The Oscar E. Sette Award: Outstanding Marine Fishery Biologist

The O.E. Sette award for general excellence is given annually by the Marine Fisheries Section of the American Fisheries Society. Oscar Elton Sette (1900-1972) was a pioneer in integrating fisheries, oceanography, and meteorology to understand the dynamic structure of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the importance of upwelling and frontal structures on tuna, sardines and other species. The NOAA research ship Oscar Elton Sette ( stationed in Honolulu, is named in his honor.

Oscar Sette (middle front) with NAFO co-workers in 1920's

Oscar Sette (middle front) with NAFO co-workers

Sette was born on March 29, 1900. He was 18 when he began his scientific career, counting albacore on the docks of Monterey for William F. Thompson (1888-1965), then-director of the California State Fisheries Laboratory in San Pedro. After a stint in the U.S. Army during World War I, and a degree at Stanford, Sette went to work for Thompson. He incorporated increasing amount of statistical data into his research, leading to a position with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as Chief of the North Atlantic Fisheries Investigations in 1928. The Bureau transferred him back to California in 1937, to head a new sardine research program. His sardine program was adopted by the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation (CalCOFI).

Congress allocated funds in 1947 to build a new large laboratory in Honolulu. Sette was appointed director and made chief of the Pacific Oceanic Fishery Investigations (POFI) in 1949. With three new research vessels, Sette’s team produced a large number of publications on ocean conditions, including the influential “Progress in Pacific Oceanic Fishery Investigations, 1950-53.” Sette was one of the founding members of the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists ( The Department of the Interior awarded him its highest service honor upon his retirement in 1961. He died in Los Altos, California, on July 25, 1972.

Sette is remembered for his remarkable scientific career, but also for his unassuming demeanor, enormous tact, and administrative ability. Friends described him as a life-long scholar, with an enthusiasm for teaching.

The basic criterion for identifying recipients of the award is sustained excellence in marine fishery biology through research, teaching, administration, or a combination of the three. MFS adopted the following guidelines:

  • North American residents are the preferred recipients, but the award may be given to any suitable candidate.
  • Membership in the American Fisheries Society is a positive attribute but is not required. AFS membership could tip the balance between otherwise equally-deserving candidates.
  • Living recipients are preferred, but the award may be given posthumously.
  • The Committee considers not only candidates who, by virtue of their position and personality, are widely known, but may also have labored quietly and are less well-known, but who have made sustained and important contributions to marine fishery biology.
  • Candidates should be clearly identified with marine fishery science, even though there may well be crossover between marine and freshwater environments. Contributions to any discipline within the broad spectrum of activities in marine fisheries biology should be considered appropriate for candidates, including systematics, physiology, and ecology.

All unsuccessful candidates from a given year’s consideration will automatically be eligible for reconsideration for the award in the subsequent year, and can be re-nominated in future years.

Submissions for Sette Award candidates will be accepted through May 31st of each year and should be made to Jamal Moss, Sette Award Committee Chair, via electronic submission ([email protected] ).

Submissions should include:

  • Letter of nomination, highlighting areas of achievement (research, education, administration). This should be in at least 1.5 line spacing and should not exceed 5 pages.
  • The nominee’s CV
  • At least two letters of support

Present and Former Recipients of the Oscar Elton Sette Award

Year Recipient Accolades
2016 Ellen Pikitch, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA 2016_Sette_Award_Ellen_Pikitch
2015 David Conover, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA 2015_Sette_Award_David_Conover
2014 Mary Fabrizio, College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, Virginia, USA 2014_Sette-Award_Mary-Fabrizio
2013 C. Phillip Goodyear
2012 Andre Punt, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA 2012_Sette_Award_Andre_Punt
2011 Brian J. Rothschild, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
2010 Michael H. Prager
2009 Bernard A. Megrey, NOAA/MNFS, Alaska Fisheries Science Center
2008 Kevin M. Bailey
2007 Robert Frances, University of Washington
2006 Kenneth Sherman, NOAA Fisheries Service, Narragansett, RI
2005 Richard (Dick) Beamish
2004 Kenneth W. Able
2003 Michael P. Sissenwine
2002 William Richards
2001 Daniel Pauly
2000 Edmund S. Hobson
1999 Austin B. Williams
1998 Edward D. Houde
1997 William E. Ricker
1996 William (Bill) C. Leggett, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario
1995 William G. Pearcy
1994 Saul B. Saila
1993 D.E. “Curly” Wohlschlag
1992 Douglas Chapman
1991 Lloyd Dickie

Oscar Elton Sette Award Committee
Year(s) of Service Committee Chair Committee Members
2017- Jamal Moss Ken Able, Mary Fabrizio, Ed Houde, James Morris, Tim Essington
2016-2017 Michael Prager Ken Able, Mary Fabrizio, Ed Houde, James Morris, Jamal Moss
2013-15 Emory Anderson Ken Able, Ed Houde, James Morris, Mike Prager
2012-13 Desmond Kahn Ken Able, Ed Houde, James Morris, Mike Prager
2011-12 Desmond Kahn Emory Anderson, Ed Houde, James Morris, Dick Stone
2006-11 Desmond Kahn Emory Anderson, Ed Houde, Dick Stone
2003-04 Desmond Kahn Emory Anderson, Patricia Gerrior, Ed Houde, Dick Stone
2002-03 Desmond Kahn Ed Houde, Pat Gerrior, Dick Stone
2001-02 Desmond Kahn Patricia Gerrior, Dick Stone
2000-01 Churchill Grimes
1999-2000 Desmond Kahn Churchill Grimes, Edward Houde, Richard Stone, Patricia Gerrior
1998-99 Desmond Kahn Churchill Grimes, Edward Houde, Richard Stone, Patricia Gerrior
1997-98 Doug Vaughan Ken Able, Patricia Gerrior, Churchill Grimes, Gary Sakagawa, Dick Stone
1996-97 Churchill Grimes
1995-96 Churchill Grimes
1993-94 Jim Bohnsack Bruce Atkinson, Ralph Larson
1992-93 Bruce Leaman Vaughn Anthony, Jim Bohnsack, Bruce Atkinson, Ralph Larson
1991-92 Gene Huntsman Joan Holt, Vaughn Anthony, Bruce Leaman, Gary Sakagawa