Centennial Story 92: Tom Nishida (BS, 1979; MS, 1983)

First of all, a heart-felt congratulations on the Centennial. To serve different flavors in one of the last Centennial stories before the 2019 Bevan Series symposium, here is my bitter, sour, sweet, and happy story.

I was born in Japan, but I dreamed of settling in the USA as my father’s family was from Hilo, Hawaii. To make this dream possible, I entered Newton Junior College (Massachusetts) when I was 20 years old to establish my first USA footprint. I chose Massachusetts because a US family friend was there. Later, I transferred to the UW College of Fisheries. I was a student of Douglas Chapman, Don Rogers, and Vincent Gallucci (all legendary professors). I studied the origins of Chinook salmon, using scale patterns as part of the High Seas Salmon Program, which included Nancy Davis, Kate Myers (BS, 1976), Colin Harris, and Ken Bruya (also legendary experts) and received my MS in 1983.

I have good memories of my time at the College of Fisheries; I made many friends and had excellent sensei (teachers) (Doug Gregory, Joan Hardy, David Fluharty, Marcus Duke, Loh-Lee Low [BS, 1970; MS 1972; PhD, 1974), Dan Ito [BS, 1979; MS, 1982; PhD, 1999], Loveday Conquest, Marianna Alexandersdottir, Steve Millard, Al Shimada [BS, 1978] and many others). I also had good experiences as a student helper for Don Bevan (I was assigned to the ADF&G, Kodiak Island office in summer) and for Ric Fleming (College of Oceanography). I also gained experience as both a TA and an RA. I enjoyed my private life, which included an American girlfriend from Renton, being a member and a trumpeter in the Seattle Japanese Baptist Church on Capital Hill (AFSC’s Don Kimura-san’s family was there), acting as a weekend math and science teacher at the Seattle Japanese School on Beacon Hill, and shopping for Japanese foods (sake is my fuel) at Uwajimaya. To make my dream to stay in the USA possible, I applied for a biometrician post at ADF&G, but was not offered the position, although I was one of the finalists. After 10 years in the USA and no job because of the competitive market, it was time to look internationally.

Tom (red arrow) leading IOTC tagging experiments (Maldives) (2009)
Tom (red arrow) leading IOTC tagging experiments (Maldives) (2009)

I got a job with the UN/FAO’s Indian Ocean project, the Indo-Pacific Tuna Programme (IPTP), in Sri Lanka. The IPTP was the predecessor of the IOTC (Indian Ocean Tuna Commission), one of five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). I stayed in Sri Lanka for six years and got married to Sanami from Tokyo (introduced to me by an American friend in Boston) and had two kids (Yoko and Ken) there. I still wanted to return to the US, but with a happy Japanese family and all my relatives in Japan, I decided to accept a post at the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries (NRIFSF) in Japan, and I have continued to work with the IOTC for nearly 30 years.

I obtained my PhD from Tokyo University on the population dynamics of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean. Because of my long-term dedication to IOTC, I was elected as the 4th Chairman of the IOTC Scientific Committee for four years (2012–2015). It was very hard, tough, head-ached and highly responsible work. I felt those four years were like a jail sentence without bail. However, it was a very good experience. I have many good stories about the tropical (tuna) life with the IOTC, but those stories will be written for the bicentennial?

In addition to working with the IOTC, I was asked by the NRIFSF to cover three international demersal fishery RFMOs, i.e., NAFO (NW Atlantic), SEAFO (SE Atlantic) and SIOFA (southern Indian Ocean). I now spend half of my time at their meetings and enjoy seeing various and unique species (people), including UW graduates. Just two days ago (March 30, 2019), I finished two weeks of SIOFA meetings in Yokohama as the Chair of the Stock Assessment Working Group and Vice-chair of the Scientific Committee.

SIOFA stock assessment working group meeting (Yokohama) (March, 2019) Australia, Cook Islands, EU, Korea, Japan, France (overseas territories), Mauritius, Thailand, Seychelles, Secretariat and observers (FAO, Industries and Environmental group) (Tom: center with the SIOFA flag)
SIOFA stock assessment working group meeting (Yokohama) (March, 2019) Australia, Cook Islands, EU, Korea, Japan, France (overseas territories), Mauritius, Thailand, Seychelles, Secretariat and observers (FAO, Industries and Environmental group) (Tom: center with the SIOFA flag)

Beside my normal work, I have been interested in Fisheries GIS and have organized the tri-annual International Fishery GIS Symposium seven times over 20 years (http://www.esl.co.jp/Sympo). Many outstanding papers were published in its proceedings. I also has been contributing for many years to stock assessment training at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC).

My Sri Lankan-born daughter (Yoko) got married in 2016 and delivered a baby girl (Sakura) in 2018. Now Sanami and I are sharing blissful time with our first grand-daughter. Although my dream to settle in the USA did not come true, I am enjoying a happy and fulfilling life in Japan. This is the end of the Tom Nishida san’s mix taste story for the Centennial.

Wedding of Yoko with Sanami next to me (2016)
Wedding of Yoko with Sanami next to me (2016)

Finally, warm congratulations again on the Centennial and do enjoy the celebration during April 16–18.

Tom.nishida.9691@gmail.com
(for past UW Fisheries friends, let me know your story by e-mail) from cherry tree (Sakura) fully bloomed Shimizu (tuna landing port), Shizuoka prefecture, Japan (April 1, 2019).

View of Mt. Fuji near Tom’s Research Institute
View of Mt. Fuji near Tom’s Research Institute
Close up of a cherry blossom
Cherry blossom near Tom’s residence
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