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National Fisheries Fellow to Focus on Dolphinfish

Matthew Damiano, a NOAA Fisheries-Sea Grant Joint Fellowship winner from N.C.
Matthew Damiano, a NOAA Fisheries-Sea Grant Joint Fellowship winner from North Carolina.

Contact: Katie Mosher,

A North Carolina State University doctoral student, Matthew Damiano, is among the newest fellows selected by a joint program of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Sea Grant College Program to address the critical need for the next generation of specialized experts in fisheries management.

Since 1999, the NOAA Fisheries-Sea Grant Joint Fellowship program has supported students pursuing doctoral degrees in population and ecosystem dynamics as well as marine resource economics. Fellows are chosen through a competitive process that involves national review by an expert panel.

Damiano will focus on development and application of a spatially explicit stock assessment and management strategy evaluation tool for common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus), a highly migratory species in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. His mentors will be Kyle W. Shertzer from the NOAA laboratory in Beaufort and Jie Cao from NC State.

“While dolphinfish is popular on restaurant menus, often under the name mahi mahi, the species’ stock status and fishing mortality rate are not well identified,” notes John Fear, deputy director of North Carolina Sea Grant.

The species also has a popular recreational fishery — with different management strategies than the commercial fisheries. “It’s important to consider the uncertainty associated with management measures, which are not currently consistent throughout dolphinfish’s range,” Damiano explains.

Matthew Damiano, with a cobia in the field
Matthew Damiano, cobia in hand

“This project is going to allow me to expand my skill set in the development and implementation of quantitative methods for fisheries stock assessment and management strategy evaluation,” he adds, noting that he anticipates the results could be applied and implemented by U.S. and U.S.-territory fishery management councils and commissions, as well as intergovernmental fisheries management bodies.

Damiano is based at NC State’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology. He has a master’s degree from University of Maryland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, and a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University. He previously worked for Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission in Washington state.

In the announcement from the National Sea Grant College Program, Damiano said he looks forward to remaining in the field post-fellowship. “I have no doubt that being selected for this fellowship and completing my proposed research will move me further toward this goal.”

Since the fellowship began, it has supported over 100 population and ecosystem dynamics and 35 marine resource economics doctoral fellows. A 2018 review of the program found that 92% of the fellows remain in their field and about 30% work for NOAA as fisheries scientists.

Learn more about North Carolina and National Sea Grant fellowships: