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Bairds Legacy

Depression and War Years: 1922-1946

men working on dock This was an important era with new challenges for the Bureau of Fisheries, coming at the end of WWI and including the Depression years and WWII. Now the Federal government was promoting commercial fishing and wider use of fish as economic and health measures and to improve food production in a Nation under siege.

Research on oyster culture and the nutritive and vitamin content of fish oils continued to advance, as did concern for Pacific salmon fisheries. Congress passed the White Act in 1924 in an effort to reduce the salmon catch with fish traps in Alaska; that new law also set "escapement levels" to allow enough salmon to move upstream to spawn.

Research also began in the 1930’s on ways to pass salmon safely around new dams and water diversion projects on Pacific coast streams. And in 1930 the Sockeye Salmon Fisheries Convention was signed to address conflicts between U.S. and Canadian fishermen.

Fish marketing and promotion efforts also increased in the 1930’s. A new fishery market news service was set up, including publication of a monthly Fishery Market News journal. In addition, the growing role of law enforcement led to creation of a "Division of Law Enforcement" in 1930. Another major west coast Bureau facility, the Montlake Laboratory, opened in Seattle in 1931, and in 1934 the Columbia River Investigations Program was initiated to study salmon problems associated within the region's water developments.

By the late 1930's problems in the large California sardine industry led to establishment of the Bureau’s California Current Resources Laboratory (CCRL) to study regional fishery problems. Also, just before the War, Congress appropriated $100,000 for a 1-year study of the Alaska king crab, setting the stage for what would, after the war, become another important national fishery. The researchers also found enormous, latent reserves of sole and pollock off Alaska.

Fundamental reorganization came to the agency in 1939: The Commerce Department's Bureau of Fisheries and the Agriculture Department's Bureau of Biological Survey were transferred to the Department of Interior. A year later the fishery and wildlife units of both Bureaus were merged as “divisions” within Interior's new "Fish and Wildlife Service."

Likewise, during World War II (and also the Korean War), the Bureau's research aided crucial production of foodstuffs and other critical national defense missions and operations. Federal fisheries laboratories turned their studies to ways of supplying growing needs for protein, often from unusual forms of marine life, including sharks, sea lions, and other creatures of the sea. And with the onset of the nuclear age, Bureau scientists helped make new assessments of the environmental effects of radiation and began pioneering studies of the peaceful use of irradiation to preserve seafood.

The World War II era marked another type of milestone for the U.S. and global fisheries. Whereas a few nations had begun moving into international waters to fish before the war, that fishing effort mushroomed once the war ended. Increased fishing by European and Asian vessels and factory ships just off U.S. coasts posed a challenge for scientists, commercial fishermen, and diplomats as well. It was an entirely new era that, 25–30 years later, would result in new Federal laws, particularly the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) of 1976, to protect U.S. fishery interests and resources. But until then, it required far more research into the species fished and potential fishery problems.

At the close of the war, President Harry S Truman issued a proclamation asserting U.S. jurisdiction ". . . over the natural resources of the continental shelf under the high seas contiguous to the coasts of the United States and its territories, and providing for the establishment of conservation zones for the protection of fisheries in certain areas of the high seas contiguous to the United States."

Legacy    1871-1896    1897-1921   1922-1946    1947-1971   1972-1996   Summary   Future

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(File Modified Dec. 07 2017)