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AFSC Historical Corner:  1930 - 1939

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Comprehensive Alaska Salmon Studies Begin and the Montlake Laboratory Opens

salmon passing through weir
Salmon pass through a weir gate over white canvas fastened to the bottom to improve visibility for counting.  BOF photo, 1927.
 
 

In 1930, the Sockeye Salmon Fisheries Convention was signed to address conflicts between U.S. and Canadian fishermen in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, where they competed for sockeye salmon bound for the Fraser River in B.C. Despite the agreement, questions remained unresolved, including the Pacific Salmon Commission's role in regulating the fishery, the division of catch between fishermen of the two countries, and the agencies responsible for investigations. Studies of the salmon fishery by the Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) began the next year.

On 22 May 1931, the Bureau's Montlake Laboratory opened in Seattle. Present at the Open House were Henry O'Malley of the Bureau; Miller Freeman, editor of the Pacific Fisherman; and U.S. Senator Wesley Jones, author of the Jones Act. Also attending were local Bureau staff and members of the International Fisheries Commission (commonly known as the Halibut Commission). Joseph Craig was appointed the first Laboratory Director. Two months later the Halibut Commission moved into the new facility

A 1931 report by Henry O'Malley stated: "... Personnel and equipment of the Stanford field station [California] were transferred to the new Fisheries Biological Laboratory in Seattle, along with all of the Bureau's Pacific biological investigations dealing with Pacific Coast fishery problems, except shellfish and the cooperative work on California trout".

In 1933, both of the Alaska federal hatcheries, at Yes Bay and Afognak Lake (Litnik Lake), operated for the last time and were closed after the end of the season.


Other significant events:

  • 1930 - C. M. Hatton (BOF) conducted the first recorded aerial survey in Alaska – in the Lake Clark district of Bristol Bay.
     
  • 1932 - An extensive herring tagging program began in southeastern Alaska using the new metal "belly" tag, made of pure nickel, which could be recovered by a magnetic detection system installed on the conveyer belts at processing plants. George A. Rounsefell and Edwin Dahlgren's ideas led to the development of this tag. Dahlgren refined the tags in 1935 and further developed electronic and magnetic systems for recovering the tags as fish pass through the reduction plant.
     
  • 1932 - As an attempt to establish an additional food source, the Bureau of Fisheries vessel Murre and her crew assisted B. E. Smith, of Ketchikan, in transporting and planting approximately 300,000 seed oysters of the Japanese variety in waters of the southern district of Southeast Alaska.
     
  • 1933 - Frederick Davidson was appointed director of the Montlake Laboratory and focused on the statistical analysis of fisheries research. He hired a statistical analyst. About the same time, the Halibut Commission began to apply Baranof's theory of fishing to the regulatory problems of the halibut fishery.
     
  • 1934 - Temporary Little Port Walter field facilities for pink salmon survival studies were built on Sashin Creek on the southern tip of Baranof Island in southeastern Alaska. They included the weir and cabin, which was built in Seattle and barged to Alaska, and is still in use (as of 2011.)
     
  • 1934 - An extensive program of stream improvement in southeastern Alaska was undertaken as a project of the Civil Works Administration. One year later, the Works Progress Administration funded the projects for the improvement of salmon-spawning streams in southeastern and central Alaska.
     
  • 1936 - The Sockeye Salmon Fisheries Convention between the U.S. and Canada was ratified by the U.S. Senate. Ratification documents were exchanged between the two countries in 1937.
     
  • 1936 - Resource utilization research at the Seattle Biological Laboratory examined the use of fish products in poultry feed, and various product preservation techniques.
     
  • 1937 - A U.S.-Canada treaty set up the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission to manage those regional fisheries and coordinate extensive salmonid research programs. W. F. Thompson was named Director of Investigations.
     
  • 1938 - An expansion of the Alaska fishery research program at the Seattle Montlake Laboratory began with a large, comprehensive two-part program of study on the salmon runs in the Bristol Bay area of the Bering Sea. A field station and experimental area were established on Brooks River. One part studied the freshwater life history of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon and the environmental factors affecting their survival. The other part studied the ocean life history of salmon and was done in close cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard using the cutter Redwing. The studies ended in 1941 with the outbreak of WWII and Japan's invasion of the Aleutian Islands.
     
  • 1938 - Congress authorized $25,000 to establish a permanent fishery laboratory at the existing Little Port Walter facility in Alaska for "an orderly program of fishery investigation"
     
  • 1938 George B. Kelez initiated a Bristol Bay research program which incorporated aerial and ground surveys for sockeye salmon.
     
  • 1939 - On 3 April the Commerce Department's Bureau of Fisheries and the Agriculture Department's Bureau of Biological Survey were transferred to the U.S. Department of Interior as part of the 1939 Presidential Reorganization Plan No. II.
     


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