Dr. Peter K. Bergman 1933 - 2016

Dr. Pete Bergman We are sad to announce the death of Dr. Peter Bergman, and are grateful to have known this gentleman, a man passionate about his work, his family, and his friends.

Pete was always an avid sport fisherman, and carried that enthusiasm right into his work. In high school shop class, he built a 16 foot wooden boat, towed it to Neah Bay at the NW tip of Washington's Olympia Peninsula and launched both the boat and his professional career with a summer of commercial salmon fishing. He was part of the "kelper" fleet - a band of small boats powered by outboard motors that fished with rod and reel near the shore, where the kelp grew. Pete never tired of fishing, and he continued kelping in the summers while pursuing a Bachelor's Degree at the University of Washington's College of Fisheries.

As a kelper, Pete had firsthand experience with the conflicts between user groups, and wanted to work towards resolving those fishery management issues. In 1958, after serving in the US Navy, he went to work at the Washington Department of Fisheries (WDF) as the biologist in charge of management studies for the ocean troll fishery, the same one he had participated in as a kelper. At that time, little was known about which stocks were contributing to the troll fishery, and stocks could only be identified by fin clipping - a method wholly inadequate to the task of reliably distinguishing between hundreds of different groups of hatchery fish.

Frustrated over the inadequacy of methods for evaluating survivals, contributions, and migrations of salmon, Pete began to search for an alternative method of identifying juvenile salmon. He began collaborating with his great friend and physicist, Keith Jefferts, to develop a new tagging method. The result was the invention of the Coded Wire Tagging (CWT) system, which revolutionized the coastwide management of Chinook and Coho salmon, and grew to be the biggest tagging program in history. More was learned about Pacific salmon in the first 12 months of using the CWT than in the previous 12 years combined, and hatcheries now had a tool to evaluate their programs. While Pete went on to many other significant contributions, the development of the CWT was certainly a career and personal highlight, and earned him a Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 1968.

Pete loved to travel, and even until his recent illness, he was visiting other countries. Some of his most enjoyable field work was in Iceland in the early 1970's as an FAO consultant, where, using CWT technology, he teamed with local scientists to implement experiments that quickly improved productivity of Atlantic salmon hatcheries. Some of those scientists became lifelong friends.

In 1975, Pete was appointed as WDF's Chief of Salmon Management and later Assistant Director. At this time, fisheries management was in complete turmoil due to the implementation of the "Boldt Decision" that guaranteed the treaty fishermen 50% of the harvestable number of fish in their usual fishing areas. Pete's motivation to work through this difficult period was a desire to improve fish management for both sides. As part of that, Pete led successful efforts to create critically needed computer models for hatchery analyses and harvest management.

Following retirement from WDF in 1982, Pete served as Executive Director of the Salmon and Steelhead Advisory Commission, under the NMFS. He spent much of his time working on the US-Canada Treaty negotiations and their implementation. Not surprisingly, the negotiations were difficult and neither side could reach agreement, especially on the issue of fish interceptions. Given the available data on fish migrations, Pete felt that the US was treating Canada unfairly, and his letter to President Clinton saying as much helped to move the matter forward to eventual resolution.

In 1984 Pete was hired by Northwest Marine Technology to develop new fish marking methods and work with fish managers. While thus employed, he was a member of the NMFS Snake River Salmon Recovery Team and the key member of a small group that worked with Senator Slade Gorton and Congressman Norm Dicks to initiate the now widely adopted hatchery reform program that is consistent with wild salmon recovery.

Pete had four patents and twelve publications all dealing with tagging systems and their use in fishery management. He received many awards for his work, including the AFS Western Division's Award of Excellence. At the time of his death, he was putting the finishing touches on a manuscript detailing the critical need and use of fishing gear capable of targeting harvestable salmon while protecting ESA listed and other weak stocks.

Pete's ethical standards were off the charts; as was his brilliance. When he was taking his Ph. D. exam, one of the requirements was for a second language. Pete chose Russian and, as he never actually took the course, he acquired only a rudimentary knowledge of the language at best. However, he easily passed by cracking the code on his multiple choice exam. Still, believing that this was an unethical way to learn Russian, he subsequently confessed what he had done. Pete was a very kind, respectful, and generous person, and, with no expectation of reprisal or eternal reward, tenaciously adhered to the golden rule.

When Pete died on January 20, there was a flood tide and fresh snow blanketing Mt. Rainier. He leaves Patricia, his loving wife of 50 years, daughters Kristin and Robin, and four grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for the spring.

(by Frank Haw and Geraldine Vander Haegen)