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Fishery Ecology Branch

Tom Minello, Branch Chief

(NOAA Image)
 
Mission:  Identify and describe relationships between fishery productivity and the coastal environment.

Annual fishery production in the Southeast United States is valued at well over a billion dollars.  Most of the fisheries in the region are dependent on coastal habitats that are highly structured including marshes, seagrass beds, mangroves, coral reefs, and oyster reefs.  Research by the Fishery Ecology Branch is conducted on the ecological relationships between these habitats and fishery species to identify the important linkages to fishery productivity.  We also are examining trophic linkages in coastal ecosystems and the relationships between habitats and biodiversity.  Understanding trophic relationships and linkages between species and their habitats is important in identifying Essential Fish Habitat and in implementing ecosystem based fishery management. Staff have worked with other Science Centers in NOAA Fisheries to help develop criteria for defining Essential Fish Habitat and linking habitats with stock assessments through the development of habitat assessments (see http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/habitat.htm).

The Fishery Ecology Branch also conducts research on habitat restoration, because losses of wetlands and coral reefs in the region are a major concern.  The goal of restoration projects often is to build functional habitats for fishery species, and our research program on functional ecology of habitats has proven valuable in assessing restoration success and providing target levels for habitat restoration activities. Our habitat restoration research is directed at developing design criteria for the creation of habitats that function like natural habitats for fishery species.  We are actively involved in advising, planning, implementing, and monitoring habitat restoration projects in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Puerto Rico.

In addition to the Galveston Laboratory, members of the Fishery Ecology Branch also work out of two field offices.  Through our office in Lafayette, Louisiana at the NOAA Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center, we participate in the planning, design, construction, and monitoring of projects developed through programs such as the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act. This act authorizes an extensive wetland restoration effort in coastal Louisiana.  We also are working with Savannah State University (Georgia) through a Cooperative Marine Education and Research Program.  This program is designed to increase awareness of fisheries ecology and habitat restoration in minority communities and increase diversity among NOAA fishery biologists and ecologists.