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Auke Bay Laboratory Director Mike Dahlberg Retires

photo of Mark Dahlberg  

Mike Dahlberg, director of the Auke Bay Laboratory (ABL) since 1995, retired in December 2004 after 34 years of Federal service.

Mike first came to the ABL in 1971 as a fishery biologist with the biometrics group. Jack Helle,  ABL program manager, remembers Dahlberg then as a scientist with a strong background in salmon research who enjoyed working in Alaska. “He rented my house during the winter of 1971–72, which happened to be one of the worst winters on record for snowfall, so you knew he liked Alaska when he stayed after that.”

Dahlberg earned recognition as a U.S. negotiator for the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission (which later became the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission) dealing with high-seas fisheries for Pacific salmon. His efforts helped lead to the INPFC Treaty in 1978 and the Treaty Annex in 1986. Dahlberg was also a lead scientific advisor to the U.S. Department of State in negotiating agreements with Japan, Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea to monitor high-seas fishing for species such as salmon and squid, culminating in the Driftnet Impact Monitoring, Assessment, and Control Act of 1987. From 1989 to 1991, Dahlberg designed a sampling program used by international scientific observers to monitor high-seas drift-net fisheries and helped train and supervise scientists from the United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea in a multinational fishery observer program. Stemming from this work, the United States sponsored a United Nations moratorium on large-scale driftnet fishing on the high seas.

Mike began his fisheries career at Oregon State University where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fisheries. His first work in Alaska was as a project leader for the University of Washington’s Fisheries Research Institute, conducting research on salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. He earned a doctorate degree from the University of Washington for research on sockeye salmon in Lake Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula.

After completing his doctoral program, Dahlberg moved to the East Coast to take a position as an assistant professor with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He went on to take a position at the U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife’s (the predecessor to the National Marine Fisheries Service) Narragansett Laboratory in Rhode Island, where he managed the Marine Gamefish Statistics program and designed a method for measuring quantities of fish caught by sport fishermen in the U.S. coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Mike’s daughter Sigrid said that when the position at ABL became available in the early ‘70s, her father was excited by the prospect of returning to Alaska. “He loved working in Bristol Bay in the summers and doing research in Alaska.” He especially liked hiking and diving in Alaska, she said.  Dahlberg was one of an active group of divers at the ABL, often accompanying fellow biologist Dick Carlson on dives to catalog and photograph corals and other marine species. After working in the biometrics group and before becoming laboratory director, Mike managed the laboratory’s Marine Fisheries Assessment program, which provides information for managing the groundfish resources in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

As laboratory director, Dahlberg excelled at managing the budget and facilities. Bill Heard, program manager for Marine Salmon Investigations, said “Mike was always fair in dealing with the programs. He made sure that the budget and resources were distributed equitably. He provided consistent support and upkeep for the laboratory and the Juneau subport, as well as the field stations at Auke Creek and Little Port Walter.”  Dodie Pickle, ABL administrative assistant, said that Dahlberg made it a point to share information with office staff and always displayed a wide knowledge of diverse subjects.  

Joe Greenough, former ABL deputy director, characterized Dahlberg as a director with numerous strengths. “Mike worked closely with the program managers and was open and above-board with information.  He recognized that he had experienced program managers and was good at delegating. He let the program managers set research priorities while he concentrated on overall direction and managing the facilities and budget,” Greenough said. “Mike did a first-class job of keeping the place running.”

By Neal Muirhead


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