A Brief History of PORF

The sea has always been a source of food, transportation and recreation for humankind. For many generations, the pelagic fishes of the Pacific have formed the successful bases of artisanal, commercial and recreational fishing activities. However, serious declines in the worldwide catches of tunas and billfishes have created growing concern about their future, and the future of the fisheries on which they are based. These dwellers of the surface layers of the world's oceans are very difficult to study, but research is vital to understand the causes of decreasing numbers and to develop solutions that will reverse these downward trends.

The Pacific Ocean Research Foundation grew out of an idea first proposed to Peter S. Fithian, founding father of the Hawaiian International Billfish Association, by John C. Marr, former director of the Honolulu Laboratories of the National Marine Fisheries Service, concerning the need for a research facility located in Hawaii that would concentrate on game fishes, and in particular, the billfish.

Thus, the Pacific Gamefish Foundation, as it was first known, began its life in December 1975 when an international group of businessmen, led by Peter Fithian, met to discuss this idea, and the future of the billfishes, tunas and other game fishes of the Pacific. They saw the need then to form an organization which would be independent from Government and which could set its own agenda. The Pacific Gamefish Foundation was duly formed, its founding principles being "Education, Preservation and Research". Over the years, the Foundation has changed to meet the needs of the present, becoming the Pacific Gamefish Research Foundation, and more recently, the Pacific Ocean Research Foundation. As you will have noted on our logo, the principles today of "Preservation, Knowledge and Management" still embrace the original ideals, and the Foundation works actively to achieve them.

One of the key issues which led to the formation of PORF was the pressing need for sound international management policies which would ensure wise and sustainable use of the highly migratory fishes throughout the Pacific. It was decided from the outset that the best way to achieve the ideals of the Foundation was to encourage, foster and facilitate scientific research on the fishes which were the basis of sport fishing in the central Pacific, and in particular, the billfishes.

After an initial period based in a small office of the Oceanic Institute in Honolulu, followed by a brief stint operating from a mobile lab, a properly equipped laboratory facility was established near the pier at Kailua-Kona to take advantage of the weigh-ins of the charter fishing fleet, especially during the famous Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. The present permanent laboratory facility was set up in 1984, and is ideally located at Honokohau Harbour, headquarters of the Kailua-Kona fishing fleet. Because of the combination of these factors, and Hawaii's climate, PORF is one of the few scientific institutions in the world which is able to conduct year round research on billfish, tuna and other Pacific gamefish.

The PORF lab has attracted a great many scientists from all over the world (at last count, over 60) to conduct original research into the biology of the pelagic fishes. Some of the results of this exciting work are outlined in the next section, and a list of publications is also addended .

PORF has grown in reputation and stature, and In 1988, co-hosted with the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, the second International Billfish Symposium; appropriately in Kailua-Kona. This conference was a watershed in the field of billfish biology, fisheries science and socio-economics, and the published results form a vital link in the chain of our knowledge of the billfishes of the world, their fisheries, and their future. PORF is proud to have played an integral role in that process.

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