Centennial Story 72: Bill Bayliff (MS, 1954; PhD, 1965)

I was accepted for graduate study at the UW during the summer of 1950. I had never been on the west coast of the US, but was immediately favourably impressed.

There were six professors at what was then called the School of Fisheries: Richard Van Cleve, head of the School, who taught population dynamics; Arthur Welander, who taught classification of fisheries; Allan DeLacy, who taught three courses, one per quarter in three subjects; James Lynch, who taught invertebrate zoology; and Lauren Donaldson, who taught three courses on various aspects of salmon culture. Dr. Lynch was a colourful character, who had served in the Marine Corps during World War I. There were three courses in various aspects of processing fish, in which I had no interest. The professor, Dr. Hastings, had about eight students, all but one of whom were foreign. I took all of the courses given by Arthur Welander and Allan DeLacy, two of quarters of physical oceanography from Clifford Barnes from Oceanography, two quarters of statistics from Doug Chapham, and one quarter of analytical geometry from an instructor in the mathematics department.

Bill in his office at IATTC (circa 1978)
Bill in his office at IATTC (circa 1978)

During the first quarter, fisheries classes and laboratories were held in some wooden buildings that had been built during World War II. During the Christmas vacation, three students, including me, were hired to move virtually everything that was in the old buildings to the new building under the supervision of Allan DeLacy. It was hard work, but I needed the money. (Allan was a wonderful person to work with— he invited me to his house for Christmas dinner, but I had already accepted an invitation from fellow students.)

In summer 1951, I took a job working for the Oregon Fish Commission, during which time I touched a live salmon, and many other species of fish, for the first time. That was a great learning experience!

I can’t remember much of what I took during the next two quarters, as the courses blended in with those I took a couple of years later. At the end of winter quarter 1952, I interrupted my schooling to accept employment with the Washington Department of Fisheries. Before that, however, I wrote a paper with Kelshaw Bonham, who was the senior author, which was published in Copeia. It was about a better x-ray machine for fish, which the Smithsonian purchased almost immediately.

I graduated with an MS degree on a Saturday in May or June of 1954, and on the following Monday received a notice from my draft board to report for a physical examination, which I passed. However, I didn’t get drafted until January 1955. After basic training, I found myself on a troop ship headed for Korea—the fighting was over by then, so I just did what I was told to do. Then, I found myself on another troopship back to the USA. I immediately reported back to work at the Washington Department of Fisheries, but the work was not very exciting, so I applied for job at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). I was hired for a job in Panama. One of the things that we did there was tag anchovetas with steel internal tags. I perceived that our results could be used for a PhD thesis, so I received permission from Milner Schaefer (PhD, 1950), director of the IATTC, to use the results for that purpose. I returned to the UW, and Gerald Paulik was very much interested in my data and encouraged me in what I was doing. I received my PhD in 1965.

Somebody entered my thesis in a competition for the best student paper of 1965, and it eventually received the W.F. Thompson Award of the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists for the best paper published by a student in fisheries in 1965.

The rest is history. I have done various kinds of work for the IATTC, especially writing and editing, and serving as head of its tuna tagging program. Years earlier, when I was in high school, I had read the books about the mutiny on the Bounty. I never dreamed that I would visit Pitcairn Island and meet the descendants of the mutineers, but that is exactly what happened. Also, we charted a small boat to Hawaii to tag tunas in the South Pacific. About halfway there, in the middle of nowhere, the boat caught fire! We managed to get it out, and made it to our destination with a sail for power. I thought at the time that it might be the end of us all!

Bill (right) and Witek Klawe (left) at IATTC.
Bill (right) and Witek Klawe (left) at IATTC.

Meanwhile Bob Kearney of the South Pacific Commission (SPC), which had far more money than did the IATTC, chartered a large Japanese baitboat, the Hatsutori Maru IV, with a highly skilled crew. We managed to tag large numbers of tunas, mostly skipjack, and got lots of tag returns. These data are analysed in numerous reports of the SPC.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that one of the members of the crew of the Hatsutori Maru IV was an American, Jim Ianelli. Jim had only a high school education at the time, but he quickly decided to enter Humboldt State, where he earned a BS, and then went to the UW, where he got his PhD (1993). Jim now works at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and is an SAFS affiliate professor!

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