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US Bluefin Research Centre Could Close

In an environment of increased competition among researchers for funding, the University of Massachusetts’ Large Pelagics Research Centre (LPRC) may face closure. The LPRC gained an international reputation for cutting-edge science in the study of bluefin tuna and other large, highly migratory pelagic species.

Located just off Ipswich Bay, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the center’s ability to remain within the embrace of UMass is under question. The LPRC may be forced to seek sponsorship elsewhere, such as MIT or the University of New Hampshire.

Molly Lutcavage, the center’s director and research professor said: “We’re in danger of closing. We’re in jeopardy of shutting our doors in 2014 due to lack of funding opportunities.”

USD 1.3 million in funding from state, federal, corporative and private sources would need to be sourced in order for the center to move forward. Through much of its history, the LPRC has been funded from the federal annual budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From 2003, to the present, the center received USD 11 million in federal appropriations, with 2004 and 2007 being its peak years of USD 3 million. From 2007, the LPRC has been mainly reliant on grants from NOAA and other university-based research programs, as well as the Massachusetts Division of Marine Facilities. Private and corporate donations of USD 340,000 have also benefitted its research.

Financial support for the center has enabled new light to be shed on the life, migration, maturation and breeding habits of bluefin and bigeye tuna, along with state of the art electronic tagging and tracking systems.

Lutcavage said: “We can very easily make the case that we have produced a very high volume of science and very high level of science. We’ve given them a very big bang for their buck.”

Steve Goodwin, UMass-Amherst, one of the chief administrators overseeing the LPRC said: “The state budget has its own constraints. Direct intervention from there is not likely.” Despite this, Goodwin said that UMass retains a strong commitment to marine fisheries research.

He added: “I am fairly confident we’ll find a way to move forward. We’ll have to look to funding alternatives, including private sources, foundations and corporate.”