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Dedicated Vessel Research Program (1977-1978) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Dedicated Vessel Research Program (1977-1978)
Variant Name: DVRP

Historical Note:

San Diego, a geographical hot-spot for tuna fishing, was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s to the late 1970s.  Since tuna often associate with porpoise in their native habitats, fisherman typically set nets around visible herds of porpoise to catch tuna. This type of fishing for tuna is known as purse seining, or "net fishing", and has led to the killing of many porpoises. Purse seines, first used in Southern California in 1916, are used to catch many different species of fish. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, as foreign competition out-caught American tuna fishermen, the U.S. bait-boat fleet slowly switched to purse seine gear to increase the number of tuna captured.

The Dedicated Vessel Research Program (DVRP) studied the relationships between the porpoise and tuna.  The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the United States Tuna Foundation (USTF) established the DVRP in 1977. The program studied the behaviors and relationship of tuna and porpoise, as well as the impact of tuna fishing on the porpoise population. The DVRP also sought to develop fishing equipment and procedures to minimize injury to and death rates of porpoises. The program did its research in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. The DVRP began research on board the M/V Queen Mary in January of 1978 and concluded in December of 1978 with its fifth and final cruise.

San Diego's tuna industry closed in the early 1980s because of over-regulation, rising costs, and  environmental pressure. By 1989 more than seventy nations participated in fishing tuna.  Ten of these nations, including Japan, the United States, Spain, and South Korea, accounted for almost 85% of the international catch.  Japan and America caught 41% of the world's tuna.

Note Author: Micah Klausman (Intern)

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