Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS), which include tunas, billfish, and sharks, are important to both the ecological health of ocean ecosystems and to commercial and recreational fisheries. However, knowledge gaps in the life history, biology, and population status of many of these species limit understanding and the collective ability to sustainably manage these species. HMS and the coastal communities that rely on the health of these stocks could greatly benefit from improved information, upon which science-based management and conservation can be based.
Many stakeholder groups, including federal and state agencies, commercial and recreational fishing industries, the broader seafood industry, academic researchers, and consumers, have important interests and perspectives that can inform efforts to better understand and manage HMS populations.
The National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant) was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1966 (amended in 2008, Public Law 110-394) to support leveraged federal and state partnership that harness the intellectual capacity of the nation’s universities and research institutions to solve problems and generate opportunities in coastal communities. Sea Grant is well-positioned to engage academic researchers to advance understanding of HMS species in priority areas and ensure meaningful transfer of new information to all relevant stakeholder groups.
As part of the FY 2019 Appropriations Bill for NOAA, Congress directed Sea Grant to spend up to $2 million to initiate an HMS research initiative focused on HMS species in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, including the interactions between yellow-fin tuna and oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. This direction, and priorities identified in the 2014 Atlantic HMS Management-Based Research Needs and Priorities document developed by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in collaboration with HMS stakeholders, was used to identify priorities for this initiative that will support research to address critical gaps in knowledge about HMS in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean regions.