The Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) seeks to simultaneously achieve the goals of maintaining sustainable fish and shellfish stocks and preserving sustainable fish and shellfish fisheries. SCeMFiS concentrates on three major groups: shellfish, finfish/squid, and marine mammals.
SCeMFiS conducts research into sustainable management of shellfish and finfish resources and into products that enhance awareness of the health benefits of sustainable seafood and increase opportunities for growth within seafood business sectors.
SCeMFiS' capabilities encompass the range of oceanographic, fisheries, and marine biological disciplines essential for addressing the data resource and analytical challenges in modern-day fisheries management, and the development of the fishing industry including vessel, dealer, and processor components.
Over several decades, U.S. fisheries management has formalized the criteria for sustainability and developed sophisticated modeling tools. However, maximum sustainable yield is limited by insufficient information on the finfish and shellfish stocks and fisheries and a lack of numerical applications to surmount the challenges of sustainability. Rapid climate change and complex management requirements continue to expose the limitations of data resources and assessment and model construction. Changing perceptions by seafood consumers, including a new awareness of sustainability and health benefits, continue to challenge marketing and product development.
The research portfolio represents a range of basic and applied research focused on the issues of data collection, assessment, and management.
A focus on evaluation of the risk of overfishing under a range of regulatory options has expanded into the development of management strategy evaluation models for surfclams and summer flounder, Assessment teams have been positioned to participate in all major assessment efforts in the Mid-Atlantic region and many in the Northeast including surfclams, ocean quahogs, scup, summer flounder, black sea bass, and others.
Shellfish research focuses on two of the three largest shellfish fisheries in the U.S., surfclams and ocean quahogs. The ocean quahog is the oldest non-colonial marine species and poses singular challenges for sustainable management. Research emphasizes the population dynamics of these species and the influence upon them of global warming. A major component is the development of the first age frequencies for ocean quahogs to evaluate long-term recruitment trends. Growth rates are being used to examine the influence of warming bottom waters on clam physiology and productivity. Targeted surveys and data analysis of ongoing surveys are being used to identify the dynamics of range shifts and their affect on regulatory decisions. Development of a growth dataset for ocean quahogs is permitting reconstruction of the history of global warming since circa 1800. Implications include dramatic increases in stock rebuilding potential and the potential use of ocean quahogs as a bottom water proxy.
A research emphasis on forage fish is addressing the perception that forage fish quotas should be reduced to protect ecosystem services provided by these fish. Projects include addressing predator-prey relationships, documenting the basic population dynamics characteristics for chub mackerel, and development of a new survey design for Atlantic menhaden. The menhaden program has expanded to examine the effectiveness of dock-side monitoring of catch for both Atlantic and Gulf menhaden, and provision of important information on reproductive stage, movement and mortality from analysis of tagging data.
SCeMFiS has begun a series of studies designed to examine the influence of wind energy development on East Coast fisheries and vessel transit.
The marine mammal program has opened up a new topic area of research examining the management of grey seals in the U.S. Northeast.
Emphasis on the economics of the fishing industry includes economic evaluations of the scup, surfclam, Loligo squid, and summer flounder fisheries.