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AFSC Historical Corner:  John R. Manning,  20 Years of Exploratory Fishing

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John R. Manning
The research vessel John R. Manning, FWS 1002.  Auke Bay Laboratories photo.

Vessel Details
Year built: 1950
Location built: Tacoma, WA
Builder: Pacific Boatbuilding Co.
Designer: Pillsbury & Martignoni
Other names/id: FWS 1002
R. B. Hendrickson
#524645  (USCG ID)
Length: 86.5'
Breadth: 24.5'
Draft: 8.5'
Tonnage (tons): 550 gross
Original engine: 6-cylinder 320 hp diesel
Average speed: 9 knots
Cruising range: 8,000 miles
Known skipper: Joseph Vilicich  (1951)
Jewell Pinyon  (1963)
W. Schneider  (1963-69)
Known service: 1950-69
Manning photos in the
AFSC Multimedia Gallery

The fisheries vessel John R. Manning was a wooden West Coast purse seiner built for the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Pacific Oceanic Fishery Investigations to support experimental commercial-scale purse seine tuna fishing between Hawaii and Palau (about 500 miles east of the Philippines).

The construction was done by the Pacific Boatbuilding Company (Tacoma, Washington), which was in business from 1926-92 and built many high-performance vessels during World War II. In early 1950, both the 86-foot Manning and another newly built research boat, the John N. Cobb, were launched in Tacoma, and soon delivered to the FWS.

The Manning was named after John Ruel Manning, a Bureau of Fisheries chief technologist and a pioneer in utilization research whose work demonstrated the nutritive value of fish oils, protein, minerals, and growth factors in menhaden (and other species) fish meals used as ingredients in animal feeds.

In addition to her 320-horsepower Washington Iron Works diesel engine, the Manning ran two diesel generators for auxiliary power. She was designed with live bait tanks and gear to support deep trolling and longline fishing operations. The boat was outfitted with modern navigational equipment such as Loran, a radio direction finder, a 250-watt radio telephone and telegraph transmitter, and an automatic steering pilot. Her fuel capacity for an 8,000-mile cruising range was necessary for supporting explorations in the Pacific Ocean where refueling points were scarce.

On 21 February 1950, the vessel left Seattle, Washington, for San Pedro, California, then continued on to her new headquarters at Pearl Harbor (Honolulu, Hawaii). In cooperation with the U.S. West Coast tuna fishing industry, she was used for exploratory tuna fishing around Hawaii and beyond into the Philippine Sea and South Pacific. Because of the scarcity of live bait in the ocean, the Manning was also experimenting with alternate capture methods. While the results of purse-seining (for skipjack) and gill-netting around the Hawaiian, Line and Phoenix islands were generally dissapointing, the crew found a 40% inprovement in the take of yellowfin tuna using modified long-line gear. In addition, during these crusies stomach contents were sampled from albacore, yellowfin and big-eyed tuna to determine their diets.

  John R. Manning
Purse-seining in the tropical Pacific Ocean, ca. 1950.
K. Yee, photographer.  NOAA Photo Library.

By 1954, the boat was traveling between Hawaii and Alaska searching for commercial quantities of Pacific albacore. In 1956, she became part of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF) fleet under the reorganized USFWS and was stationed at Juneau, Alaska. The next year she began investigating the occurence and movement of tuna along the West Coast in connection with the Northeastern Pacific Albacore Survey.

During rennovations at Seattle in early 1963, considerable areas of dry rot were uncovered in the vessel's hull, requiring the replacement of entire planks and timbers. Following her repairs, the Manning was used for exploratory scallop fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. Later that year, scientists aboard the Manning tagged king crabs around Kodiak Island.

In 1963, the Manning was also involved in five search and rescue missions – four of which resulted in the successful rescue of about 20 persons total aboard six different endangered vessels.

Thoughout most the 1960s, The Manning was used for halibut and other bottomfish surveys, patrol work, and observations on foreign fishing activities in the Bering Sea. In 1967 the vessel was again in the area, assigned to the BCF's Exploratory Fishing and Gear Research Program (EF&GR) for midwater availability studies of Alaska pink shrimp – in which schools of pink shrimp were located at night well above the sea floor in inshore waters by making echo-sounding transects coupled with test drags using a Cobb pelagic trawl. In 1968-69 the EF&GR made use of the vessel in Southeast Alaska for exploratory surveys of scallop populations.

No longer needed after 20 years of service, the John R. Manning was replaced in 1969 by the newly refurbished F/V Oregon.

At some later time the Manning was sold and renamed the R. B. Hendrickson after Ralph Hendrickson, Superintendent of Columbia River Packers Association's (CRPA) Naknek Cannery in Alaska. A 1982 Transportation Research Board "Marine Accidents Reports" abstract mentions the "fishing vessel R. B. Hendrickson, grounding and sinking on May 13, 1979".

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