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 more than 50 years ago 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. While it has a strong focus on Arctic issues, faculty and students have worked from the Arctic to the Antarctic, including inland waters, coastal systems and deep ocean regions.

Building on that momentum, the transformation to the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS) 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 research vessel Sikuliaq.

The new College operating structure consists of departments, chairs 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.

Major historical events include the building of 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 massive support for distance teaching through high-bandwidth audiovisual systems throughout CFOS. The effort to design, build, fund and operate the Sikuliaq required more than 40 years of dedicated time from faculty, administration and supporters.

With more than 900 PhD, masters and undergraduate degrees awarded through 2019, our alumni have had a major impact on and are deeply involved in academic, agency, education and nonprofit organizations around the world.

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