The fundamental philosophy of operations for CINAR is to conduct research that meets the needs of NOAA managers and that provides important information and tools for decision-making within the U.S. northeast continental shelf ecosystem.

Two of NOAA’s four mission goals are to "protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through an ecosystem approach to management," and to "understand climate variability and change to enhance society's ability to plan and respond." CINAR was thus formulated with explicit recognition that effective management of human activities in the northeast region requires understanding how these activities interact with each other and with other processes that affect the ecosystem, including climate.

Activities fall under six research themes:

  • Ecosystem Forecasting
  • Ecosystem Monitoring
  • Ecosystem Management
  • Protection and Restoration of Resources
  • Sustained Ocean Observations and Climate Research
  • Education and Outreach