Other Notable Accomplishments

ESA Status Reviews

Bumphead Parrotfish (photo courtesy of Sergey Bogorodsky)
Bumphead Parrotfish (photo courtesy of Sergey Bogorodsky)

In 2010, PIFSC scientists provided leadership and expertise in the development of Status Reviews in response to public petitions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the petitions, the National Marine Fisheries Service was asked to determine whether there was sufficient scientific information to warrant listing certain marine species as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In each case, NMFS was required to assemble a Biological Review Team (BRT) to prepare a Status Review — a comprehensive assessment of the petitioned species' biological status and its threats based on the best available scientific and commercial information. PIFSC scientists led BRTs to prepare three status reviews: one for the Hawaii insular stock of false killer whales; another for the bumphead parrotfish (photo right); and a third for 82 species of coral occurring in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The BRTs, made up of PIFSC staff and other federal scientists, prepared status review documents after exhaustive research and many arduous technical discussions. The draft documents were then subjected to independent, external peer review and extensive agency comment. The false killer whale status review has been published and the other two documents are being readied for publication.

Gulf Oil Response

Eleven scientists and administrative staff from PIFSC provided key support for NOAA's coordinated response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As part of NOAA's efforts to assess the scope and severity of oil impacts on ecosystems of the gulf, research staff with a wide range of critical skills and experience were organized and dispatched to the gulf. There they worked with others to observe, record, and report facts “on the ground” that informed NOAA leadership and government officials charged with assessing the damage. PIFSC staff helped with response planning and coordination; surveyed Gulf beaches and coastal waters to recover stranded and injured sea turtles; conducted oceanographic surveys of the water column and sea floor from research vessels; operated small boats involved in ecological assessment work; monitored seafood safety; and more. Like NOAA staff from other parts of the country, PIFSC volunteers set aside normal research activities, or more often expanded their workload, to ensure the agency's response to the oil spill was timely and effective.

External Review of Data Management

In July, 2010, PIFSC invited a panel of independent experts, external to the Center, to review and evaluate the Center's approaches to management of scientific data. Panelists were asked to advise Center leadership on ways PIFSC could alter its data management practices to improve the quality of data services provided to clients. In sessions open to PIFSC staff and stakeholders, they heard presentations by PIFSC staff describing data management projects, practices, and issues in all research and monitoring programs and data management support groups. The review covered all major scientific programs and revealed the complexity of data management challenges faced by the Center. The panel also met privately with key PIFSC stakeholders. At the conclusion of the review, the panel chair prepared a report with consensus views and advice of the experts. The external review helped the Center focus sharply on its data management problems, increased Center-wide communication about data management issues, and energized PIFSC staff toward finding and implementing solutions. We have already begun to address many of the panel's recommendations, including development of a Center-wide data management plan.

Center Reorganization

In 2010, we made significant organizational changes to improve our effectiveness in addressing the Center's research mission. Previously, fisheries monitoring and fisheries data management activities were conducted separately from programs in fish biology, fisheries interactions, and fish stock assessment. All these fishery-related activities are now organized and coordinated under the new Fisheries Research and Monitoring Division. In addition, research in economics and human dimensions of marine resources, formerly in the same division as fisheries monitoring and fisheries data management, was moved into a new program called the Socioeconomics and Planning Group in the Science Directors Office. This move will foster interactions between socioeconomics staff and other Center research programs and enable a broader reach of socioeconomics studies, addressing topics in all areas of sustainable marine resource use and ecosystem services.

Research Administration, Facilities Planning, and Technical Support

As the number of scientific research mandates grows, while federal budgets shrink, the Center faces increasing challenges to achieve NOAA missions. The burden falls not only on scientists planning and conducting the research, but especially heavily on administrative staff who manage budgets, procurements, facilities, staffing, training, travel, safety, small boat operations, and other critical support functions. In virtually all areas, these responsibilities grew in 2010. The Center continued to have significant involvement in preparations for the new NOAA Pacific Regional Center at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, which will be home to all PIFSC staff, along with other NOAA workers, in early 2014. Construction of the new facility is underway. Our technical support staff has continued to maintain the Center's expanding information and communication infrastructure, including hardware and software systems, networks, security protocols, and other critical components at our main Dole Street offices and three satellite office and laboratory complexes elsewhere around Oahu. Likewise, our scientific information specialists continued to manage our public library and to ensure that results of Center research are properly vetted and disseminated to the public and other clients through peer-reviewed journals, Center technical reports, and our website. Our data support staff continued to ensure that our scientific data assets are secure and readily accessible by coordinating the collection and publication of metadata, assisting Center staff and partners with data queries, and improving software tools that help users tap directly into the Center's Oracle enterprise databases. They also maintained and improved several critical databases that support the Center's administrative functions.

The Center's small-boat program provides vital support for nearshore research.
The Center's small-boat program provides vital support for nearshore research.