Function and Mission

The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) is one of six NOAA Fisheries Science Centers. It was established in 2003 with the creation of the Pacific Islands Region (PIR) within NOAA Fisheries, and is headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Center is responsible for research on Federally managed marine fisheries, protected species such as the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, and ecosystems in the entire western and central Pacific Ocean, in both insular (near island) habitats and pelagic (open ocean) environments.

The Center's mission is to conduct timely, high quality applied science—monitoring, reporting, and analysis—to support conservation and management of living marine resources in the central and western Pacific Ocean. The PIFSC mission is linked directly to the NOAA Strategic Plan and, in particular, NOAA's Ecosystem Mission Goal:

Pacific Islands Fisheries Dcience Center FY 2008
"To protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through an ecosystem approach to management."

In providing science to support an ecosystems approach to the conservation, management and recovery of living marine resources, PIFSC has adopted a multidisciplinary strategy. The strategy involves integrated data collection and monitoring of marine resources and their environment, including an extensive ecosystem observation system; scientific research programs with activities focused on nearshore and pelagic fisheries, coral reef species and habitats, marine mammals and sea turtles, marine ecosystems and oceanography; and conservation and management advice directly related to domestic and international conservation and management mandates.

The Center's fisheries-oriented research programs monitor U.S. fisheries in the Pacific and conduct biological, ecological, and economic research in support of five Fishery Management Plans and four emerging Fishery Ecosystem Plans developed by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPFMC). Similar scientific contributions are made toward international management of fisheries for tuna and other highly migratory species by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. In both domestic and international fisheries management arenas, PIFSC provides scientific support and advice to the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO).

The Center's coral reef ecosystem research focuses on comprehensive surveys of reef ecosystems in the archipelagoes of the Pacific Islands Region. Protected species research and recovery programs monitor the status of the Hawaiian monk seal and sea turtles in the Pacific and identify the factors affecting their population, health, and recovery. A newer component of the Protected Species program is focused on surveys of cetacean populations in the central Pacific. Other PIFSC research investigates the structure and dynamics of central North Pacific marine ecosystems and how marine populations are affected by changes in their predators, prey, and habitat, and by ocean climate.


Known previously as the Honolulu Laboratory, PIFSC was established as an independent science center of the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2003. The Center was founded on 55 years of federal marine fisheries research dating back to the founding of the Pacific Oceanic Fishery Investigations in 1948. In almost 6 decades of scientific studies, Center staff and their predecessors have engaged in oceanographic research, fishery resource exploration, fisheries development, fisheries biology and ecology, and protected species recovery research and conservation throughout the Pacific and as far away as the Indian Ocean. More recently, the Center has established extensive programs in coral reef ecology through collaboration with NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Geographic Area of Responsibility

Bounded by the Hawaiian Archipelago in the north, American Samoa and U. S. Pacific Remote Island Areas in the south, and the Mariana Archipelago in the west, the Pacific Islands Region encompasses the largest geographical area within NOAA Fisheries' jurisdiction. The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within the Region includes more than 1.7 million square nautical miles of ocean, roughly equal to the total EEZ of the continental United States and Alaska. PIFSC is also responsible for research on living marine resources in the high-seas areas of the central and western Pacific.

Budget and Staffing History

In fiscal year (FY) 2008, the PIFSC budget was $24.7 M and supported a staff of 218 researchers, technical personnel, and administrative employees. Almost all of the Science Center's budget supports the NOAA ecosystems "mission," and its activities generally fall within the Ecosystems Observation Program and Corals Program. In addition to federal employees, Center programs include a large number of scientists and seasonal technical staff employed by the University of Hawaii (UH) Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) and by private contractors. Several UH students also work at the Center or are engaged in graduate research with Center projects, and about 10 Center scientists serve as affiliate faculty and are on graduate committees within the university.

Facilities and Vessels

Kewalo Research Facility

The Center is located at five sites in Honolulu: the main office complex is located on Dole Street, adjacent to the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. A smaller seawater research facility is located at Kewalo Basin on the Honolulu waterfront enabling research on live, large pelagic fishes, monk seals, and sea turtles. This location is also the site of most of the Center's coral reef ecosystem monitoring staff. Another research facility, with offices and a wet laboratory supporting fish biology work, is leased in Aiea near Pearl Harbor. Additionally, some PIFSC marine mammal and coral reef researchers are located in offices adjoining the PIRO headquarters on Kapiolani Blvd in downtown Honolulu, and PIFSC has an advanced mapping facility on the UH campus. The seawater research functions are expected to move to a new NOAA facility on Ford Island next fiscal year.

Aiea Heights Research Facility (leased space) Research Facility

The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette, homeported at Ford Island in Honolulu, is the primary research vessel supporting the Science Center's extensive field activities. Center staff also conduct benthic habitat mapping and other coral reef ecosystems research aboard the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai in partnership with NOAA's National Ocean Service. PIFSC also has about 30 small boats, ranging from 14 to 25 ft in length, to facilitate nearshore research. Research Focus

PIFSC research currently focuses on several areas of high priority:

Science Center Organization

The PIFSC is organized into five research divisions:

The Operations, Management, and Information (OMI) Division has three programs providing essential support: