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A Bit About NOAA Fisheries by Wesley Noone

Posted by: | July 8, 2018 | 6 Comments |

My experience at NOAA Fisheries has been extremely educational thus far and I continue to learn new insights about the work daily. NOAA Fisheries is a very large organization and could not accomplish the daunting work that is needed without its regional branch offices. We work within the West Coast Region which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. Within our office we have four divisions: The Office of Law Enforcement, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Protected Resources Division, and the Operations and Personnel Management. My position is nestled within the Sustainable Fisheries Division (SFD) which is largely responsible for the sustaining of salmon fisheries in the Colombia River. The SFD handles National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting when NOAA Fisheries wants to take an action such as making a fisheries management change, funding a hatchery project, or allowing special harvest of threatened species.
I would argue that salmon are essential to most life on the west coast. They serve an important role in connecting the food webs between our oceans and land as well as cycling important nutrients into forests. Most salmonids are anadromous meaning that they live part of their life in fresh water and part of their life in salt water. A fish that spends the majority of the life history in salt water falls into NOAA Fisheries jurisdiction. Because many populations of salmonids are threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries has an obligation to work to get those populations delisted. Using hatchery programs for decades has allowed fisheries (a term used to describe an area where fish harvest is happening) to continue without driving native populations to extinction.
My project has focused on how to incorporate literature on climate change into the analysis of NEPA documents. Most of us are well aware of the risks being faced by increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more severe weather that is a result of climate change. These risks will continue to cause problems into the future and organizations like NOAA Fisheries must consider this when making management decisions for protecting fisheries. I hope that through my work NOAA Fisheries will be better equipped with the tools needed to make sound decisions into the future.

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6 Comments

  1. By: pleasanm on July 9, 2018 at 10:12 am      

    It sounds like you are learning your way around the landscape of acronyms with success. Wow, you have an incredibly important task ahead of you this summer. NEPA, and other regulatory permitting policies, are the vital to the sustainability of salmon and many endangered species. It must feel good to help make positive change at the national level!

  2. By: Sarah K on July 9, 2018 at 4:23 pm      

    I can tell from reading this that you really respect salmon – how will your work this summer connect with preserving that essential PNW resource?

  3. By: Wesley Noone on July 12, 2018 at 1:22 pm      

    The use of hatcheries in the Pacific North West for almost a century to increase fish production for harvest has been scrutinized with the listing of salmon and steelhead through the Endangered Species Act. Long term effects of hatcheries are not well documented although recent literature has provided insight for best management practices of salmon and steelhead hatcheries. As I’m sure you are aware climate change is causing measurable changes in our ecosystems particularly in regards to ambient temperature. During a NEPA review the impacts of the action must be analyzed along with other cumulative impacts (i.e. increasing stream temperatures, changes in water availability, other projects or proposals for the area, etc.) in order to determine whether the action will have an effect on the human environment. My project will provide tools for NOAA Fisheries NEPA specialists to incorporate the best available science into their cumulative effects analysis in regards to climate change. Using studies on salmon physiology, ecosystem interactions, food webs, and hydrology can give us a better picture of how these species will be effected by climate change. By assessing the impacts caused by the action NOAA Fisheries can provide recommendations for mitigation or deny a proposed action if it violates applicable laws such as the Endangered Species Act.

  4. By: Emi on July 12, 2018 at 3:40 pm      

    Yes, your help will help us better understanding the current status of climate change science in the context of hatcheries! As you point out in your comment, our analysis can’t look at our action in a vacuum, but rather in the context of what else is going on cumulatively, with climate change being one of the key topics.

  5. By: Anne on July 13, 2018 at 7:46 am      

    Great, this is really informative! I don’t know a lot about hatcheries, so I really appreciate how you described your work and how it fits into the larger picture. A literature synthesis like this is extremely valuable, and I look forward to hearing more about it soon.

  6. By: Sarah K on July 16, 2018 at 1:46 pm      

    Thank you for the thoughtful reply – I like your perspective of salmon / steelhead in balance with the rest of the environment (human and otherwise).

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