The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) RESTORE Science Program is to carry out research, observation, and monitoring to support, to the maximum extent practicable, the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter-fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA was authorized to establish and administer the Science Program, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies (RESTORE) of the Gulf States Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-141, Section 1604). Identified in the RESTORE Act as the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring, and Technology Program, the Science Program is commonly known as the NOAA RESTORE Science Program.
The Science Program’s goal, outcomes, and long-term priorities are captured in the Program’s Science Plan.
The Program’s long-term priorities for the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem are:
- Comprehensive understanding of ecosystem services, resilience, and vulnerabilities of coupled social and ecological systems
- Construct management-ready and accessible ecosystem models
- Improve monitoring, modeling, and forecasting of climate change and weather effects on the sustainability and resiliency of the ecosystem
- Comprehensive understanding of freshwater, sediment, and nutrient flows and impacts on coastal ecology and habitats
- Comprehensive understanding of living coastal and marine resources, food web dynamics, habitat utilization, protected areas, and carbon flow
- Develop long-term trend and variability information on the status and health of the ecosystem, including humans
- Develop, identify, and validate system-wide indicators of environmental and socioeconomic conditions
- Develop decision-support tools to assist resource managers with management decisions planned to sustain habitats, living coastal and marine resources, and wildlife
- Network and integrate existing and planned data and information from monitoring programs
- Develop and implement advanced technologies to improve monitoring
Steps Used to Identify Long-Term Priorities
Using the legislative requirements for the NOAA RESTORE Science Program as the boundaries for determining long-term priorities, the Science Program reviewed numerous science needs assessments prepared for the Gulf of Mexico over the past several years. The Program then consolidated common priorities from among all the assessments. The Program also hosted engagement events and held extensive meetings with stakeholders, including representatives from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, universities, federal and state agencies, and non-governmental organizations, to gather additional input which was incorporated into the priority identification process. The priorities were then further refined by their connection to an identified management or restoration need, linkage to the Science Program’s mission and goal, and whether or not the priority duplicated a priority from another Gulf of Mexico program. This process resulted in a set of long-term priorities which are linked to identified management and restoration needs and anticipated outcomes consistent with the scope of the program.
To learn more about the Science Program’s first six years (2013-2018), review the Science Program’s first Program Report.
In November 2021, the Science Program underwent a Program Review with a panel of external reviewers. For more information, take a look at the Program Review Summary, as well as presentations from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the review. Responses to the Review Panel’s findings and recommendations can be found here.