With the 2006 efforts by the U.S. Congress to renew the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the 2004 U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report, issues regarding the management of living marine resources and the use of ocean observing systems are receiving significant attention. Internationally, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO; http://www.earthobservations.org) is highlighting efforts by national governments, including those of the U.S. government, to use Earth science measurements to support decision-making for societal benefits. In addition, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is placing greater emphasis on ecosystem-based approaches to addressing its management responsibilities.
Given the continuity, global coverage, and high temporal and spatial resolution of satellite observations, they represent important tools for monitoring and characterizing marine ecosystems. Most of the spatial features that are important to characterizing ecosystems (i.e., ocean fronts, eddies, convergence zones, river plumes, and coastal regions) cannot be adequately resolved without satellite data. However, the potential of satellite data to more fully enhance operational applications within NOAA Fisheries has not yet been realized, such as improving the accuracy of fisheries stock assessments and contributing to Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs).