Astoria, 1947

Captain George Moskovita

Captain George Moskovita

There are many ways of looking at history. We can look at events, or at the people who were involved in the events, and we can look at how things came together in significant ways.  There is often another dimension here, and it is place, how people and events come together at significant times–but also at significant places. And for the fisheries history of the Pacific, a significant time was 1947, and a significant place was Astoria.

Astoria was booming after World War II.  During the war, the Army had signed

Dr. George Yost Harry

Dr. George Yost Harry

contractsto buy all the fish that fishermen could catch. Fishermen were moving into deeper water, finding new species of rockfish, in enormous quantities. It was an exciting time for fishermen, but also for the Oregon Fish Commission, which began a systematic study of the fish trawlers like George Moskovita were bringing to the docks. George and his father, Dome Moskovita, brought their two boats, the Treo and the New Zealand. and trawl technology from Puget Sound to Astoria in 1940, helping to establish the trawl industry.

JergenGeorge would certainly have met the new biologists the Fish Commission sent to Astoria. First came George Yost Harry Jr., a young naval lieutenant, who had enlisted after graduating with a BS in Agriculture in 1940 from Oregon State University. With a masters degree from the University of Washington, Harry was hired as a marine biologist.

Harry’s first assistant was Jergen Westrheim, who would pioneer the early research on rockfish species, deducing that the fish were older than biologists had originally thought. A second biologist who worked for Harry was Dayton Lee Alverson, who would go on to become one of a national scientific figure, playing a role in the development of the 200-mile limit during the 1970s.

All three scientists were certainly have known–and respected–one of the top trawl boats in Astoria during these years–or should be say, trawl boats, since George Moskovita owned a lot of boats.

And the scientists and the fishermen would certainly have known Nick Bez, the

Nick Bez

Nick Bez

new chairman of the Columbia River Packers Association, the largest salmon cannery on the coast.  Perhaps they didn’t know him personally, but they were aware of his ambitions to expand into the  tuna business. The CRPA  built a canning line for albacore tuna in 1937. Under Bez, the CRPA  and the Pacific Explorer would make an ambitious bid to expand American tuna fishing deep into the Pacific, the waters of the Marshall, Mariana, and Caroline Islands.

All five men left a rich legacy. Moskovita and Alverson wrote memoirs, detailing their life in the world of fishing. Harry’s work, including his 1957 thesis from the University of Washington, laid the foundation for West Coast groundfish science.And Jergen Westrheim carried some of that science with him when the Canadian government hired him in 1963 to oversee their groundfish research program. Bez was a major figure in the industrialization of Washington after the war, starting the first  airline to fly into Alaska. He eventually sold out to Howard Hughes and he was chairman of Peter Pan Seafoods.

Dr. Dayton Lee Alverson

Dr. Dayton Lee Alverson

Historians like to say that we write history by weaving strands together. The strands can be about science, or they can be about boats, or they can be about individuals and how they came together and inter-acted in certain places and times. Each of these men tells a different story. By considering each of the stories, it is possible to see how they interacted and the details that each individually adds to our knowledge of the development of West Coast fisheries history.

It was not an accident that these five men wound up in Astoria; there was  no place along the coast where the future of fishing looked brighter than it did from Astoria, Oregon.


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 Albacore tuna, boat building, Columbia River Packers Association, Dayton Lee Alverson, Environmental History, Exploratory Fishing Base, fisheries science, Fishing, George Moskovita, History of Science, History of Technology, Nick Bez, Ocean fishing, Pacific Explorer, Pacific Fishing History Project, Sebastes rockfish, World History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s