The Sea Knows No Boundaries

The Sea Knows No Boundaries:

The Sea Knows No Boundaries: A Century of Marine Science Under ICES
by Helen Rozwadowski

“For a detailed account of research and related activities involving the contribution of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) throughout the 20th century, and also the related activities of the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF) and its Standing Committee on Research and Statistics one can do no better than read Helen Rozwadowski’s comprehensive book published in 2002.” – Sidney Holt

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Fathoming the Ocean

Fathoming the Ocean:

Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea
by Helen Rozwadowski

Helen Rozwadowski not only knows a lot about fishing, she knows a lot about oceanography and fascination that people have always had for the sea. I love this book; I love the way Helen has captured the excitement in Victoria England and the U.S., as the general public falls in love with exploring the oceans. Helen writes about little boys in sailor suits, Queen Victoria going dredging, and some of the events that led up to the Challenger expedition. It’s also a rollicking good read, and it won the Ida and Henry Schuman Prize from the History of Science Society last year.

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A Science on the Scales

A Science On The Scales

A Science on the Scales: Canadian Fisheries Biology, 1898-1939
by Jennifer Hubbard

This is a wonderful book about Atlantic fisheries history. My favorite part is Jennifer’s account of the development of marine biological stations around the world, and the events leading up to the establishment of the St. Andrew’s Station in New Brunswick. If you’re interested in rooting the development of fisheries history and how it fits into the wider picture of Victorian science, this is the book for you. It won the North American Society for Oceanic History’s 2006 John Lyman Award for Canadian Naval and Maritime History.

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Salmon Without Rivers

Salmon Without Rivers

Salmon Without Rivers: A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis
By James A. Lichatowich

Written by one of the Northwest’s most respected fishery sciences, Salmon Without Rivers is a beautifully written account of the interactions between the stocks of salmon in the Northwest, and the Indian and white settlers who have depending on them for a livelihood. A must read for anybody interested in the Northwest’s most iconic fish—and in the controversies that continue to swirl around the management of them.

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Terry Gross Interviews Dr. Daniel Pauly

Dr. Daniel Pauly

Most people don’t know very much about fishing. It happens on the high seas, out of sight, and few people think very much about the how the fillets wind up in the grocery store fish counter. It was interesting to listen to a Nov. 2, 2009, interview on Fresh Air, when host Terry Gross spoke with Dr. Daniel Pauly, director of The Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Pauly knows a great deal about fishing, and Ms. Gross knew very little, and that’s what it made the interview so interesting

Dr. Pauly was making a point he has made several times, that the current industrial fisheries are not sustainable. Fleets have increasingly moved into deeper water, and into the waters of places like Antarctica, seeking new supplies of fish. He is critical of fisheries that have been developed on long-lived species, such as Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) and Chilean sea bass (Dissostichus eleginoides). Orange roughy live to be 150 years and not mature until they are 30.

“You mean fish live 150 years?” Terry Gross exclaims. Pauly replies that we are eating fish that are older than our grandmothers.

“Wow!” Gross replies. “So it will take a long time for them to replenish?” Her surprise is genuine.

Pauly also made the point that fishing has expanded throughout the world’s oceans, to depths of two miles, and that fish have few refuges from fishing boats and their sophisticated technologies. The removal of large fish, through fishing, disrupted the ocean food web, leading to the proliferation of algae and jelly fish.

Pauly makes a provocative point and I agree with much of what he said. But I also know that he paints with a very broad brush. Coastal communities are interested in sustainable fisheries. But how do we get to that point, when the forces of global capitalism dictate so much of what happens in the volatile world of fishing? I don’t know the answer to this question, but an understanding of these forces, and how they play out locally, is one of the goals of this project.

You can listen to the interview here:

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My Research Cruise with Dr. Sidney Holt

Cruise with Holt

The highlight of my summer was undoubtedly the 12th annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries History Association in Norfolk, Va., during August.

Being able to talk with several dozen people who are interested in fisheries history was such an enormous treat that it made up for the 98-degree heat and humidity in Virginia. The weather left most of us as limp as noodles. It was especially hard on the cadre of Norwegians, who all seemed to be dressed in black. They thought they were in a sauna; as one of them commented, even the cold water in the hotel was warm.

NAFTA is a small, but extremely interesting group of people, ranging from academics to people working for management agencies and museums. It was encouraging how many young scholars are now interested in fisheries history; there were several excellent presentation from graduate students. I was also interested to see that two of the papers featured aspects of public history, interviews with people who were involved in the fisheries. Dr. Roger Davis had a wonderful paper about the activism of fishermen’s wives, in New England Britain. The images and quotations from the British wives were especially poignant, as they had organized after several boats were lost to increase safety standards for vessels.

The best paper, for me, came from my friend and mentor, Sidney Holt. I encountered Sidney in 2003, when I was at San Diego and doing research on my dissertation. I found his email address online, I emailed him, and I had a reply the next morning. We’ve been madly emailing ever since, and when I went to Rome that summer to do research at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N., Sidney invited me to visit him in the small Italian hill town, Paciano, where he now lives. We started a conversation that continues to this day, about fishing and whaling, the development of science and management, and a host of other related topics.

When the Friday morning session ended, several of us found ourselves back down town at the conference hotel. Sidney’s son, Tim, who accompanied him to Norfolk, had discovered there was a sailing vessel in the Norfolk harbor that took visitors on a tour of the bay. Who could resist the chance of a research cruise with Sidney Holt, as one of the Norwegian researchers put it? When Tim pulled out his cameras, we all wanted to be in the pictures.

It was a beautiful afternoon and the sailboat a perfect place to sit back and enjoy the sun, the company of friends, and the ongoing conversation about fish and fishing, and how it all got to be the way it is…..

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Public History @ OSU

I read recently that most blogs start off in a burst of enthusiasm that lasts long enough to post two entries. Then the enthusiasm dies and the blog languishes. It looks like that’s what I’ve done here, started something, then lost interest in it.

In fact, I’ve been so busy trying to arrange fishery history research project that I’ve had little time for the website or the blog. But that’s about to change, now that the website has been finalized. Three students at the Graphic Arts Department at Oregon State University put the website together for me, Beth Kerrigan, Joi Chang (Joi painted our fish) and Francisco Juarez

The other thing I’ve been busy with has been putting together a new class, an Introduction to Public History, which I will teach here in Corvallis during winter term, starting in January of 2010.

I’m hoping to get a version of the class far enough along to offer it on the web, which will allow me to work with some community college students on the Oregon coast in a research project to look at the development of fishing on the Oregon coast, especially after the 1930s.

What is public history?

What is public history? It is history produced by and for the public, history that is seen, heard, read and interpreted by a popular audience. It emphasizes non-traditional evidence and new ways of asking questions, and new ways of presenting information. Because the focus in on the public context of scholarship, it trains historians to reach audiences outside the traditional academic academy. It’s the perfect vehicle for looking at something as complex, dynamic, and multi-disciplinary as fishing.

What is Public History @ OSU? It is a framework for history projects that faculty and graduate students are currently pursuing. Our students will be working hand-in-hand not only our faculty, but with the archival staff at the Valley Library, and our partners in the community.

In the meantime, now that the site is up, I’m going to be making posts on a more regular basis. It’s my hope that anybody who is interested in contributing to the site, and to uncovering the history of commercial fishing in Oregon, will read and contribute their thoughts.

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The Collapse of California Sardines and the Brief Rise of the Oregon Pilchard

I have been thinking about the ramifications of the collapse of the California sardine fishery in the 1940’s, thanks to re-reading a very good dissertation completed in 2003 by Gregory Cushman, who is now at the University of Kansas in its history department. His dissertation, with its marvelous title, The Lords of Guano, is about Peru and its attempts to manage its guano birds and the fish stocks the birds depend on. It’s a fascinating look at a complex series of environmental, political, and scientific interactions, and it includes a long section dealing with the early days of the anchoveta fishery.

What I found most interesting were the parallels between what had happened in Peru in the 1940s, and what I have been learning about the development of Oregon’s fisheries during the 1930s. Both fisheries developed in response to international pressures. And one of those pressures was the drive to turn first sardines and then anchovies into fishmeal and fish oil, the two most profitable sectors of the industry. California processing equipment was moved to Coos Bay in 1935. According to Greg, California equipment was transferred to Peru and producing fishmeal by 1945.

California sardines (Sardina caerulea) were the basis for the California fishing industry, starting in 1896. By 1914, it was the largest fishery in the United States (Arthur McEvoy says somewhere that it was the largest fishery in the world, and based on a single stock of fish). During the war, the sardines were needed for protein. But after the war ended, there was an increasing demand to use more of the catch to produce fishmeal. That led to the creation of floating canneries, processing whole fish for their oil and meal, and operating outside three-miles and the jurisdiction of the state.

McEvoy, in his excellent book, The Fisherman’s Problem, tells the story of the conflict between state and federal biologists over whether the fluctuations in the sardine catch were a sign that the stock was overfished. The federal biologists sided with the industry and argued the catch was fine. The California Fish and Game biologists, headed by Frances Naomi Clark, argued that too many fish were being taken and the stocks were in danger of collapse. The scientists tried to ensure that most of the catch was processed for humans, but the industry pushed to make oil and fishmeal. With the end of the war, the industry pushed to have more of the catch processed for meal and oi. In the 1920s, they began The processors operating floating canneries outside three miles, beyond the state’s jurisdiction and away from regulations that limited the percentage of the catch that could reduced.

“The enterprise proved successful,” wrote Clark drily. By 1936 the floaters took 250,000 tons, or 32 percent of the entire catch along the Pacific coast. But as labor costs increased and sardines dwindled, Clark reported that by the end of 1938 all floaters had ceased operations off the California coast. At least some of that processing equipment went north to Oregon.

According to Janet Gilmore in her 1986 study, The Oregon Fish Boat, the Oregon legislature in 1935 changed its regulations to allow sardines to be used for reduction. With the change in the law, Gilmore wrote that “four plants for receiving and reducing pilchards to oil sprang up in the Coos Bay area almost overnight, and a fleet of some 75 purse seiners arrived from Monterey each carrying a crew of six to eight Italians or Portuguese to catch fish. A year later, however, the great numbers of pilchards had apparently vanished, the Californians departed as quickly as they had arrived and the plants closed down.”

That sent me to the old issues of the Fish Commission Research Briefs, and in the August of 1948 issue, I found an article by George Yost Harry Jr., laying out the details for what he called the Oregon pilchard fishery. In addition to the Coos Bay plants, three pilchard plants were also started in Astoria. The industry peaked in 1939, with a catch of 22,000 tons. Harry’s graph covers about fifteen years: there are three peaks, in 1935, 1939, and 1941. The trajectory is steeply downward.

I read Harry’s paper about the same time I came across a 1939 publication by Frances Clark, “The Sardine: International Aspects of its Life History and Exploitation,” that she wrote for the Sixth Pacific Science Congress of the Pacific Science Association, meeting in 1939 in San Francisco. I’ve been interested in Clark for many years. She was the only woman in the United States to head a fisheries research unit and she was a strong voice—unfortunately in the wilderness—for the conservation of sardine stocks.

In the paper, Clark points out that tagging of sardines off California and British Columbia revealed that they were the same stock. The fish spawned in Southern California waters between March to June and in their second summer, they moved, north, with the oldest and largest fish reaching British Columbia. “Throughout its entire life and along its entire range of distribution the sardine population is exploited by man,” Clark wrote.

Her table shows a fishery in both British Columbia and California by 1918. Washington boats begin landings in 1935 and Oregon boats in 1936. The California floating plants land 3,810 tons in 1930 and increase to 254,000 in 1936. Their percentage of the catch drops rapidly to 43,890 in 1938.

So what does this all mean? Just that capital was very fluid, and so was processing equipment. The movement of boats from one fishery to another, and from the U.S. to Mexico and Latin America is one thing, but processing equipment also moved, transfers that would be much more difficult to trace. But I think it is obvious from these two papers how quickly fisheries developed in the 1930s and how tightly coupled events were, from British Columbia to the warm waters off Peru. The collapse of California sardines was an indicator of what was going to happen to the anchovy stocks.

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Hello World!

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The Marine Fisheries Review / Soviet Whaling

Soviet Whaling

Dr Phil Clapham of the National Marine Mammal Lab became involved in this effort during a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr Bob Brownell in 1995. Beginning in 2006, Yulia Ivashchenko (now Phil’s wife) joined the project to translate formerly secret Soviet scientific reports (Ivashchenko et al. 2007). She followed this with translation of Fred Berzin’s remarkable memoir on Soviet whaling, which was published at the end of 2008 (Ivashchenko et al. 2008).

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