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AFSC Historical Corner:  1940 - 1949

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The New Fish and Wildlife Service and Wartime Fisheries Research

laboratory building at Little Port Walter
The "White House" laboratory building, opened in 1940, is part of the Little Port Walter facility.
Photo provided by William Heard (AFSC).

 
 

The 1940 Reorganization Plan No. III, effective 30 June 1940, merged the Bureau of Fisheries (BOF) and the Biological Survey as part of the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In addition, it provided for the establishment of five regional fisheries offices.

In 1940, the Little Port Walter Station headquarters building, commonly known as "the White House", was opened and (as of 2011) remains the longest continuously operating fisheries research laboratory in Alaska.

That same year, Congress appropriated $100,000 for a 1-year study of the potential of an Alaska king crab fishery. The research identified potential harvest areas, fishing gear, preservation and canning techniques, and the fishery potential.

The Fish and Wildlife Service Annual Report for 1942 stated: "Fish for war is the present aim of the fishery biological investigations of the Service". In 1943, while other fisheries research was curtailed during World War II, the Agency's Ketchikan Laboratory investigated emergency sources of marine foods (e.g., various sharks, Steller sea lions, groundfish, and shellfish) in the event military activities in Alaska caused food shortages.

"In every major war fought by the United States, the fishing fleet has formed a second line of naval defense, fishing boats and fishermen being employed in various capacities for patrol, as mine sweepers, in supplying protein food to the armed forces and the civilian population." –
Charles E. Jackson, Acting Bureau of Fisheries Commissioner, 1942.


Other significant events:

  • 1940 - The Bureau's Alaska Technological Laboratory was set up in Ketchikan; it moved to Kodiak in 1971.
     
  • 1941 - Construction of a permanent field laboratory station began on Brooks River.
     
  • 1941 - On 23 October, Japan terminated the international fur seal convention (Fur Seal Treaty of 1911), but protection for the Pribilof herd was arranged by a provisional agreement between Canada and the United States.
     
  • 1941 - Fur seal pup tagging was initiated in Alaska.
     
  • 1942 - A 108-page supplement to the May issue of the Fishery Market News reviewed "The Alaska King Crab", noting that Alaska waters held "... an enormous reserve of edible fish – notably 'sole' and pollock – which is at present wholly unutilized."
     
  • 1944 - The War Food Administration freed sperm whale oil from restricted civilian use, allowing it to be used for grinding oils, carbon paper, mimeograph inks, typewriter ribbon, etc.
     
  • 1944 - The War Manpower Commission emphasized the need "for encouraging employees to adapt more fishing jobs to the employment of women ... women can do much of the work in fish processing plants that formerly was considered for men only."
     
  • 1944 - Selective Service State Directors were given authority to recommend draft exemptions for 18-25-year-old captains of fishing vessels of 20+ gross tons. Of the 600 fishing boats requisitioned for emergency use by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, 142 were released to the War Shipping Administration by the military; 13 were returned to their original owners.
     
  • 1945 - President Harry S. Truman issued a proclamation asserting U.S. jurisdiction "... over the natural resources of the continental shelf under the high seas contiguous to the coasts of the United States and its territories, and providing for the establishment of conservation zones for the protection of fisheries in certain areas of the high seas contiguous to the United States."
     
  • 1947 - Rebuilding after the hurricane at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began – a small number of research investigations there resumed.
     
  • 1947 - The FWS vessel Black Douglas began its long-awaited studies of the Alaska fur seal.
     
  • 1947 - While progress in establishing conservation zones in the Pacific and other waters to protect salmon and other fisheries was temporarily suspended, the State Department advised of its "firm intention to resume attention to this highly important matter at the earliest possible opportunity".
     
  • 1947 - Using a mounted F-56 Fairchild aerial camera, George B. Kelez and G. J. Eicher, Jr. began experimental vertical aerial photographic surveys of the Bristol Bay region as a means of permanently recording salmon spawning counts.
     
  • 1948 - Aerial photographs were taken of all fur seal rookeries as an experimental censusing technique.
     
  • 1948 - For the first time, ridges circling the extracted teeth from freshly killed fur seals were counted as a reliable means of age determination.
     
  • 1948 - Exploratory Fishing and Gear Development Section operations were initiated within the Seattle Technological Laboratory under Maurice Stansby. The aim was to organize a working group to operate on the Pacific coast.  More >>
     
  • 1949 - The Seattle Exploratory Fishing Project was officially transferred from the Technological Laboratory to function as a separate entity.
     
  • 1949 - The FV Oregon began using a LORAN (terrestrial radio LOng RAnge Navigation system), making it the first Fish and Wildlife Service fishing-survey vessel to employ a long-range aid to marine navigation.
     
  • 1949 - Delegate E. L. Bartlett of Alaska introduced a bill in Congress to provide for the gradual reduction and ultimate elimination of salmon traps in Alaska waters – a Department of Fisheries was created by Alaska's Territorial Legislature.
     


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