NOAA is located in the Department of Commerce for many good reasons. As described in the NOAA Strategic Plan, more than 95 percent of non-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) foreign trade moves by sea. Two-thirds of everything purchased by American consumers arrives by ship, and this trade is conservatively expected to double by 2020. In addition, the U.S. coastal recreation and tourism industry with over 17 million recreational boats has an annual economic value of about $24 billion to the country.
The National Weather Service provides forecasts to aid in transportation. While traveling on our nation's roadways, adverse weather conditions are associated with over 1.5 million vehicular crashes, which result in 800,000 injuries and 7,000 deaths annually. In addition to the tragic loss of life, there are also significant delays in arrivals of people and goods (trucking, rail, transit, pipeline, ferry, and airport enroute and ground transportation factors), resulting in more than $42 billion per year in economic cost.
The U.S. marine transportation system is the world's most extensive system of navigable waterways, ports, and harbors for moving cargo and people safely and reliably. To help reduce risk of maritime accidents, increase the efficiency of maritime commerce, and support homeland security, the National Ocean Service provides information, tools, and services within NOAA's Marine Transportation Systems Program.
NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving the nation's living marine resources through scientific research, fisheries management, enforcement and habitat conservation. NOAA Fisheries is a leading voice for commercial and recreational fisheries and continues to focus its efforts on sustaining marine resources. Marine fisheries (which extend from state waters to 200 miles from USA shores) provide an important source of food for the nation, as well as thousands of jobs and a traditional way of life for many coastal communities.
NOAA provides world-class information products and services to aid domestic and global commerce, promote safe and efficient marine and air transportation, and add to our understanding of the world's oceans.
Around the world, and around the clock, NOAA proudly stands watch. As an integral part of worldwide search and rescue, NOAA operates the Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) System to detect and locate mariners, aviators, and recreational enthusiasts in distress almost anywhere in the world at anytime and in almost any condition.