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AFSC Historical Corner:  1950 - 1959

Agency Timeline
Early Pioneers
Research and Mgmt.

The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, Alaska's Statehood, and Two New Research Vessels

John N. Cobb
The John N. Cobb, launched on 16 January 1950.
Fish and Wildlife Service photo.


In 1956, the new Fish and Wildlife Act created the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, consisting of two Bureaus: the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF) – the descendant from the original U.S. Fish Commission – and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (BSFW). The Alaska Fisheries Science Center would later evolve from the BCF. The Act also declared a National Fishery Policy recognizing the Nation's fish, shellfish, and wildlife as valuable renewable natural resources.

Federal responsibility for most of the wildlife activities historically managed by the U.S. Fish Commission and Bureau of Fisheries – including pinnipeds and cetaceans – was given to the BCF. The responsibility for sea otters, manatees, walruses and birds was assigned to the BSFW, along with sport fish research and most of the freshwater fish hatcheries.

On 7 July 1958, Congress passed the Alaska Statehood Act. The territory became the 49th state on 3 January 1969 and the Federal management of Alaska's commercial fisheries ended. The following year, the responsibility for the fish and wildlife resources was assumed by two new state agencies: the Alaska Board of Fish and Game, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) vessel John N. Cobb was commissioned in 1950 with a public open house at Seattle, Washington. Both she and the newly built FWS boat, John R. Manning, were tasked with exploratory fishing and gear research in Alaska and other areas in the Pacific Ocean. The Cobb remained in service for the 58 years.

Also that year, The FWS's vessel fleet was dealt a blow when its 20-year old Pribilof Islands tender Penguin was severely damaged from a fire at Lake Union in Seattle and sold the following year. Fortunately, within a week, the U.S. Army surplus ship Lt. Raymond Zussman (FS-246) was acquired nearby as the replacement tender. She was renamed the Penguin II a few months later.

Other significant events:

  • 1950 - A sixth regional fisheries office was established in Alaska to facilitate administration of Alaska's fisheries.
  • 1950 - An independent Western Fish Disease Laboratory was established by the FWS at the University of Washington's College of Fisheries. Facilities included a large bacteriology laboratory, consisting of a wet lab with three large aquaria, 16 4-foot troughs supplied with heated and chilled water, and support facilities for researchers.
  • 1953 - Preliminary explorations for salmon in the offshore waters of the Aleutian Islands were made by the John N. Cobb, mainly to develop techniques for fishing salmon with gill nets on the high seas.
  • 1953 - The International Convention for the High Seas Fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean established the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission (INPFC).
  • 1954 - Fisheries biologist George B. Kelez and four other Fish & Wildlife Service employees lost their lives in a tragic plane crash in Alaska.  More >>
  • 1955 - The first survey to determine the distribution of salmon in the eastern North Pacific Ocean was made in the spring by the John N. Cobb, followed later that year by similar cruises with two chartered halibut schooners, the Mitkov and the Paragon. Within 6 years the general distribution of North Pacific Ocean salmon was firmly established.
  • 1956 - All biological research associated with the Alaska finfish fisheries (except that being performed for the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission) was transferred from the Montlake Laboratory in Seattle to Juneau, Alaska.
  • 1956 - From 1956 through 1964, the Montlake Laboratory studied and defined the biology and populations of king crab in the eastern Bering Sea.
  • 1957 - Exploratory fishing operations by the BCF off Alaska located new Pacific ocean perch and shrimp resources. Exploratory research in the central, eastern, and northern Pacific revealed that Japanese and American fishermen were exploiting the same stocks of albacore.
  • 1958 - Under terms of the North Pacific Fisheries Convention, Japan agreed to abstain from salmon fishing on the high seas of the North Pacific east of longitude 175°W, while research continued to determine the proper line to divide Asian and North American salmon stocks equitably. Research showed that sockeye salmon of the North American type appeared to predominate in the North Pacific as far west as longitude 175°E.
  • 1958 - The Bureau's Biological Laboratory at Stanford, California, obtained indices of air circulation changes over the North Pacific for a 32-year period (1926-57) and studied their effects on sea temperatures, upwelling, and fish populations.
  • 1958 - The Western Fish Disease Laboratory moved to a vacant warehouse at the nearby Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle. The U.S. Navy provided the carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work needed to furnish a well laid out laboratory.
  • 1958-59 - Congress appropriated $430,000 for the construction of the Auke Bay Laboratory 12 miles north of Juneau, Alaska.
  • 1959 - The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was called upon to intensify fishing treaty enforcement and foreign fishing surveillance in international waters, especially off the Alaska coast where Japan and the Soviet Union had concentrated their greatest fishing efforts.

<<  1940-1949

1960-1969  >>

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