For Immediate Release - March 23, 2012

State Officials Honor Martha’s Vineyard Native John Hughes

Former state lobster hatchery named after Hughes in recognition of his conservation efforts

Photo of Belding Award Recipient John Hughes

OAK BLUFFS – Friday, March 23, 2012 – Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin, along with officials from DFG's Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), joined local officials, family and friends today to present Vineyard native John T. Hughes with the Dr. David L. Belding Award for his work in marine resource conservation.

“Mr. Hughes’ work is critical to the scientific understanding of the life history of American lobster and greatly benefited long-term research and conservation of one of the most significant fisheries in Massachusetts,” said Commissioner Griffin, who presented the award to Hughes.

Officials also surprised Hughes, who celebrated his 90th birthday today, by renaming the former state lobster hatchery where he worked for 36 years in his honor.

“The Division of Marine Fisheries is pleased to honor John by presenting him with the Belding Award and renaming in his honor the facility he helped build. I congratulate him on behalf of the entire division,” said DMF Director Paul Diodati.

Hughes began his career with DMF in 1948. Hughes, a graduate from the University of Massachusetts and ex-Navy mine sweeper commander, started his tenure with an assignment to work with lobsters at a state lobster hatchery planned for construction in Oak Bluffs in 1949.

By 1951, the DMF lobster hatchery became operational with Hughes as its first manager. He began lobster rearing experiments, gradually improving on techniques previously tried by others and studying the life cycle of this species. His annual production and release of lobster larvae and associated life history studies contributed to the knowledge of this species which also significantly benefited other researchers working on not only lobster biological, but human biological theses. Research specimens generated by this facility were sought after by the scientific community and the facility served as a base for many visiting researchers.

Mr. Hughes became an advocate for lobster resource conservation and a source of knowledge and advice for those interested in developing lobster rearing operations for research or commercial production. He retired from DMF in 1984.

“Congratulations to Mr. Hughes for on his wonderful career and life time achievements that were more than worthy of this prestigious award,” said Sen. Dan Wolf. “Our marine habitats play such an important role in my district, especially on the islands, and I hope that by renaming the hatchery and research facility after someone dedicated to conservation and preservation we will inspire another generation to follow in his footsteps.”

“Renaming this historic hatchery after John ensures that his years of dedication to lobster research will not soon be forgotten,” said Rep. Timothy Madden.  “John’s body of work is a testament to turning a passion into a career and using a career to pursue a passion. The Vineyard is certainly proud the building is being named after a native-son.”

The hatchery – now known as the John T. Hughes Hatchery and Research Facility – was designed for the purpose of lobster propagation to bolster the population in Massachusetts. The technique relied on obtaining large egg-bearing females from offshore fishermen, and rearing the eggs at the hatchery. The offspring were then released into coastal waters during the summer months as young-of-the-year juveniles. Other lobster life history studies were conducted with numerous collaborating researchers.

By the late 1990s, production at the hatchery declined as warming waters in the facility’s Lagoon Pond made maintenance of adult lobsters difficult. Eventually, lobster culturing activities were stopped. The facility transitioned into a field station for several DMF employees on Martha’s Vineyard.

“My siblings, niece and nephews and I are so pleased that dad is being given the David Belding Award, and are thrilled that the hatchery is being re-named in his honor,” said Pat Hughes.

Recently, a new initiative between DMF and the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group has returned part of the field station into a hatchery facility for shellfish more suitable to the conditions at Lagoon Pond. DMF has invested in new infrastructure and other building updates to support the group’s aquaculture activities, specifically the growing of seed shellfish for transplant to flats around Martha’s Vineyard.

The Belding Award was created in 1989 to honor individuals who, in the opinion of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission (MFC), have done the most to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the Commonwealth’s marine resources. The award’s namesake, Dr. David L. Belding, was well known both to medical students and shellfish wardens in the first half of the 20th century, as he conducted two distinguished careers simultaneously in medicine and marine biology. Dr. Belding, who passed away in 1972, left a prodigious life’s work. His research in marine biology, especially local shellfish populations, is continually referred to, even today, and became one of the cornerstones of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). The award was funded in perpetuity by Dr. Belding’s family.

DFG is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

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