You are here

Science Center for Marine Fisheries Science (SCeMFiS)

University of Southern Mississippi

Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Last Reviewed: (not done)

SCeMFiS utilizes academic, recreational, and commercial fisheries resources to address urgent scientific problems limiting sustainable fisheries.

Center Mission and Rationale

SCeMFiS provides academic research products essential for the sustainable management of shellfish and finfish resources. SCeMFiS seeks to simultaneously achieve the goals of sustainable fish and shellfish stocks and sustainable fish and shellfish fisheries. A multi-decadal evolution in fisheries management in the U.S. has formalized the criteria for sustainability and developed sophisticated modeling tools to achieve this goal; but success is limited by insufficient information on the finfish and shellfish stocks and fisheries and insufficient development of numerical applications to surmount the modeling challenges posed by these sustainability goals. Rapid climate change continues to expose the limitations of present-day data resources and assessment, exacerbating the gap between data resource availability and data resource needs. Increasingly complex management requirements continue to reveal limitations in data resources, data analysis, and model construction, thereby limiting the attainment of maximum sustainable yield.

The attainment of the dual goals of sustainable fish stocks and sustainable fishing industries requires a dual focus on (a) the assessment process that determines the status of the stock and (b) the regulatory process that provides the vehicle by which the fishery is managed to optimize stock status while supporting a robust industry. SCeMFiS supports an academic research program encompassing both components of the management process. SCeMFiS’ capabilities encompass the range of oceanographic, fisheries, and marine biological disciplines essential for addressing the data resource and analytical challenges faced by modern-day fisheries management.

Research program

The Science Agenda

The science agenda of SCeMFiS includes the development of essential biological data on fish stocks, including fecundity, age structure, and sources of mortality; improved models of sampling design, population dynamics, habitat, and fishery performance; evaluation of geographic and depth variations in stock structure and how these relate to the genetics, physiology and sexual dimorphism of species; improved approaches to fishing to limit discard reduction through gear innovation, but also through modifications in fleet deployment consistent with oceanographic processes; improved assessment model formulations to better integrate available data; and refined approaches to establishing biological reference points.

All data resource projects will provide raw data to the appropriate federal or state database; in most cases, these data will be submitted to the appropriate National Marine Fisheries Service database (e.g., the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NMFS-NEFSC) database). All project reports will be provided to the appropriate federal or state agency contacts; in most cases, this will include the stock assessment lead at the appropriate NMFS science center and the management leads for the regional management councils (e.g., the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC), the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council (GMFMC), the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)). In most cases, these reports will be submitted as "Working Papers" to the appropriate NMFS assessment committees as well as the Science and Statistical Committees and/or Technical Committees for the regional management councils. All analytical projects will provide results to the appropriate assessment meetings chaired by the NMFS, regional management councils such as the MAFMC, GMFMC, and ASMFC, or other management organization.

Significant results

  1. Breakage in surfclams and ocean quahogs during survey: Using archived shells from previous surveys quantitative relationships were developed for both target species between shell length (as a proxy for age in age based management models) and various measures of the hinge structure and hinge region of the shell.
  2. Improvements in Reference Point Formulation to Reduce Uncertainty in Stock Status:  The first collection cruise is expected to occur I February, 2015, with Georges Bank as the destination.
  3. Independent advisory team of marine mammal assessments:
  4. Juvenile survey for surf clams (Spisula solidissima) and ocean quahogs (Arctica islandica): A research dredge for collection of pre recruit (to the fishery) size clams was designed and fabricated by industry partners in March-July 2014, and deployed in the August 2014 surveys aboard an industry vessel under charter by NEFSC.
  5. Management strategy evaluation - surf clam area management: The MSE model was formulated with a number of options relevant to area management, including regional closures and rotating closures.
  6. Ocean Quahogs recruitment and life history dynamics: Ocean quahogs are very long lived and concerns have been raised at to the frequency of recruitment in exploited populations. In summer 2014, using the new research dredge described in (4) above, a program was initiated to examine age structure and recruitment intensity in pre recruit to fishery size clams.
  7. Sex specific population assessment modeling of summer flounder in the Mid-Atlantic:  The NMFS ASAP model has been downloaded from the NOAA Toolbox and applied to NMFS data through 2012 to provide a benchmark for model comparisons and to identify key data sources used in current assessment.

Special Activities

SCeMFiS scientists participate in every level of the federal management process. These include assessment meetings coordinated by the National Marine Fisheries Service and management council meetings coordinated by the regional management councils (e.g., MAFMC, GMFMC, ASMFC).

Facilities and Laboratory

A research dredge for collection of pre recruit (to the fishery) size clams was designed and fabricated by industry partners in March-July 2014, and deployed in the August 2014 surveys aboard an industry vessel under charter by NEFSC. SCeMFiS scientists and students participated in dredge testing. A comparison with prior lined dredges demonstrated comparable performance of the new research dredge in clam retention for both target species but with much lower sediment retention and fouling, and greater ease in operation. The new research dredge will be the gear of choice for future selectivity studies, a critical element in assessment of the entire clam population demographic. In addition, the new research dredge demonstrated remarkable ability to retain pre recruit size clams over significant sampling areas, including all size classes down to 20 mm maximum dimension, and densities of pre-recruit clams up to 55 m-2 – both capabilities that have been lacking in prior survey gear.


University of Southern Mississippi

Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
703 East Beach Drive

Ocean Springs, Mississippi, 39564

United States

Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Virginia Institute of Marine Science
The College of William and Mary

Gloucester Point, Virginia, 23062

United States

(804) 684-7108