The United States has a tremendous natural resource that is largely out of sight—our marine fisheries. And the U.S. has an office within its National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which is dedicated to the stewardship of that resource—NOAA Fisheries. When stewardship involves the protection of marine wildlife and habitats under domestic law and international treaties, the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) is on the job.
OLE cites the following activities among their work.¹
- Sustain fish stocks for commercial, recreational, tribal, and U.S. territorial users.
- Prevent the illegal, unregulated, and unreported harvesting and trafficking of fish and wildlife.
- Protect marine mammals and endangered species.
- Maintain and restore marine and inland water habitats.
- Support vibrant coastal communities.
- Conserve coral reefs and marine protected areas.
- Provide a level playing field for all industry participants.
- Hold accountable those who violate the law.
“From tackling seafood fraud nationally to helping crack down on illegal fishing internationally, we’re here to make sure that those who obey the rules reap the benefits of fair competition and an even playing field in the market. We protect marine resources and their habitat and help safeguard the health of seafood consumers and the livelihoods of coastal communities.”²
NOAA has an active GIS group to support marine fisheries applications across the agency. In 2014, NOAA signed an enterprise license agreement with Esri to provide unlimited access to ArcGIS™ software. The agreement was designed to enable “NOAA to continue building its GIS platform while maintaining data quality in bathymetry, climate and weather data, navigational charting, fisheries protection, natural resource management, marine planning, and other areas of its mission.”
Earlier this year the King County GIS (KCGIS) Center provided OLE custom GIS training for staff from various OLE offices across the United States. Seventeen OLE staff members from the West Coast, Pacific Islands, Northeast, and Southeast divisions came to the KCGIS Training Facility in Seattle for the custom class which was held August 29–31.
The KCGIS Center’s ArcGIS instructor, Mary Ullrich, chose and assembled the curriculum, authored its custom components, and taught the class. KCGIS Center analysts Paul McCombs and Gavin Gray assisted in the classroom.
And the next time you visit your fish market to select a nice halibut, Copper River salmon, or steelhead fillet, think about the work that NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement does, with the help of GIS, to ensure healthy seafood for consumers and sustainable fisheries habitats for the fishing industry.
Mary Ullrich is a GIS analyst and trainer in the KCGIS Center Client Services group.