>
  • 1975 - Some 195 cases were investigated relating to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as were 381 cases involving endangered species and related products, including seizures of quantities of sperm whale oil and teeth, raw baleen, and scrimshaw.
  • 1975/76 - A baseline survey was conducted to describe the demersal fish and shellfish resources of the eastern Bering Sea.  More >>
  • 1976 - Center scientists investigated the effects of Cook Inlet, Alaska, crude oil on shrimp and crab larvae.  More >>
  • 1976 - The Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA) was passed, which established eight regional fishery management councils and the 200-mile fishery conservation zone (FCZ).
  • 1976 - The Polish Zooplankton Sorting Center in Szczecin, Poland, opened as a multinational effort to process marine life sampled in the massive research efforts during the ICNAF era. Scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Center (NEFC) were instrumental in training Polish staff to identify and classify zooplankton and in helping to establish laboratory procedures.
  • 1976 - On 1 October, the Northwest Fisheries Center officially became the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Center (NWAFC) as a result of the Auke Bay Laboratory joining the Center.
  • 1976 - A division was added to the NWFAC when the existing technological laboratories in Seattle and Alaska were combined to form the Utilization Research (UR) Division. In Alaska, this change resulted in the Ketchikan operation moving to Kodiak.
  • 1977 - A Center scientist was appointed to the NMFS Committee investigating the fishery application of satellites.
  • 1977 - U.S. and foreign scientists collaborated to assess the compatibility of age readings for walleye pollock and hake.
  • 1977 - The first REFM-trained fisheries observers were placed on foreign fishing vessels and computerized data processing began.  More >>
  • 1977 - A sea lion census conducted by the Center's Marine Mammal Division off Alaska indicated a population decline of Steller sea lions.  More >>
  • 1978 - On 1 April, four NMFS biologists set up camp in snow caves at Cape Lisburne, Alaska, to study and count endangered bowhead whales during their spring migration.
  • 1978 - Using hydroacoustic techniques, Auke Bay Laboratory scientists found that schools of juvenile and adult Pacific herring occupied the same wintering grounds off Southeast Alaska.  More >>
  • 1978 - The first U.S. woman biologist to be placed as an observer on a foreign groundfish vessel fishing in Alaskan waters spent two months aboard a factor trawler sampling the Soviet catch in the Gulf of Alaska.  More >>
  • 1979 - On 1 February, the NWAFC's Marine Mammal Division was designated as the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML).
  • 1979 - The first U.S. survey was made of seamount marine life in the Gulf of Alaska.  More >>
  • 1979 - For the first time in the history of the Groundfish Assessment Task, two women became Chief Scientists during research vessel surveys in the eastern Bering Sea.

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