Why is QUEST needed?

Fishery Scientists with Strong Quantitative Skills

Stock assessment scientists, ecosystem scientists, and economists at agencies such as NOAA provide essential information for the sustainable management of living marine resources. They develop the tools used to evaluate the status of fish stocks, advise managers on the likely effects of alternate management policies, and are essential to help avoid overfishing and for developing rebuilding strategies. These scientists are also essential to the implementation of the Magnuson Stevens Conservation and Management Act (MSA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and other mandates that guide the management and conservation of marine protected species.

The Scientific Basis for Fisheries Management

NMFS needs to conduct stock assessments, broadly-scoped ecosystem assessments, implement ecosystem-based management, and evaluate system-level considerations of living marine resources. This depends on scientists with a quantitative ecology background, who are capable of modeling marine population and ecosystem dynamics, and who can develop ecosystem-level advice to support ecosystem-based management. There is also an increasing demand for economic research and analyses in living marine resource management. This work is essential to facilitate ecosystem-based management and understand and predict trends in the fishing industry resulting from changes in fishery policies. In many regards, the quantitative skill sets required are similar for all three applications (ecosystem, socioeconomic, and stock assessments), and focusing capacity building efforts on quantitative ecology broadly will only benefit NMFS.

A Shortage of Scientists

There are also concerns about a potential shortage in the number of stock assessment scientists. The September 2008 report, The Shortage in the Number of Individuals with Post-Baccalaureate Degrees in Subjects Related to Fishery Science, issued by the Departments of Commerce and Education found that the demand for stock assessment scientists exceeded the supply and will result in an anticipated shortage of 2-18 qualified stock assessment scientists per year (20-180 of stock assessment scientists over the next decade).

The key recommendations the report issued to address the shortage were to:

  1. Increase the number of faculty in the field of quantitative ecology.
  2. Increase the number of graduate students and post-doctoral associates in the field of quantitative ecology.
  3. Improve the quantitative skill-sets of incoming graduate students (in the quantitative disciplines).

Capacity Building

Capacity building for the NOAA Fisheries workforce in all three disciplines is essential if NOAA is to successfully implement MSA, MMPA, ESA, and related mandates. Increasing the number of faculty in these disciplines and providing student training opportunities are essential if NMFS is to continue sustainably managing and conserving our nation’s living marine resources in the years to come.



Scientists and Economists

Increase the number of NMFS stock assessment and ecosystem scientists and economists.

Graduate Students

Increase the number of graduate students with training adequate to conduct or contribute to stock assessments, ecosystem science, or socioeconomics research.

Undergraduate Students

Increase the number of undergraduates who have adequate training in the quantitative disciplines (e.g., math, statistics, modeling) suitable to continue in graduate studies in quantitative ecology or economics.


Engage students and faculty in projects in support of NMFS stock assessment, ecosystem science, or economics research.