By J.K. Yamamoto--The newly commissioned NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship Bell M. Shimada docked at San Francisco’s Pier 27 on Sept. 14 for an invitational open house.
The Bell M. Shimada is the fourth in a series of the most technologically advanced fisheries vessels in the world. Equipped with a full suite of modern instrumentation, it will dramatically improve NOAA’s ability to monitor the region’s valuable fisheries and protected species and welcome in a new era in ecosystem-based research in support of management for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem.
The open house began with remarks by Roger Hewitt, assistant director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and CDR Todd Bridgeman, commanding officer of the Bell M. Shimada. Tours of the ship included stops at research stations and chats with scientists and crew members.
The ship’s name pays tribute to a noted fishery research biologist, Bell Masayuki Shimada (1922-1958), more than 50 years after his untimely death.
A Brief but Brilliant Career
In his 12-year career, Shimada made a distinctive mark in the study of Pacific tropical tuna stocks. Working with interdisciplinary teams of biologists, chemists and oceanographers as a researcher and then team leader, he developed and published material on the distribution, spawning and feeding patterns of tuna, and also coordinated international data collection and studies for the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC).
A mark of his important contributions to the development of his field is the dedication of the Proceedings from the Symposium on the “The Changing Pacific Ocean in 1957 and 1958” in his memory, and the naming of a seamount — Shimada Seamount, southwest of Baja California — in his honor.
Born in Seattle of Issei parents, Shimada excelled as a student at mathematics and science and graduated from Franklin High School in June 1939. He entered the University of Washington’s School of Fisheries the following September and studied there until April 29, 1942, when he was “evacuated” along with all other Japanese Americans on the West Coast.
In May 1943, he was permitted to enlist in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and was sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi for basic training. He was selected for Japanese language and intelligence collection training in August 1943 and transferred to Camp Savage in Minnesota. In April 1944, he was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force in Orlando, Fla. and received three months of air intelligence training before being transferred to Honolulu as a translator/interpreter.
Shimada remained in Hawaii until May 1945, when he was transferred to Guam as a radio traffic monitor, and then moved in August 1945 to the U.S. Army Air Force headquarters in Tokyo. He collected and synthesized economic and infrastructure data on the effects of strategic bombing until he was discharged from the military in February 1946.
Shimada remained in Japan as a fishery biologist employed by the Fisheries Division, Natural Resources Section, Supreme Commander for Allied Powers, until December 1946. In this research and analytical position, he compiled and collated data obtained on Japanese fisheries activities.
He had a major hand in drafting directives to the Japanese government, particularly on whaling. His first professional publication, “Japanese Whaling in the Bonin Islands Area” (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1947), grew out of the whaling studies and reports written in Tokyo.
Shimada then returned to the University of Washington and completed his remaining year of coursework, graduating cum laude in December 1947. During this year, he worked a laboratory technician for the School of Fisheries and maintained its ichthyology collection. He remained at the school to work on his master’s degree and worked as laboratory assistant for the Atomic Energy Commission, maintaining aquaculture facilities. Shimada graduated with his master’s of science in fisheries in December 1948.
He began working for the Bureau of Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in September 1948. From December 1948 to January 1951, Shimada worked for the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (POFI) in Honolulu as a seagoing biologist in charge of science watches and research on research vessels.
During this time, he worked with leading scientists in his field and in oceanography, including Oscar Sette, Wilbert Chapman, Roger Revelle and M.B. Schaefer. He also encountered many younger scientists who would be colleagues during the next decade, including Townsend Cromwell, Fred Cleaver, Warren Wooster, Alan Tubbs, William Aron, Gerald Howard, Richard Hennemuth, Howard Yoshida and Tom Hida.
While he was in Hawaii, Shimada also met and married Rae Shimojima. She was born in Portland, Ore. After a brief internment at the beginning of World War II, she began working as a clerk/typist for U.S. government agencies, eventually moving to Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bureau of Fisheries.
During visits to Washington in 1946-1947, Sette recruited Shimojima for the new Honolulu Laboratory of POFI, and she moved there as his secretary. She met Shimada in Honolulu. Their children, Allen and Julie, were born in 1954 and 1957, respectively. During this time, Shimada took graduate courses while in Honolulu and then, returning to the mainland, spent 1951 taking doctoral courses at the School of Fisheries, University of Washington. He completed his doctorate in 1956.
In February 1952, Shimada moved from the Bureau of Fisheries to the IATTC in La Jolla, San Diego County, and began the tuna work for which he is recognized. Working with Schaefer and Howard, Shimada began publishing his research and achieving international and national recognition.
He rapidly moved up the hierarchy of the commission and was senior scientist for the last two years before his death. The commission was co-housed with the Scripps Institute for Oceanography and the Bureau of Fisheries laboratories, and drew on those institutions for scientific ideas, manpower, and cooperative ventures.
Shimada and Cromwell frequently worked together, first at POFI and then IATTC, on research involving the distribution of tuna throughout the Pacific. A physical oceanographer, Cromwell was interested in currents and their driving forces, while Shimada was concerned with the availability of forage for the tunas.
In 1957, they worked on the Island Current Study off Clarion Island and were en route to join their research party, aboard the Scripps R/V Horizon, for the second year of work when they died. Their plane crashed near Guadalajara, Mexico on June 2, 1958.
This cruise was to have been the last for Shimada with the commission, since he had been appointed to direct the new Bureau of Fisheries’ Eastern Pacific Tuna Investigations and was to have taken up his post in July 1958.
The Naming of the Ship
In April 2007, a team of five students and their biology teacher from Marina High School in Marina, Monterey County, won the “Name NOAA’s New Ship” contest. NOAA selected the entry “Bell M. Shimada” for a 208-foot fisheries survey vessel then under construction in Mississippi.
“This was an extremely competitive contest, and I commend the students from Marina High School for their efforts,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The contest was designed to encourage students to learn more about their oceans and coasts, and the Marina High School team presented an outstanding recommendation.”
“I am proud of these Marina High School students and their teacher for taking an interest in ocean issues and engaging in NOAA’s contest,” said Rep. Sam Farr, whose district includes the high school. “Living on the edge of the Monterey Bay and the vast deep-sea Monterey Canyon, Central Coasters are uniquely aware of their relationship with the ocean and the need to maintain healthy coastal marine environments. NOAA plays a critical role in keeping our oceans healthy, and this new ship will aid in that endeavor.”
Since 2003, NOAA has been using its fleet modernization program to promote science education and ocean literacy by including students and teachers in the ship-naming process. Working in teams of four to eight students, participants research one name of their choosing for a ship, and write an essay to support their selection. Essays are judged on imagination and creativity, evidence of educational value and ocean literacy. This contest was open to students in middle and high schools throughout California, Oregon, and Washington.
The team of five ninth-graders, led by biology teacher Myah Gunn, consisted of Sarah Livingston-Reed, Max Orfield, Sho Nguyen, Desiree Duenas and Jessica Kim. They were invited to attend the ship’s keel-laying ceremony in Moss Point, Miss., in June 2007. Additionally, a senior NOAA official visited the school in the fall and presented it with a duplicate keel plate from the ship.
Launching and Commissioning
The Bell M. Shimada was launched into the Escatawpa River on Sept. 29, 2008, christened by her sponsor, Susan Lautenbacher, an educator and wife of Conrad Lautenbacher. Ceremony participants included Allen Shimada, a fisheries scientist with NOAA, and Julie Shimada.
The vessel is part of a class designed to meet NOAA’s Fisheries Service specific data collection requirements and the new standards for a low acoustic signature set by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas. The Bell M. Shimada and her sister ships were built for NOAA by VT Halter Marine Inc. as part of the Department of Commerce and NOAA fleet replacement strategy to provide world-class, state-of-the-art platforms for U.S. scientists.
“Once Bell M. Shimada goes into service, NOAA will have the latest fisheries research technologies operating on the East, West, Gulf, and Alaskan coasts,” said Vice Admiral Lautenbacher. “This will ensure we have the most accurate data on the nation’s commercial fisheries to make the best ecosystem-based management decisions.”
On Aug. 25, 2010, federal officials commissioned the Bell M. Shimada during a ceremony steeped in tradition and maritime history. The commissioning event celebrates the moment at which a ship is placed into the active service of the U.S. government.
Approximately 200 NOAA employees, partners, and stakeholders attended the commissioning at Pier 66 in Seattle. Guest speakers included NOAA Principal Deputy Undersecretary Monica Medina, Director of NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations Rear Admiral Jonathan Bailey, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations of NOAA Fisheries John Oliver, Susan Lautenbacher, and Julie Shimada.
The Bell M. Shimada arrived in Seattle after completing its 5,800-nautical-mile journey from the Gulf Coast through the Panama Canal to the West Coast. The vessel’s transit included a stop at the Shimada Seamount, where the crew, working with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, exercised the ship’s new equipment to help provide a unique top-to-bottom image of the seamount for the first time in 30 years.
The Bell M. Shimada supports the NWFSC (Northwest Fisheries Science Center) and NOAA’s mission to conduct research to protect, restore, and manage West Coast and Pacific living marine resources. Research cruises provide valuable insights into the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, stretching from British Columbia to Baja California.
The vessel’s state-of-the-art design allows for quieter operation and movement through the water, giving scientists the ability to study fish and marine mammals without significantly altering their behavior.
The Bell M. Shimada is equipped with a full suite of modern instrumentation, including advanced navigation systems, multi-frequency acoustic sensors, multi-beam sonar, direct sampling gear and extensive laboratories for concurrent fisheries and oceanographic operations. While under way, continuous automated environmental observations provide richer and more efficiently collected real-time data streams to shore-side laboratories. The ship has a cruising speed of 12 knots, range of 12,000 nautical miles and 40-day mission endurance.
Its mission includes monitoring such protected species as including albacore, sharks, salmon, groundfish, sardine, hake, and other coastal pelagic species. The ship also observes weather, conducts oceanographic research and habitat assessments, and surveys marine mammal, bird and turtle populations.
Asked for his thoughts on the naming of the ship, Allen Shimada told NikkeiWest, “There’s no reason in 2010 that anyone beyond former colleagues, friends and family would know of Bell Shimada now, more than 50 years later, except for NOAA’s student contest and the five ninth-graders from Marina High School who decided to make Bell M. Shimada their first choice to put forward to NOAA.
“As my sister Julie said, we were very young when he died, and to have NOAA’s newest fishery survey vessel named for him brings him back to us.
“Since the announcement of the naming back in April 2007, I have wondered how all this came about, and what I think is that this was just one story of a young Nisei from Seattle who, along with fellow classmates at the University of Washington, was compelled to leave campus in the spring of 1942, and out of the camps volunteered for the 442nd, eventually serving in the MIS in the Pacific and in U.S. Army Headquarters in Tokyo.
“In May 2008, the University of Washington awarded honorary bachelor degrees to the more than 440 Nikkei students in a ceremony called ‘The Long Journey Home.’ Bell and his younger brother, Mits, were among the names of the Classes of 1941-42.
“With the naming of this ship, his professional career is honored, but his personal history is what we in the community recognize, and in that light, his story is our collective family story.”