The Western Flyer: Steinbeck’s Boat, The Sea of Cortez, and the Saga of Pacific Fisheries.

The Western Flyer

The Western Flyer

By Kevin M. Bailey. The University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Reviewed by Donald Gunderson

A rich blend of philosophy, ecology, history, and first-rate literature lies behind the unassuming title for The Western Flyer: Steinbeck’s Boat, The Sea of Cortez, and the Saga of Pacific Fisheries.   Writer and marine scientist Kevin Bailey uses the odyssey of the Western Flyer to illustrate the exuberance that accompanies the exploitation of a newly discovered fisheries resource, the all-too common depletion that ensues, and the ongoing struggle to exploit natural resources in a sustainable way.

And what an odyssey this was. From the Tacoma shipyard where she emerged

Kevin Bailey

Kevin Bailey

“with colored streamers set high and snapping”, to the Port Townsend dry dock where her worm-infested hulk lies in state, the Western Flyer was fated to participate in one poorly managed fishery after another. Sardines off California, Pacific ocean perch off Washington, and finally king crab off Kodiak. She ended her active days as a salmon tender in Puget Sound, and after a prolonged period of neglect she suffered two dockside sinkings.

Legendary skippers like the pioneering Dan Luketa and the fearsome Jackie Ray (who actually sported a hook at the end of one arm) ruled the Western Flyer’s wheelhouse over the years, and she was manned by a colorful array of deck hands and hard working fishermen. Yet for a few brief interludes she saw service as a research vessel and scientists like Colin Levings and Ed Ricketts walked her decks. Levings participated in surveys that helped to save the halibut fishery from depletion. The iconoclastic Ricketts was a pioneering ecologist, and the model for “Doc” in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

Donald Gunderson

Donald Gunderson

Four weeks in the spring of 1940, when John Steinbeck—an accomplished naturalist in his own right—chartered the Western Flyer for an expedition to the Sea of Cortez, would destine her for a permanent place in history. It was during this voyage that Steinbeck and Ricketts carefully documented the fauna of the Sea of Cortez, and elaborated their philosophy of the unity of mankind with the universe in general, and the earth’s ecosystems in particular. Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez was the most notable product of this collaboration, and Bailey correctly orients it as a pioneering work in the canon of ecological holism, together with those of John Muir and Aldo Leopold. “It is advisable to look from the tidepool to the stars and then back to the tidepool again.” wrote Steinbeck and Ricketts.

In Log from the Sea of Cortez, Steinbeck wrote “The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it.” And so he did—in collaboration with Ed Ricketts.

Steinbeck observed that fish schools “turned as a unit and dived as a unit. In their millions they followed a pattern minute as to direction and depth and speed. There must be some fallacy in our thinking of these fish as individuals.” “And this larger animal, the school, seems to have a nature and drive and ends of its own accord. It is more than different from the sum of its units,” and seemed to be “directed by a school intelligence“.

For Steinbeck, this provided insight into human behavior. “A man in a group isn’t himself at all…I want to watch these group-men, for they seem to me to be a new individual, not at all like single men.”

Ricketts showed similar insight. “With their many and their very large boats, with their industry and efficiency, but most of all by their intense energy, the Japanese very obviously will soon clean out the shrimp resources of Guaymus…But there again is the conflict of nations, of ideologies, of two conflicting organisms. And the units in those organisms are themselves good people, people you’d like to know.”

In Bailey’s words, the Japanese fishermen “…knew what they were doing was wrong, but they did it for the sake of the superorganism, the industrial company.” Fishermen, fishing vessels like the Western Flyer, corporations, resource management agencies and even economies can be viewed as nested superorganisms existing within the ecosystems that support them. Each of these groupings can thrive only if those ecosystems do. Yet the record of successfully sustaining those ecosystems is a checkered one, with many natural resources suffering the same fate as those exploited by the Western Flyer.

Bailey uses the Western Flyer’s current condition as a metaphor for the hulk that the once prosperous Pacific Salmon resource has become—so badly damaged that the costs of repairing her may be prohibitive. While Alaska salmon have been managed properly and continue to support vibrant commercial fisheries, the costs of rebuilding salmon resources in Washington, Oregon, and California will be enormous and we may not know how to accomplish this. Will future generations simply write them off?

The final pages of this book are lyrical prose at its finest, and almost seem to channel Steinbeck. The Salinas valley that Steinbeck loved so deeply seems to become a living, breathing organism. Bailey suggests that it is perhaps here that the Western Flyer should spend its final days—an icon high on Mount Toro, “witness to the fog drifting in and out of the valley”, a ghost ship with her ribs “sounding out in the wind”.

How appropriate. The Western Flyer testifying to lost resources, lost opportunities, and mankind’s conflicting roles as both exploiter and shepherd of the earth’s natural resources. Bailey has found poetry in this.

Posted in California sardines, Environmental History, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Overfishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, Rosefish, Sebastes rockfish | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

R/V COMMANDO – College of Fisheries – Off Shore


Two graduate students, Dave (left) holding The White Sturgeon

Two graduate students, Dave (left) holding The White Sturgeon

Charles R. (Bob) Hitz              Bob’s Posting # 31                              April 4, 2015

When I was going through the Logs of the Commando I found an entry that I had written on May 3, 1960. It was for trip #6017 and it brought back a wave of memories, since that was my first encounter with the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. At the time I was being considered for a job with the Exploratory group which worked the outside waters from Mexico to the Bering Sea. The first thing that came to my mind was, would I become seasick once I was outside? If so, would three years of graduate school be wasted? There was no class about sea sickness given at the College of Fisheries, but there was talk.

Commando logbook (click to enlarge), Hitz photo

Commando logbook (click to enlarge), Hitz photo

Seasickness is strange: some people get it and others don’t, and I felt that I wouldn’t because of the storm I went through on the Atlantic Ocean on my way back from France in 1956.   I had completed my active duty with the US Army and was headed for discharge in Seattle on a 623’ troop transport, the USS General H. W. Butner, when she got caught in a hurricane. The seas were monstrous, the vessel was hove to and I, along with the rest of the troops, was locked below decks. I remember lying in one of the stacks of bunks near the after part of the ship and as abnormal swells passed under us and the bow hung in the air, the whole ship would vibrate and you hoped the welds would hold.

Commando, Tom Oswald Jr. on flying bridge, Olaf Rockness on bow, Collage of Fisheries behind, Hitz photo

Commando, Tom Oswald Jr. on flying bridge, Olaf Rockness on bow, Collage of Fisheries behind, Hitz photo

I had guard duty during part of that time and the sergeant put me in the

middle of a stairway in the bow that let out onto the foredeck, where it was my job to keep anyone from going on deck. At the bottom was a head full of vomit and some soldiers throwing up. As I sat on the stairs we would rise 20 to 30 feet as a swell approached and then drop the same distance as it passed underneath us before coming back up to repeat it again and again. Fortunately nobody came up the stairs. I was proud I never got sick, but I did feel a little woozy. After that experience I hoped I might be immune.

USS General H. W. Butner, 1956, Lowney Photo

USS General H. W. Butner, 1956, Lowney Photo

Once the hurricane had passed a few of us were allowed on deck. The swells were still large and the ship still headed into them. The sun was out, but there was a haze that was the remains of the storm.

On Butner looking forward, after the hurricane, Bow down, 1956, Hitz photo

On Butner looking forward, after the hurricane, Bow down, 1956, Hitz photo

In 1960 I and two other graduate students had the opportunity to accompany the Commando for a week’s trip to the open ocean to collect Pacific or true cod Gadus microcephalus off the coast of Washington. We left the College on Monday morning May 2, 1960 and by dinnertime we were off Dungeness Spit and heading out the Straits of Juan DeFuca. A strong westerly wind was blowing directly down the straits with an ebbing, or outgoing tide against the wind, which made the waves even steeper as the vessel bucked into them. Since I was in the pilothouse when dinner was called, I went back to the galley and sat down, but after a bite or two of spaghetti I had to rush out the galley door to the deck – I was seasick. The motion of the Commando in that chop really got to me.

On Butner looking to the side after hurricane, Hitz photo

On Butner looking to the side after hurricane, Hitz photo

On deck I threw up and leaned against the mast, but looking aft at the horizon from the center of the vessel I felt better so I went back to the pilothouse and remained there until I started feeling sick again. Went back to the mast, hoping that would help. As I looked around I saw that the deck was covered with vomited spaghetti – how could I have thrown up that much when I eaten so little? Dave, one of the other students, said that he had eaten a full dinner and then some, and he’d lost it all on deck. The third student gave us a bad time about seasickness, since he was feeling great and felt that the sea was his calling.

On Butner looking aft, after hurricane, 1956, Hitz photo

On Butner looking aft, after hurricane, 1956, Hitz photo

We put into Neah Bay that night and proceeded offshore the next morning. The day was nice, with a slight breeze and a swell from the northwest and my seasickness was under control. So was Dave’s. But the third student was seasick off and on throughout the remaining days off the coast. As soon as we returned from the trip he changed his major to teaching and did a wonderful job as a science teacher on dry land once he graduated.

We made four hauls the first day out, each about two hours long and in depths of 57 to 61 fathoms along the so-called bread line, as the fishermen call it, just south of Cape Flattery. After the fourth haul was up at 2000 or 8 PM, we secured everything and shut down for the night. We had taken 25 true cod in the first three sets and 70 in the last one. There were a few rockfish in the catch and I opened each to see the condition of their ovaries. Then everyone went to bed, I in the upper bunk on the starboard side of the house.

All night I lay awake, listening to the cables of the stabilizers swishing through

Commando’s stabilizer pole rigged for outside waters,            another dragger in the background   Hitz Photo

Commando’s stabilizer pole rigged for outside waters,
another dragger in the background Hitz Photo

the water as the gentle swells lifted and lowered the vessel. I kept wondering where we were drifting, as we could see light on the beach before we went to bed. Tom and the others were sleeping soundly. Morning came and everyone got up and went into the galley, where we waited for the coffee to perk. Looking out the door, it seemed to me as though we hadn’t drifted during the night and I mentioned that “We didn’t move much last night.” No one said a word. The coffee perked and as they were drinking it, I looked out again and said “That spot on shore is in the same place as it was last night, so why didn’t we drift? We should have.” No one said a word. When Tom and Olaf had finished their coffee, Tom told Olaf “Start up the engine and then haul the anchor” and that’s when I realized that we had anchored all night in the open ocean. If I had known that I would have slept better. Talk about a greenhorn…….

Outriggers are common on these vessels, especially the smaller ones. There are two poles that are spread out from the mast at about 45 degrees from the vessel, like trolling poles on the salmon trollers. They are stayed rigidly in a fixed location and from each pole there is a cable with a bird attached to it. The bird is a weighted cylinder with a triangle fin on each side like wings of a delta jet, and a vertical tail. When the vessel rolls in a swell, the device slows the roll as it is pulled up through the water on one side with the flat part of the wings resisting the water, while on the other side it sinks head first with the leading edge of the wings cutting through the water with no resistance. Once the vessel completes the roll and starts the other way, the stabilizer reverses and slows down the rolling. The upper part of the tail helps keep the bird in line when the vessel is underway. The devices are always deployed when the vessel goes into the open ocean, as was done on the Commando when she left Neah Bay for the outside waters.

Stabilizers, Hitz photo

Stabilizers, Hitz photo

After the anchor was pulled, we proceeded offshore and made our first set at 0450 in the morning in about 58-60 fathoms for a two-hour tow south near Destruction Island. We took 40 true cod in that haul and then made a second haul in about the same location at 0722, which lasted another two hours and we took another 40 true cod. Again there were a few rockfish in the catch which I measured and sexed, along with a few flatfish and small halibut. There was a surprise in the catch, a white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus. We all took part of it home as home pack and it was delicious.

On the way back, we made the last haul in Puget Sound at Port Orchard at 0435 the next morning, May 5, 1960, the last haul made in my study. It is recorded in the Commando fish log as haul 6017-G, the seventh tow for the trip.

I had survived the coastal trip and felt seasickness was part of the job, and looked forward to joining the Exploratory group and going to sea on the John N. Cobb.



Posted in Environmental History, Exploratory Fishing Base, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, R/V John N. Cobb, Sebastes rockfish, World History | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nick Bez and his clear conscience

“The tuna business is largely concentrated in Southern California. That industry, which 2015-03-21_1248always shows surface indications of bursting apart violently from internecine squabble, is capable of uniting almost instantly to give the most ruthless competition, in either the production, processing, or marketing field, to an outsider trying to come into the tuna business….A newcomer to the business, without deep roots of fisheries know-how, can confidently expect to be crucified before he gets his feet under him.” [1]

The quotation comes from a letter written by Wilbert McLeod Chapman in 1947. We have no doubt that he was referring to Nick Bez and the Pacific Explorer. We have been searching for ages for the right place to deploy that quotation, which we really, really like, and we are pleased to use it at last.

Nick Bez and the Pacific Explorer

Nick Bez and the Pacific Explorer

There are so many things in the three issues of The Fisherman’s News that we hardly know where to start. There are complaints about fish from Iceland, Sen. Warren Magnuson is worried about the Americans giving fishing boats to the Soviets,  and more American built boats are going to fish in China.

But there is no question of where to start and that’s with Nick Bez and the headline: “My conscience is clear,” says Nick Bez regarding Pacific Explorer.” Where to start?

In January of 1947, after a final outfitting in Astoria, the Pacific Explorer, accompanied by twelve trawlers rigged for purse-seine fishing, set off on its shake-down cruise, to Costa Rica.

The American Tuna Association, which represented the bait boats, was furious. It put pressure on its congressional delegation, calling for an investigation into the contract between the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and Bez. Rep. Thor Tollefson, chairman of the House Merchant Marine-Fisheries Subcommittee, called on the RFC to explain “why a research fishing vessel, equipped and paid for by the government, is hauling tuna out of Costa Rica waters in competition with San Diego and San Pedro boats.”[1]

The result of the hearing was that the Explorer was ordered back to Astoria while the contract was re-written. It sat for seven months, waiting for the heat to die down, before it was sent to Alaska to fish for king crab. The Fisherman’s News clipping is interesting, because this is the publication we have seen where Bez says, “I did not want to go in with the government and explore the Bering Sea.”

It is likely that Bez was more interested in fishing for tuna rather than for king crab. He certainly intended to send the Explorer to the Marshall, Marina, and Caroline Islands, where the Japanese had mounted a lucrative tuna fishery in the 1920s. While one of the boats built to fish with the Explorer, the Alaska, was sent to the Line Islands, but the tuna project was mothballed after a disappointing trip to the Bering Sea.

[1] Chapman to George H. Owens, Sept. 24, 1949, Chapman papers, 1852, Box 15, Folder Number 23.

Posted in Albacore tuna, American Tuna Association, Environmental History, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Maritime History, Nick Bez, Ocean fishing, Pacific Explorer, Pacific Fishing History Project | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Built in Seattle for fishing in China in 1947


This is another in our continuing series of blog posts about American-built boats that went sent to foreign countries after World War II. We have looked at vessels built for the Soviets, sent to Germany, and a research vessel sent to South Korea. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was created to help countries, especially China, to counter hunger problems by developing fisheries.This picture of the F/V Michigan, apparently built in Bellingham, was featured in the May, 1947 issue of the Aberdeen-based The Fisherman’s News.

According to various newspaper accounts from 1946-47, the US provided China with at least 72 vessels, as well as sending eleven vessels to Greece and eight to Yugoslavia. The idea was to increase protein production in countries with little food.

The F/V Michigan, built at Bellingham for China

The F/V Michigan, built at Bellingham for China

The story quotes two fishermen who had taken boats to China, Jerry Johannesen and Carl Salter, who had taken the North Coast and North Cape to Shanghai as part of the UNRRA program to jump start Chinese fisheries with modern technology. They said the program was hopelessly entangled in “monopolies and rackets.” The UNRRA was calling for 50 skippers to be sent to Shanghai to man the vessels that had already been delivered.

The accompanying news story quotes Lowell W. Weeks, the UNRRA director on Washington, D.C., “that the rehabilitation program in China has ‘fallen down’ comes as no surprise to the fishing industry.” The story goes on to say that fishermen had been in contact with the government about the problems with the program, which was designed to help “the starving Chinese people.” Weeks goes on to complain that items sent to China-specifically rope—was left to rot on the docks, because there was no distribution system. “From the information we have, the fishing sector of the UNRRA program in China is but a small part of the whole program and the other segments are equally inefficient.”

2015-03-18_1624In June of 1947,  published this picture of American built-boats in Shanghai, with this article.

“Last of the Puget Sound-built vessels for China sailed from Seattle early this month. The five vessels comprise what is to be the last convoy. The vessels were the Seattle, Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Indiana. Skippers are Maurice O. Reaber, Earling C. Jacobsen,  Winston C. Phalin, Henry C. Jacobsen, and George Gray.”

This Aberdeen-based monthly newspaper, started in 1945, eventually moved to Seattle and continue to publish as The Fisherman’s News.

Posted in boat building, Chinese fishery development, Cold War, Fisheries policy, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Japanese fishing, Maritime History, Nick Bez, Ocean fishing, Pacific Explorer, Pacific Fishing History Project, Soviet environmental history, Soviet fishing, Soviet history', World History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

R/V COMMANDO – College of Fisheries – Puget Sound


Commando, College of Fisheries in the Background                Hitz Photo

Commando, College of Fisheries in the Background
Hitz Photo

Charles R. (Bob) Hitz       Bob’s Posting #30         Mar. 17, 2015

Recently I was contacted by Jason Lim, a University of Washington (U/W) graduate student who is doing research on his Master’s thesis. The objective of the research is to gather information about the historical distribution of bottomfish in Puget Sound, with an emphasis on rare rockfish like yelloweye, canary and boccaccio. Most of my work was done offshore with Exploratory Fishing, but when I was at the UW School of Fisheries between 1958 and 1960 I was working on my graduate thesis on two species of rockfish, brown and copper, taken in Port Orchard within Puget Sound. He was still interested in interviewing me, so we made plans to meet at the UW Fisheries Science Building on Feb. 24, 2015.

Jason Lim, U/W graduate studentHitz Photo

Jason Lim, U/W graduate student Hitz Photo

It’s difficult to recall what occurred 57 years ago, but there are occasions that are etched in one’s memory, one of which concerns the UW College’s R/V Commando’s Fishing Log. My major professor Dr. DeLacy had control of the schedule and one of his requirements was that a fish log had to be kept for each haul made. He made arrangements for me to use the Commando as a tool to collect my samples and it was my responsibility to fill out the log for those hauls I made. The only time that I remember him to be upset was when he reviewed the log of my first couple of tows and found the scientific names either misspelled or missing. I had to go back and correct each one and had to use the basic reference we used, “Clemens and Wilby Fishes of the Pacific Coast of Canada” (1) to make sure of the spelling of the scientific name. After that my log entrees and species were correct and scientific names were included. I wanted to review the logs before I met Jason to help me recall what else was in the catch, as all I remembered were the brown and copper rockfish which were the target species.

Returning through the Locks ,Hitz Photo

Returning through the Locks ,Hitz Photo

Thinking back, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to use the Commando to collect my samples. The vessel had an overall length of 67 feet and was built in 1944 for the commercial fishing industry in Seattle. It had fished in the halibut longline fishery for 11 years. In 1955 it was sold to the UW College of Fisheries, replacing their R/V Oncorhynchus. She was rigged for trawling and was my first introduction to a commercial fishing vessel.

Trawler, dragger, otter trawler, are all terms to define a vessel that tows a net along the

: Commando Profile (Click to Enlarge)                Hitz Drawing

: Commando Profile (Click to Enlarge) Hitz Drawing

bottom. The net is held open by floats attached to the head rope, and has a weighted foot rope which skims the bottom. It is spread by the trawl doors which act as kites in the water, each shearing to an opposite side of the boat, holding open the net. Once the doors are on the bottom the net is towed for about an hour.

Trips on the Commando were a full day. During 1959 and 1960 we made a total of 22 trips. There were three of us on the vessel: Tom Oswald Jr. the skipper, Olaf Rockness, the engineer deckhand and myself, a greenhorn deckhand and student. It was a wonderful experience and I still remember parts of it.

Trawl Winch with Iron BarHitz photo

Trawl Winch with Iron Bar Hitz photo

We would depart from the College of Fisheries’ dock located just west of the Montlake Cut across from the Seattle Yacht Club, casting off the lines in the early morning and heading out blowing the whistle to open the University Bridge. After that we followed the ship canal to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where we waited to enter the locks and once there waited again for the after lock door to close behind us and then became a tourist attraction as the water was being pumped out, lowering the Commando. Once the water reached the level of Puget Sound, the outer doors would be opened and the vessel would move out into Shilshole Bay and the salt water. We’d head across Puget Sound for Port Orchard and, while we crossed, Olaf would go into the galley to fix us breakfast on the galley stove.

It’s been over 50 years since I was served breakfast in the Commando’s galley and I still remember Olaf’s biscuits, how good they were with bacon and eggs.

After breakfast we headed through Agate Passage under the bridge located on the northwest side of Bainbridge Island. It opened into a body of water called Port Orchard, which had a smooth bottom where trawls made in the past yielded rockfish in their catch. We would set the trawl and tow it for about an hour.

Rockfish Ovaries ,Yellow OrangeHitz Photo

Rockfish Ovaries ,Yellow Orange Hitz Photo

Since there were only 3 of us on the vessel, I had to run one of the winches when we set and retrieved the trawl. There was a brake handle on each winch, a wheel that you turned to release the brake. When letting out the gear Olaf kept saying, “Make sure the brake is off and it’s not dragging,” so I would keep unscrewing it to make sure it wasn’t dragging until one day I unscrewed it completely and it sprang out of the socket. I said “Is this OK?” and he said a lot of bad words. How he refitted the screw into the socket is a mystery to me but he did, and I never unscrewed it completely again. Retrieving the trawl was an interesting procedure as the cable came in and had to be laid flat in layers so that all the cable could be contained on the drum. Each winch operator had an iron bar that he used to guide the cable onto the drum in even layers. I also had to take the single line from the boom, which was used to lift the catch aboard. I was told never to let go of it until it was fastened or passed to another crewman, because when the vessel was outside and was rolling, a lost hook was dangerous, I had an opportunity to see that aboard the Cobb a few years later and it was scary.

 Rockfish Ovaries Gray-Eyed LarvaeHitz Photo

Rockfish Ovaries Gray-Eyed Larvae Hitz Photo

Once the net was brought back aboard and the catch sorted, the rockfish were set aside and on the way back to the U/W I measured each for total length and opened the body cavity to determine its sex and what stage the females were in. Rockfish are ovoviparous, giving live birth to their young. I had no idea that their eggs were fertilized internally although I had filleted many rockfish before, just had never opened their body cavities to check the eggs. I found that the ovaries changed color as the embryos grew as the yoke of each egg was used up. From yellow to orange to gray as the larvae gained eyes and the yolk sack disappeared. Once the yolk was gone, the largest individual brown rockfish gave birth to 300,000 larvae and the copper produced 600,000. The births occurred in late spring for both (2).

Commando’s Log Book (Click to Enlarge)Hitz Photo

Commando’s Log Book (Click to Enlarge) Hitz Photo

Jason arrived when I was reviewing the logs and we discussed his thesis and went through the questions and charts that he brought. One of his questions was whether I had ever seen a bocaccio in the inside waters and I said I couldn’t remember ever seeing one. Toward the end of the interview we were looking through the old log books, and on tow 6002 made on Feb. 3, 1960 we found Sebastodes auriculatus, S. caurinus, and S. paucispinis. The first two I recognized as the brown and copper rockfish respectively, but didn’t recognized the latter. Jason got out his smart phone, looked up the scientific name and said “You won’t believe this, but it is the bocaccio.” There was a question mark by it – why the question? I would assume I was questioning the identification, but in Clemens and Wilby’s book it is the first rockfish to be separated out so I should have ID it. We also found a log for a May trip off the Washington coast in which we took bocaccio in the catch, with no question mark.

My thesis was about completed and one item that was holding me back was the requirement of converting French text into English, so when I was overseas in France I took a class which I passed for my undergraduate requirement. But when I was in graduate school at U/W I took the exam five times without passing. I was becoming frustrated, so when Lee Alverson became the director of the Exploratory and Gear Research unit in Seattle and offered me a job in 1960, I took it with the idea I could finish my degree while working for him. I never did. I hope I have contributed to Jason’s research.

  • Clemens, W. A., Wilby G.V. (1961) Fishes of the Pacific Coast of Canada,   Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bulletin No. 68 (2nd Edition), 1961, 443 pp.
  • DeLacy, Allan C., Charles R. Hitz, and Robert L. Dryfoos, (1964), Maturation, Gestation, and Birth of Rockfish (Sebastodes) from Washington and Adjacent Waters. Fisheries Research Papers, Vol. 2, No. 3, Washington Department of Fisheries, March, 1964.



Posted in boat building, Dayton Lee Alverson, Environmental History, Exploratory Fishing Base, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Maritime History, Pacific Fishing History Project, World History | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FISH FLOUR and the Cobb Midwater Trawl


The Cobb midwater trawl, FWS drawing

The Cobb midwater trawl

Charles R. (Bob) Hitz    Bob’s Posting 29                   Mar. 9, 2015

Fish Flour brings back a lot of memories and the Ballad of the Hake enforces them. Reading them leaves one feeling that the hake project and fish flour were a failure. I who worked on it as a researcher have another opinion. I feel it was one of the more successful missions that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Exploratory Fishing and Gear Research Base (EFGRB) accomplished. A lot of people were involved in this project and one part of the group which I haven’t mentioned much in my past postings is the gear group. It played a major part and Dick McNeely was the head of this division.

Large catch of Pacific hake, FWS Photo

Large catch of Pacific hake, FWS Photo

In the early 60’s there was interest in a midwater trawl to sample the off -bottom traces seen on the echo sounders, which were believed to be fish. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) had contracted the FWS EFGRB to sample the bottom and midwater fish off the Oregon and Washington coasts which might have been affected by the outflow of the Columbia River fresh water that had passed by or through the AEC Hanford plant.

Europeans were experimenting with a small high speed trawl they felt would catch fish by speed, but were having trouble with the instrumentation to fish the net at the desirable depth of the target in midwater. Lee Alverson, the new director of the EFGRB, and Dick McNeely decided to experiment with a large slow-speed trawl and develop a system to control the depth where it fished (1).

Dick fabricated new hydrofoil aluminum trawl doors like airplane wings which, when

Simrad Depth Sounder with Midwater trace, FWS Picture

Simrad Depth Sounder with Midwater trace, FWS Picture

towed through the water were held up in a horizontal position. Water flowing over the airfoils helped pull or shear a door to the side of the vessel and when two doors opposite one another would spread or open the net. He purchased cable with electronic wires running through the center which replaced the conventional trawl cable and developed a method of diverting the electric current through the trawl winch so that the electrical current from the trawl cable could get to the pilot house. He then set up a way to pass the current from the trawl cable to a depth sensing instrument. This wasn’t a simple matter because of the stress of the trawl doors pulling on the cable. If any saltwater got into the electrical system it would short out. I remember the O rings and

Hydrofoil Trawl door, FWS Picture

Hydrofoil Trawl door, FWS Picture

the epoxy that he used to make the connection. He changed the smaller trawl blocks that the cable passed over to larger ones so the electrical wires in the cable wouldn’t be crushed (2). It worked, and the EFGRB finally had a workable midwater sampling gear, the Cobb Midwater Trawl.

When I was hired in July, 1960 I was shown around the unit to get acquainted with the group and one of the first I met was Dick. He was enthusiastic about the gear group and I remember going out on the Cobb for a few days when they were experimenting with the new midwater trawl. They were using scuba gear to observe it underwater. The crew and the biologist who volunteered to be a scuba driver were approved and trained by the government so that they could be used in this type of work. Scuba gear was very popular at this time because of Jacques Cousteau, the person who introduced it to the world during WWII on his own TV show, showing his experiences in diving from his vessel the R/V Calypso.

Trawl cable with electric wires in the center, FWS drawing

Trawl cable with electric wires in the center, FWS drawing

Pilot House Readout, FWD Photo

Pilot House Readout, FWD Photo

I watched as the divers got ready to go overboard as the net was being towed just below the surface waters outside Port Angeles in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. While he was employed in Miami, Florida before coming to Seattle, Dick had developed a sled-like a two-man bobsled that was towed behind the vessel. It had a stick which was connected to fins on each side and worked like ailerons on a plane’s wing. Moving the stick forward would make the sled go down and pulled back would

Pressure sensor at the end of Trawl Cable, FWS Drawing

Pressure sensor at the end of Trawl Cable, FWS Photo

bring it up, and when the stick was moved to the sides the sled would go side to side. Divers had air tanks to supply them while submerged. The first diver sat in the front seat of the sled as pilot and the second one got in behind him and was the

observer. The rope was let out, the sled would go down and they were able to get close to the net and trawl doors by manipulating the control stick. When they returned to the ship they would be debriefed and decisions about improving the conformation of the net would be made from their observations.

Sensor and pressure meter, FWS Drawing

Sensor and pressure meter, FWS Drawing

I made a decision that day that I would not volunteer for scuba diving, even though I was a good swimmer and used to love to swim underwater with fins and a face mask like my heroes, frogmen of the Navy demolition teams during WW II. I decided that there was a lot of information to be obtained on the surface after the net was returned to the vessel from the deep and that would be my role.

By Pass through Trawl Winch, FWS Drawing

By Pass through Trawl Winch, FWS Drawing

So in early 1960 the net became a sampling tool and by the mid-60s it became a commercial net where hake were taken in large quantities. While they were considered an industrial fish, since they were not suitable for human consumption, they could still be converted to fish flour and exploratory trips determined that there was a huge midwater resource of hake off the Washington and Oregon coasts during the spring and summer months. Commercial fishing vessels using the midwater trawl with the specialized trawl cable could catch

Enlarged Trawl Block, FWS Drawing

Enlarged Trawl Block, FWS Photo

quantities of hake which could be delivered to a shore facility and, based on this information, the U.S. Government built the first fish-protein concentrate plant in Aberdeen, Washington.

But in 1966 the huge Russian fishing fleet suddenly arrived off our coast. They targeted POP and Pacific hake, which they captured and processed in waters just outside our three mile limit, and they took the finished product home to feed their population. Our commercial vessels were not able to compete with the large powerful Russian trawlers. The Russians had read American newspapers and scientific reports about the huge hake resource and had exploratory vessels working the Washington and Oregon coasts in 1965, and prepared to come when they did.

Sensor and pressure meter, FWS Drawing

Sensor and pressure meter, FWS Drawing

The arrival of the Russian fleet in 1966 was one reason the fish flour plant failed and was the main reason why the 200 mile limit became law in 1976 with the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. With time hake were renamed Pacific Whiting and, along with the Alaskan Pollock, would become one of the major American fisheries with American factory trawlers processing the fish on the high seas.

Trace of 40,000 pounds of Pacific hake, FWS Photo

Trace of 40,000 pounds of Pacific hake, FWS Photo

I was involved with the early exploratory hake cruises when I was aboard the Cobb, and hope to have the opportunity to post about my experiences during that time with this fascinating resource.

  • Alverson, Dayton L., (2008), Race to the Sea, The Autobiography of a Marine Biologist, iUniverse Inc., New York, Bloomington, 553p, (pp. 344-345 & 347)
  • McNeely, Richard L., L. J. Johnson, and C. D. Gill; (1965), Construction and Operation of the “Cobb” Pelagic Trawl (1964), Commercial Fisheries Review, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Dept. of Interior, Vol. 27, No 10, (Oct. 1965) pp. 10-17 (Also Separate No. 743)
Posted in Carmel Finley, Cold War, Dayton Lee Alverson, Environmental History, Exploratory Fishing Base, Fisheries policy, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, R/V John N. Cobb, Rosefish, Sebastes rockfish, Soviet environmental history, Soviet fishing, World History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Captain George Moskovita Memoir to be republished by OSU Press

Captain George Moskovita

Captain George Moskovita

We are extremely pleased (thrilled, actually!) to announce that Oregon State University Press is going to republish Living off the Pacific Ocean Floor, the memoir by pioneer Astoria trawler, Captain George Moskovita. We are big fans of George, and grateful to his family, for the work they have done to tape record his stories, transcribe them, and collect the wonderful pictures that illustrate them.

Along with Mary Hunsicker, a biological oceanographer, we’ve written an introduction to Moscovita-203x300George’s story. It is scheduled to be published in the Fall. We could not be more pleased (we know we already said that, but we are really pleased)!

Our main objective in the blog is to help write the story of the development of fishing and fisheries science, first off Oregon, but really for the whole Pacific Ocean. As we frequently lament, most of the scholarship on the development of fishing is based in the Atlantic, where fishing developed over hundreds of years. In the Pacific, development was much more compressed, with fisheries starting and collapsing within decades–or within years, as was the boom and bust fishery for shark livers off Oregon early in the war.

Captain George Moskovita fishing for shark livers

Captain George Moskovita fishing for shark livers

Dr. George Yost Harry

Dr, George Yost Harry

George’s memoir adds to our portrait of Astoria in the early 1940s. For a young and ambitious man like George, it was the perfect place to fish out of, close to the sardines fisheries off California and Mexico, but also the Bristol Bay salmon fishery in Alaska. The California sardine boats that had come to Oregon in the early 1930s had greatly stimulated the development of commercial fishing (remember, Oregon fishing developed in response to outside capital). The Columbia River Packers Association started canning tuna in 1947. George and his father, Dome, brought some of the first trawl nets to Oregon, according to one of our most important primary sources, George Yost Harry’s 1956 dissertation, on West Coast rockfish.


Jergen Westrheim

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hired Dr. Harry to run its new research lab in Astoria. His first hire was our old friend, Sigrud Jergen Westrheim. Dr. Harry put him to work sampling the rockfish that trawlers like George Moskovita were landing. Dr. Donald Gunderson has written an appreciation of Jergen’s work in this post; it contains a lot of background about the early science around rockfish. Bob Hitz has also shared his last visit with our friend.

History is woven from many strands of information. One of the powerful sets of stands are the stories that people tell, about themselves, about each other, and how we interact. With the republication of George’s memoir, we have a valuable new source of information about the development of fishing and fisheries science off the West Coast. It adds to the stories Dayton Lee Alverson has already told us.  Dr. Harry also hired Lee Alverson, and together with Jergen, they wrote the first papers on Pacific Ocean perch.

George Moskovita was a superb storytelling, quick, funny, and observant. His memoir documents a vital period in Oregon fishery development, when fishermen–and scientists!–were first learning about the Pacific Ocean floor and the fish that lived there.




Posted in Carmel Finley, Columbia River Packers Association, Environmental History, fisheries science, Fishing, George Moskovita, History of Science, History of Technology, Marine Policy, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Oregon pilchards, Pacific Fishing History Project, Rosefish, World History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The DEEP SEA and the Fish and Wildlife Service


Deep Sea commissioning, FWS photo

Deep Sea commissioning, FWS photo

Charles R. (Bob) Hitz              Bob’s Posting 28                     Feb. 13, 2015

When I was on the Cobb between 1960 and 1970, Pete Larson, the skipper (1959 -1981) used to talk about Jose Franco, who was skipper 1956 -1957. He said that Jose came from the Deep Sea with Joe Dunatov, who remained on the Cobb as boatswain of the deck crew. In those days I was more interested in my job and didn’t pay much attention. Years later, especially talking to Tom Dunatov about his experiences on the Deep Sea, I became fascinated with the history of the two vessels.

Cod end coming aboard the Deep Sea, FWD photo

Cod end coming aboard the Deep Sea, FWD photo

It all started when the federal government’s Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was assigned the task of exploring Alaskan waters for king crab. The field work was conducted in 1940-41 and the report was completed in 1942 (1). In Blackford’s book (2) on the history of the Deep Sea he states that:

Part of the federal government’s survey was conducted in Raspberry Strait directly in front of Port Wakefield (in one instance, a single drag through the strait landed 2,000 crabs), and when the survey was completed much of the gear was left behind with the Wakefields. In return for the use of the nets and pots in further experimental fishing, the Wakefields turned over the logs of their work to the Department of the Interior. Using a small two-man dragger to catch the crabs, the Wakefield family canned king crab at their herring plant during the war years, putting up several hundred cases annually.”

This individual drag motivated Lloyd Wakefield to have a 36-foot trawler built by the

Hog Ring Attachment, F-1 Modification, F-2 Original

Hog Ring Attachment, F-1 Modification, F-2 Original. Boris drawing

Grandy Boat Co. of Seattle in 1942, the Prospector official hull number 241334, which was used to continue exploring for king crab around Kodiak Island. His son Lowell became interested in the project and experimented in methods of capturing, processing and preserving and found that frozen king crab had a better quality than canned. By the end of the war and after reviewing the FWS report, he put his ideas into forming a new company in 1946, Deep Sea Trawlers.

Lowell had radical ideas of the ship to be used to harvest and process the crab. He had a 140 foot vessel built, the design based on the lines of an east coast side trawler that had proven its sea worthiness on the Atlantic Ocean and further strengthened for breaking ice in the Bering Sea. His most radical idea was the internal design of the ship, to process an entire catch of king crab at sea and preserve it by freezing. It was completed, named Deep Sea and sailed on her first trip to the Bering Sea in 1947.

Before the Deep Sea was finished, in 1946 the company chartered the newly refurbished 150 foot trawler Bering Sea. That vessel was formerly a converted mine sweeper used during WWII which had originally been built as a trawler in Savannah, Georgia in 1919. Severe weather was encountered, hampering the operation, and while the vessel was found to be unsuitable for the Bering Sea, fishing potential was good. Lowell Wakefield was on that expedition in charge of the operation and the first mate on this cruise was Jose Franco, who became skipper of the Cobb.   Franco was also an investor in the Deep Sea organization and a well-known fisherman (2).

Stress on the cod end; A-Modification, B-original, Boris drawing

Stress on the cod end; A-Modification, B-original, Boris drawing

Lowell Wakefield invited a FWS Fisheries Engineer, Boris O. Knake, an expert based at the FWS Technological Laboratory, Boston, Mass., to accompany the Deep Sea on her first voyage in 1947 as a technical adviser. He was invited back for her second trip in 1948 (2). Boris had been skipper of an east coast side trawler, was an expert in trawl nets and had special talent for using pen and ink drawings in his reports. He suggested a number of modifications, one of which was a change in the cod end, and he worked on that with the crew of the Deep Sea before departing on the second trip.

King crab are bottom dwellers and when caught in a trawl net they are a dead weight when the net is retrieved. When the heavier crab catch is lifted out of the water the weight increases and the cod end bulges into a balloon shape, stressing the hog ring fasteners keeping the ropes uniformly spaced, which can part, losing the catch. A modified cod end places the strain on the rope instead of the hog ring.

The modified cod end is made up of four panels joined together to form a tunnel at the end

Attaching Hog Ring, Boris drawing

Attaching Hog Ring, Boris drawing

of the net. Each one is made on a pegboard where the ropes are strung between pegs. Once all the ropes are strung, each rope is clamped by a hog ring where it crosses another. In my recent discussion with Tom Dunatov he said that his dad had had a cottage business in the basement of his Seattle home for years after Tom arrived in the US from Croatia in 1947. He made panels for the Deep Sea and the company’s trawlers, Shelikof and Foremost, and Tom told me that as a kid, when he and his brothers came home from school, they worked on a peg board in the basement, attach the hog rings where the ropes crossed, and there were 1,081 hog rings per panel.

In 1949 the Deep Sea was chartered by the FWS second exploratory cruise and it helped out both organizations. Washington was found to be unsuitable for exploratory work and it was sold and as the Cobb was under construction, there was need for a vessel to continue the work. Deep Sea was available in early summer of 1949 to continue exploration of the Bering Sea where the Washington left off. Don Powell, a new scientist who had been recently hired in the newly formed FWS Seattle office of Exploratory Fishing, was assigned to the charter. I think that that’s where he came into contact with Jose Franco and Joe Dunatov, or at least learned about them so that when he became director of the unit and needed their expertise he could contact them.

Peg Board for Stringing Ropes, Boris drawing

Peg Board for Stringing Ropes, Boris drawing

In 1949 the Deep Sea made its first profit and was the turnaround for the company’s future success. In Blackford’s book (2) he states; “The year 1949 was a major turning point for the Deep Sea Trawlers. Partly because of their good fortune in finding large schools of crabs and partly because they solved certain technical problems in processing the crabs, the men of the Deep Sea put up a pack of 404,000 pounds in 1949, more than twice as much as in previous years. The Fish and Wildlife charter brought in additional revenue for the company, some $21,000 in sorely needed cash.”

No wonder Lowell Wakefield thanked Lee Alverson at one of the meetings they attended years later for what FWS had done during the early days when exploratory fishing was important to the country.

  • Fiedler, R. H. & F. F. Johnson, Editors (1942) Report of the Alaska Crab Investigation. U. S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Fishery Market News, May 1942 Supplement, Vo. 4, No. 5A.
  • Blackford, Mansel G. (1944) Pioneering a Modern Small Business, Wakefield Seafoods and the Alaskan Frontier, Jai Press, Greenwich, Connecticut. (page; 5, 8, 13, 19, & 25)





Posted in boat building, Carmel Finley, Dayton Lee Alverson, Environmental History, Exploratory Fishing Base, fisheries science, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, R/V John N. Cobb, World History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Fish flour

Fish flour

One of the nice things about being a historian is that you get to gad around and go interesting places, like Austin, Texas, which happens to be the home of the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential library. The library, you will be interested to hear, has lots of interesting little documents around fishing.

A word about the building first. It’s really very impressive, like a pharaoh’s tomb, very simple, seven stories, reflection pond in front with a spraying fountain. On a hot Texas day, it’s a pleasant place to sit in the shade and listen to the fountain.

But on to the fishy documents. Presidential libraries have wonderful staffs, they  know everything that happened during an administration, and when you ask for anything LBJ Librarythey have on “fish,” they respond with a large pile of documents. Among the many folders were the minutes of a marine policy committee that met regularly at the White House. There was an agenda for each meeting, and at the top of every agenda, were three letters, FPC, or Fish Protein Concentrate.

The 1960s was a very contentious time for American fishermen. As Bob Hitz has told us, Soviet factory trawlers were in the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic, catching Pacific Ocean Perch.  There was a growing chorus of complaints about the foreign boats that were much newer, larger, and more sophisticated than most American fishing boats. The foreign boats were heavily subsidized their governments. The Soviets badly needed protein to feed their people, and their massive new fishing fleet was a direct challenge to American ocean supremacy during the Cold War.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

President Lyndon B. Johnson

As the foreign boats continued to fish, there was a growing chorus of complaints. But the Department of State and the Defense Department did not want to restrict fishing, because then other nations might restrict American boats fishing off their coast–and if American fishing boats could be banned, perhaps that would lead to further restrictions on military vessels.

“The United States should be the leading fishing nation of the world because it has all the qualifications for this position,” the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries argued stoutly argued in 1968.[1] Despite extensive coastlines, stocked with many different kinds of fish, Americans were importing more and more of the fish they ate, and the American fishing fleet, which ought to be the best in the world, wasn’t. Fish imports had rocketed from 33.2% in 1957 to 76% in 1968, valued at $823 million. The Soviets had invested more than $4 billion since World War II.[2] American investment was a tiny fraction of that.

Unlike many other countries, the U.S. had not created direct loans to fishermen to expand

President Kennedy and Stewart Udall, University of Arizona photograph

President Kennedy and Stewart Udall, University of Arizona photograph

the fleet. While fishermen had been eligible for low-interest loans since 1935, the Eisenhower administration found that no boat loans had been made.[3] With the arrival of the Kennedy Administration in 1960, and the creation of the New Frontier theme, fishery officials were looking for a way to get noticed. They came up with an idea, Fish Protein Concentrate, or FPC, and it caught the attention of Kennedy’s new Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udall.

If ever there was a magic bullet designed to cure a multiple ills, it was FPC. It would encourage the use of ocean resources, improve the economic status of American fishermen, and, perhaps most importantly, enhance the world image of the U.S. in helping to alleviate world hunger, all with an odorless, tasteless, protein-rich powder.

There is quite a bit of literature, especially technical literature on FPC, which was warmly embraced by the academic community, charged with creating and trying to prefect the final product. The push for FPC created a technological imperative, ignoring questions of how practical the product could be. The idea was to take low quality, cheap fish and turn them into a dried product that could be stored without refrigeration and used to alleviate malnutrition. “Nutrition activists, politicians, regulatory agencies, and private industry came into conflict in a manner most often detrimental to the implementation of FPC as a nutrition supplement,” wrote two scientists who documented the battle, Ernst R. Pariser and Christopher J. Corkery.[5] Their language is restrained, considering it was their outrage over watching the FPC legislative process that impelled them to write their book.

The objective was to create a universally accepted, greyish-white, odorless, tasteless product, which created both technical and economic problems. It was a high-technology enterprise, reflecting massive amounts of capital, energy, and expertise, all of which were lacking in the developing world where it was going to be deployed. It was costly to produce, only provided a supplement to nutrition, and ignored that some developing nations had no history or culture around eating fish. The Kennedy Administration budgeted $50,000 to start an investigation, a tap that turned into a torrent,

The controversy began immediately. The Food and Drug Administration, prodded by the dairy industry concerned that it might impact their non-fat milk sales, bared FPC from being sold in the U.S. When it finally did approve it for sale, it was restricted to small bags. But the real problem was that the technology to create the product did not exist–and given the political opposition, it could not be created, at least cost effectively.

The project had proposed that a hungry child could get a nutrition supplement for a fraction of a cent; a 1973 study found that it cost $5.08 to produce a pound of the stuff.[6]


[1] Michael Weber, From Abundance to Scarcity, (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2002), 79.

[2] Edward Wenk Jr., The Politics of the Ocean, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1972), 303.

[3] Memorandum for Dr. Gabriel Hauge, Nov. 23, 1956, Positive Measures to Ease the Groundfish Situation, Subject Series, Box 94, Folder, “Trade Agreements and Tariff Matters, Fish 94),” Eisenhower Presidential Library.

[4] Ernst R. Pariser and Christopher J. Corkery, Fish Protein Concentrate: Panacea for Protein Malnutrition? (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978), 23.

[5] Praiser and Corkery, xiii.

[6] Comptroller General Report to Congress, Fish Protein Concentrate Program, May 25, 1973.


Posted in Cold War, Environmental History, Fisherie subsidies, Fisheries policy, Fishing, History of Science, History of Technology, Marine Policy, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, Soviet fishing, Soviet history', World History | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ballad of the Hake, by Herb Shippen

Pulling in a hake net, photo courtesy of Oceana and youtube

Pulling in a hake net, photo courtesy of Oceana and youtube

We are close to finishing our book, which means we have been thinking a lot of about the 1960s and the foreign boats showing up off the coast of Oregon and Washington, as Bob Hitz has told us about. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about subsidies to encourage the development of fishing, and one of them was the hake plant at Aberdeen, Washington.

Soviet factory trawlers were off Alaska in 1959 and they moved steadily south, catching our poster fish, Pacific Ocean Perch, or POP. And when the POP was gone–in less than a decade–the Soviets moved to another plentiful West Coast fish, Pacific hake.  Dr. Donald Gunderson has provided us with a song called “The Ballad of the Hake,” written by Herb Shippen.

Pacific hake are plentiful off the West Coast, and in the 1960s, they attracted a great deal

Pacific Hake

Pacific Hake

of attention by the federal government, which wanted to turn them into Fish Protein Concentrate, or FPC.

The idea was to take low quality, cheap fish and turn them into a dried product that could be stored without refrigeration and used to alleviate malnutrition. The objective was to create a universally accepted, greyish-white, odorless, tasteless product, that could be used to supplement nutrition in Third World countries.

It was a high-technology enterprise, reflecting massive amounts of capital, energy, and expertise, all of which were lacking in the developing world where it was going to be deployed. It was costly to produce, only provided a supplement to nutrition, and ignored that some developing nations had no history or culture around eating fish. In a flush of enthusiasm, an experimental plant was build in Aberdeen, Washington, and a dozen trawl boats were paid to catch hake and deliver it to the new plant. One of them was our old friend, George Moskovita.

The Ballad of the Hake

It started out one summer day in 1964

Captain George Moskovita

Captain George Moskovita

Lee said the hake are swarming so I hear

But they’re in midwater and can’t be caught in spite of all our lots

NcNeely go ahead and plan some brand new gear.


The net it was tremendous, full sixty feet across

The doors were hydrofoils of mammoth size

Complete with telemetry and special cables too

It filled the Cobb’s reel right up to the sides.


Zuanich came from Everett, Evich from Bellingham

Puretich came from Gig Harbor in the south

They caught the hake at such a rate they almost swamped their boats

But they hurried north and pumped them out at Moore’s


Patashnik said they sure tastes fine, I’ve eaten quite a lot

Those parasites don’t bother me at all

We buried Max along the shores of Saratoga Pass

One dark and dreary rainy night last fall


Cobb early 1960s, Hitz on the bridge, USFW photo

Cobb early 1960s, Hitz on the bridge, USFW photo

The fish biologists they came with board and knife in hand

They said we need some otoliths of hake

For without them how can age be known and hence mortality

And without this there won’t be take to take


The plankton nets were dragged the length and breadth of Puget Sound

Hake eggs and larvae pickled by the jar

And now the hake are in sad straights it certainly is clear

That over-sampling helped to put them there


The hake no longer can be seen in Saratoga Pass

The drag boats shun Port Susan’s barren floor

Hake eggs and larvae are no more in all of Puget Sound

And the fish meal plants are closing up their doors


Oh, the fish meal plants are closed up tight, they haven’t any hake

The wind and rain blows through their hopper doors

The year class strength is almost down to naught, mortality is one

And those hake biologists are no more


From Neah Bay to Blanco, the Cobb ran sounding lines

Thick schools of hake were found most everywhere

But when they set the CPT, twas the jellyfish they got

And Heater said let’s try it over there


A plant was built in Aberdeen to process coastal hake

The subsidies were hailed both near and far

Ten boats delivered to the plant for two months of the year

But they never reached six hundred tons per day


Along the coast of region one for hake eggs we did search

Aboard the Kelez and the John N. Cobb

We dragged the plankton nets along from Brookings to Cape Scott

But all we got was lantern fish and cod.




Posted in Carmel Finley, Cold War, Dayton Lee Alverson, Environmental History, Fisherie subsidies, Fisheries policy, fisheries science, George Moskovita, History of Science, History of Technology, Marine Policy, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, Soviet environmental history, Soviet fishing, World History | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments