It’s been an exciting week for the Pacific Fishery History Project. Our partners from the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum were in Corvallis to meet with our Public History 299 class. The museum is planning a new exhibit on fishing in Coos Bay, to open in October. The first step is constructing a timeline and we’ve got two undergraduate history students starting to compile data. When we get a little further along, we’ve be adding that link to our website. We hope that anybody who is interested in our project will contribute items. We want the timeline to be as comprehensive as possible, and to include events about fishing, but also about fishing history.
I wrote a recent blog post about George Yost Harry and his 1956 dissertation on the trawl fisheries off Oregon. My friend Jean Dunn passed on Dr. Harry’s email address; he lives in Bellevue, and was kind enough to take the time to write me a lovely letter, that also lays out some of the details of his career. He includes some very valuable information on reports that he and Jergen Westrheim wrote about the trawl fishery in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Among the many things I did not know, Dr. Harry reports that he chartered a trawler in 1951 to search for pink shrimp off Oregon. “I remember well the thrill of seeing several boxes of pink shrimp at the landing,” Dr. Harry writes. The pink shrimp fishery didn’t take off immediately; it took the development of shrimp peeling machines to make the fishery viable.
It’s exciting to be in touch with Dr. Harry, and to know what he intends to be in Corvallis for the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon. The Department is scheduling a birthday party on Oct. 10-11.
This is a wonderful time to be working on fishing history. The Internet makes so many resources available and there is enormous interest in fisheries history. Among the most committed is Willis Hobart, the editor of the Marine Fisheries Review, published by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Thanks to his efforts, MFR offers the most substantive collection of articles on fisheries history, now available on their own website,
All the material can be downloaded as pdf. In addition to the link to these articles, all of the issues of the Fishery Bulletin are on line, back to the first issue in 1881. Fishery scientists know about the MFR, but I’m not sure that historians are aware of it, and of the rich material it contains. It’s been published under various titles at different times; after World War II, it was the Commercial Fisheries Review. The volumes in those days contained a section that detailed the growth of fishing in various countries around the world. It was an invaluable resource when I was writing my dissertation and curious to know what was happening with boat construction in Japan and developments in fish processing capacity in Iceland (why on earth was I interested in fish processing in Iceland? Because the U.S. State Department was anxious to establish economic ties with Iceland and to continue using the air base they had constructed during the war. American financial aid played a substantial role in developing the post-war Icelandic fishing industry. Icelandic fish was exported to the U.S., and along with the greater volume of fillets from Canada, weakened the New England fishing industry. Icelandic fish sold in the U.S. was Icelandic fish not sold to the Soviet Union. When it comes to fish, there’s always more at stake than just protein).
Thanks to the information from Dr. Harry, I now know that in 1888, the U.S. Fish Commission sent its research vessel, the Albatross, to conduct investigations in the North Pacific Ocean during the fall of 1888 and the summer and fall of 1981. The summary of their findings was published in the Bulletin of the U.S. Fish Commission, vol. viii, in 1888. The survey is described as “extensive,” but few fishing spots were developed.
Launched in 1882, the Albatross was the world’s first large deep-water oceanographic and fisheries research vessel. It had a distinguished 40-year career, and much of it was documented in a special issue of the Marine Fisheries Review, in 1999. The Review published the papers from a symposium on the Albatross, held at the University of Washington. There are papers on the expedition to the Philippines in 1907, and a paper on Kumataro Ito, the Japanese artist who was part of the crew for the voyage. His detailed drawings of fish species are exquisite.
All that information is available online, and makes a fitting start to our timeline on the development of the fishing industry on the Oregon coast.