Southeast Fisheries Science Center to be on the move
After considering various options, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, popularly known as NOAA, has determined that its existing Southeast Fisheries Science Center on Virginia Key will eventually be replaced by a new facility. But it’ll be some time before any decision is made about its location, said spokesperson John Ewald.
“NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center, located in Miami, Florida, is an aging facility,” he said. “Planning ahead for a suitable marine science facility is essential to achieving the agency’s vision for world class excellence in science.”
An early strategic plan introduced in 2015 prioritized recapitalization of the Miami Laboratory, Mr. Ewald said; a feasibility study completed a year later explored various options for this facility.
News in 2018 that NOAA Fisheries was considering relocating its Southeast regional branch to St. Petersburg sparked a flurry of resolutions and requests from local institutions including the Miami City Commission, the Village of Key Biscayne council, the Town of Surfside and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science – which has enjoyed a 40-year scientific partnership with Southeast Fisheries – urging NOAA to retain its Virginia Key base.
However, Mr. Ewald said that NOAA Fisheries is not yet thinking about location.
“We are collecting requirements,” he said, “to better understand the size and capabilities needed in a new facility. Those requirements are independent of future location. We are still early in the process and have not made any decisions about the location of the facility.”
According to NOAA Fisheries’ website, the southeastern US is home to the largest concentration of saltwater recreational fishing in the country, generating more than $15 billion in sales annually. Its commercial fishery industry is the second largest in the US by volume and the third largest by landings revenue.
The science center’s research focuses on living marine resources found in saltwater habitats in the southeastern US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Last month, NOAA Southeast launched a new effort called Mission: Iconic Reefs to restore seven ecologically and culturally significant sites in the Florida Keys. The expansive, 20-year project – a partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation, Florida Aquarium, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Reef Renewal, the State of Florida and the University of Florida – will also require collaboration among “federal and state agencies, leading coral reef experts, local restoration practitioners and the Florida Keys community,” according to an announcement from NOAA.
“Regardless of where the facility is ultimately located,” Mr. Ewald said, “NOAA Fisheries will continue working to provide the best science possible for our Southeast US and international natural resources that fall under its purview, including maintaining our strong partnerships with the University of Miami.”