Chuck Bundrant, a legendary former scientist and administrator at Pacific Fisheries Commission who championed the American seafood industry and pushed for organic and fair fishing practices, has died. He was 79.
He died of lung cancer on Sunday in a Portland hospital, according to his son, Jeff.
A formidable figure, Bundrant ran the PFC from 1970 until it was dissolved in 1986 and became the world’s second-largest fishing commission, with about 150 member countries. He also authored a best-selling book about how seafood is farmed rather than caught, to open consumers’ eyes to the processing process.
“No one worked harder for the Pacific seafood industry or helped fishermen grow their business than Chuck Bundrant,” said Peter Huntsman, co-founder of Huntsman Marine Containers, a Washington-based company that works with the Pacific fisheries. “Not only was he a great innovator, he also taught us what to look for in running our business.”
Bundrant was the former senior vice president of the American Fisheries Society and won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1984, sharing it with Bob Klein of the National Maritime Museum.
During a four-decade stint in the fisheries business, he saw both successes and failures. On the one hand, he watched economic conditions push Japan into a century of trying to catch more fish in the 1970s and 80s, scaring off most American boats. On the other hand, he oversaw the transition to a system of managed catch quotas that, he believed, allowed Americans to cut their backfishing while still recognizing a need to protect important fisheries.
He worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the 1970s and later founded Direct Marina, which was a supplier of recreational and commercial boats. A longtime resident of Washington state, he also was a veteran of the U.S. Army.
He was active in politics, serving as chairman of the Pacific fisheries commission’s Reconnaissance Assessment Committee in 1972, based on President Richard Nixon’s call for a more transparent fisheries process, said Rick Berrien, a biologist and former vice president of the Washington Sea Grant who was known as “Chuck the Numbers Guy.”
“He would also host panel discussions with other people from around the world at a restaurant in Portland,” Berrien said. “And over time that resulted in a national convention that was held in our state.”
Bundrant authored “Secrets of the Largest Ocean,” explaining that how seafood is harvested and processed depends on which nation in the vast Pacific is the ultimate owner of the resources.
In a way, “Making fish into sushi and shrimp into pasta” was the basis for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, Berrien said.
Bundrant’s younger son, Jim, is also a respected fisheries expert and has his own business.
“That just shows you what huge influence he had on the industry and how influential he was,” Jeff Bundrant said.