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We are dedicated to the advancement of sustainable fisheries management and public education through applied field research.


The Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research (PIER) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located in Oceanside, California. PIER was established in 1998 through the generosity of Mr. Tom Pfleger and the George T. Pfleger Foundation.  Mr. Pfleger is an advocate of sustainable fisheries and actively participates in several of the ongoing studies at PIER.

PIER research is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and directly communicated to fisheries biologists through strong collaborative ties with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  In addition, PIER research and project updates are presented throughout the year at public venues all across southern California.

Expanding our public outreach and education through underserved youth fishing programs

With our recent relocation to the Oceanside Harbor and the formation of a partnership with the Oceanside SEA Center, we’re working to expand our public outreach and education through underserved youth fishing programs, floating classroom experiences, and educational displays and aquaria.


Southern California fishers are privileged to access some of the best waters in the world, yet the environmental and ecological changes we’ve seen take place in this region over time have taught us not to take this resource for granted. Despite our collective stewardship efforts, our marine ecosystem still faces many challenges including overfishing, outdated fishery management strategies, and environmental threats.

As fishers, scientists and consumers, we all want to do our part and promote a healthy and sustainable environment.

At PIER, our role is to couple science with innovation to discover and implement new solutions in fishery management that put the needs of the local community first.


Revitalizing the West Coast Swordfish Fishery

Disciplined, science-based research offers the greatest promise for developing and optimizing methods for the sustainable management of our fisheries. Securing the health of these fisheries for future generations will entail moving toward fishery management approaches that embrace cooperation and coordination between researchers, industry, and managers.  We’re doing our part in this process using hands-on, applied research in our gear development work and by interfacing directly with field teams and our partners.

Our dedicated scientific team has been casting their research net locally for over 20 years, giving us intimate knowledge of the dynamics of southern California fisheries and the fishers and communities they support. This work enables us to bring innovative new regional solutions intended to bolster sustainable fishery growth, such as a new gear type that has revitalized the West Coast swordfish fishery. We also believe community outreach to be a vital part of this solution, and have implemented programs to inform and educate the public.


Chugey A. Sepulveda, Ph.D.

Director & Senior Scientist

Dr. Sepulveda leads our scientific work at PIER and brings over two decades of experience to the institute. Sepulveda joined the Pfleger Institute in 2005 where he has re-directed its focus towards applied field research on species of regional importance.  Specifically, Sepulveda’s research interests are focused on addressing questions related to the sustainable management of California’s marine resources.  He is an advocate of sustainable fishing operations, both recreational and commercial, and enjoys the ocean on many levels.

Sepulveda is also a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain (100-ton Master) and an Adjunct Professor at the Centro de Investigación Superior de Ensenada (CICESE).  He graduated with a M.A. Biology at California State University Fullerton and was awarded his Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Captain Tommy Fullam

Aka “Cowboy”

Tommy has over 40 years of on the water experience, captaining vessels in Costa Rica, Hawaii and southern California. Tommy has been at PIER for over 15 years, where he maintains the R/V Malolo and provides valuable support for several of the PIER projects.

Scott Aalbers

Research Biologist

Scott Aalbers grew up sampling the rich marine resources that Southern California has to offer. As a fish biologist, he has worked on a variety of projects with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and NOAA Fisheries Highly Migratory Species Division with the intention of promoting sustainable fisheries. His research interests include fish reproductive biology, movement patterns, aquaculture, and underwater acoustics.

Aalbers graduated with a B.S. Marine Fisheries Science at Oregon State University and an M.S. in Fish Biology from California State University, Fullerton. He holds a United States Coast Guard Captain’s license.

Victoria Wintrode

Chief Financial Officer & Human Resources

Jennifer Thirkell

Office Manager