History of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences


sockeye salmon swimming together
Sockeye salmon swim together near a spawning location. Photo by Jason Ching.

Beginning in 1960 as the legislatively mandated Institute of Marine Science, the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences was created in 1987 to unify the many academic and research programs in fisheries and ocean sciences across the University of Alaska statewide system. The school developed into a regional and world-class research center, built strong graduate and undergraduate education programs, and provided outstanding service to the state and the nation.

The transformation to the College of Fisheries and Ocean Science in 2016 was the result of our growing student body and expansion of degree programs; the number of faculty, researchers and staff; our major funded research programs; and the national responsibility of operating the Global Class ice-capable research vessel Sikuliaq.

The CFOS operating structure consists of three academic departments and an organized research unit, the Institute of Marine Science. This structure streamlines internal operations and reduces costs, while emphasizing our combined academic and research strengths, competitiveness, and global leadership in addressing the most pressing issues in fisheries, marine science, and changes in the Arctic. The college has grown to be one of the largest and most geographically diverse academic and research organizations in the state of Alaska, serving students, local communities and the fishing industry throughout Alaska and the nation. Faculty and students work from the Arctic to the Antarctic, including inland waters, coastal systems and the deep ocean.

Major historical events include building the Lena Point Fisheries Facility to support faculty and students in Juneau; the alliance with the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for research on marine fish, birds and mammals; major enhancements to the Fisheries undergraduate program; and support for distance teaching through high-bandwidth audiovisual systems throughout CFOS. The effort to design, build, fund and operate Sikuliaq required more than 40 years of dedicated time from faculty, staff and supporters.

With more than 1,000 Ph.D., masters and undergraduate degrees awarded, our alumni have had a major impact on and are deeply involved in academia, government agencies, and educational and nonprofit organizations around the world.

The college is positioned to deliver continued excellence in freshwater and ocean sciences research, instruction and service well into the future.