It’s been awhile since the Pacific Fishery History Project has been very active. I had some technical problems. As always, I have been busy teaching. My book All the Fish in the Sea: Maximum Sustained Yield and the Failure of Fisheries Management was published in September by the University of Chicago Press, and I have had a number of very respectable scientists tell me they like it very much.
One of those very respectable scientists is a man who has helped me all the way through this project, Jergen Westrheim, who lives in Nanaimo, B.C. He lost his beloved Margo this winter. I’ve known Jergen and Margo for more than a decade, and I’ve made many trips to talk to them, pestering them with questions about their life while he was working in Astoria during the 1950s for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Jergen represents something very important to me in my research. He has been a touchstone and sounding board for the impressions I was assembling. I was trying to reconstruct the development of fishing after World War II, an enormously turbulent and vibrant period for the industry. Fishermen like George Moskovita were developing the West Coast groundfish fishery, pioneering fishing in deeper water and finding the bright red fish they called Rosies, or Rosefish. While George was catching the fish, Jergen was studying them, and Margo was home with their two daughters, cooking them. (Catch her 1951 recipe for Baked Fillets Margo on another post).
Jergen graduated from the University of Washington’s School of Fisheries in 1949. He remembers playing football with the school’s director, Wilbert Chapman, who figures prominently in my book. Chapman would then have been about 38 years old. He was a physically imposing man, and a dashing one; he had barely settled in to revising the department’s undergraduate curriculum (using the model of the Japanese College of Fisheries) when he was named at a high-level post within the State Department to deal with fisheries issues.
Chapman’s replacement at UW was Richard Van Cleve, who sold the young couple a second-hand car they loaded up for the drive south to Astoria. Jergen was the first assistant that George Yost Harry III hired to help him manage the booming groundfish fishery in northern Oregon after the war. One of Jergen’s first papers was about the mink food fishery that I’ve written about in a previous post. They rented an apartment from George Moskovita, a prominent Astoria trawler.
Historians like to tell stories, and we especially like to tell stories about people. Jergen and Margo are wound throughout the stories I have been telling about this important period in environmental history. George Yost Harry, who I finally met in September, swirls through off this material. So do many others; check back and see who the Pacific Fishery History Project will be writing about next.