George Yost Harry and the Study of Oregon Marine Fish

If you’re interested in marine fisheries off Oregon, you read George Yost Harry’s 1956 thesis.

Dr. Harry with my book, a bit of shameless self-promotion, September, 2012.

I finally got to meet Dr. Harry  when I was in Seattle last September.  But I really think I’ve known him for a lot longer, because I’ve been aware of his work for a long time.  He’s one of my foundation stones, just like Jergen Westrheim, who I have written about in previous posts.  George hired him as his first assistant in 1948 and put him to work in Astoria, sampling the catch trawlers were landing.

After World War II, all the fish and game agencies along the West Coast became more systematic in studying marine fish. They hired research staff and began to publish their work. The Oregon Fish Commission took this step in April of 1948, when it published its first edition of the Research Briefs. Those were the days when Oregon had a “Master Fish Warden,” Arnie J. Suomela. The director of research was Donald L. McKernan and he laid out the five objectives his staff would be concentrating on. No surprise that the main focus was on salmon, but he also spoke of the “vast unknown pelagic fisheries which lie beyond our present concepts of of fishing areas.”

Thumbing through the early research briefs is a lesson in Oregon natural resource history. The first issue  has a paper on  determining the Vitamin A content of hake livers. It was just after the war and scientists had not yet synthesized vitamins. Oregon fishermen caught sharks for their livers during the war; the fishery paid big money.

(George Moskovita, in his wonderful book, talks about getting $14.40 a pound for fish livers during the 1940s.  “I almost fell off my chair. I couldn’t believe it. I said I would be right down. I couldn’t get there fast enough!”[1])

Jergen’s first paper, “The 1949 Soupfin Shark Fishery of Oregon,” by Sigurd J. Westrheim, appeared in Volume Three, Issue One, in September of 1950. Dr. Harry’s first article comes in Volume One, Issue 2, about Oregon’s pilchard fishery. Two years later, he published a paper on exploratory cruises for pink shrimp.

Other papers detail the hopeful results of experiments to find a diet that would keep hatchery salmon smolts healthy. That diet would become the Oregon Moist Pellet. The job of being a state biologist was expanding into new fields, like studying the impact of pulp mill effluent on Willamette salmon.

Dr. Harry was born in Portland in 1919. He was graduated from Oregon State with a bachelor Science in Fish and Game Management in 1940 and a master of Science in zoology from the University of Michigan in 1941. He was an officer in the U.S. Navy during the war, then began graduate school at the School of Fisheries at the University of Washington in 1945. He went to work for the Fish Commission of Oregon in 1947 and rose to be Director of Research in 1957, after his thesis was published.

Dr. Harry’s thesis is available on line, as part of the Scholar’s Archive at Oregon State:

[1] Captain George Moskovita, Living off the Pacific Ocean Floor, 2000, p.37.


About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in California sardines, Carmel Finley, Environmental History, fisheries science, Fishing, George Moskovita, History of Science, History of Technology, Ocean fishing, Oregon pilchards, Pacific Fishing History Project and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to George Yost Harry and the Study of Oregon Marine Fish

  1. Saang-Yoon Hyun says:

    Hi. It is a nice surprise to run into a recent article about Dr. George Harry. I was so lucky to know him through Rotary International, and have known him for almost 20 years. He is not only a good friend but was a good mentor for my career in fisheries sciences. Thank you for your posting this. Best Wishes,


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