Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dr. Albert Herre: A Pioneer in Philippine Fisheries Science


Melchor F. Cichon
Otolith, October-December 1986, pp. 11-12

When I asked some UPV College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences undergraduate students about Albert Herre, they thought he was a freshman student of the College or of the College of arts and Sciences. One student even ventured to ask me whether Herre is staying at the UPV Dormitory.

From their responses, I deduced that Dr. Albert Herre is a stranger to present fisheries students. This led me to look for some information about him. I was glad that Prof. Prudencia Conlu was still around. She is one of our renowned ichthyologists who had the opportunity to talk personally with Herre. It was from her that I learned much about the man.

Dr. Albert William Christian Theodore Herre came to the Philippines in 1920 and became the first Chief of the Department of Fisheries, Bureau of Science, Philippine Islands, from 1920 to 1928. After this, he returned to the United States of America for one year. But in 1931, he came back to the Philippines to survey the fisheries resources of the country and returned to the United States again. In 1933, he was again back as part of the expeditions in Pelews, Philippines, China and Malay Peninsula.

While in the Philippines, he extensively toured the archipelago. In his preface to his book, Stories of PhilippineFfishes, he said, "For many years it has been my privilege and delight to travel in all parts of the Philippines, to wander over all the large islands and to visit most of the inhabited islands and many, many on which no one lives. Many long and often difficult trips were taken in order to learn something of the fishes, coral reefs and mountain lakes, of the great rivers of Luzon and Mindanao, and of the bays, channels and seas that surround the thousands of lovely islands that lie between Formosa and Borneo. In the esteros about Malabon and Lake Buhi, may be found the smallest fishes in the world, while in the sea not far from Sibutu, I have seen the whale shark, the largest fish in the world swimming about the surface of the water. To learn more about fishes, I have watched them day after day, drifting in a banca, and have examined thousands, living and dead. They were obtained from baklad and bobo; fishing from pantalans, taken from tide pools and the open sea; and from rice paddies, rivers, and lakes all over the islands."

Out of these expeditions and travels, he produced various scientific papers and books on Philippine fishes. The "Bibliography of Fishes and Fisheries" compiled by Guillermo J. Blanco and Heraclio R. Montalban (Philippine Journal of Fisheries, vol. 1, no. 2, July-December 1951, pp. 115-138) lists 102 of Herre’s original articles on Philippine fisheries. The earliest article he wrote about the Philippine fisheries is entitled "Aquatic Resource of the Philippines". It was published in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal, Manila 1(1921):11-12.

In 1925 in Malabon, Rizal, Herre also described and published the discovery of the smallest fish in the world—the Pandaca pygmea which measures 7.5 to 11 mm in length when fully mature. At that time he was working with Filipino scientists like Inocencio Ronquillo, Agustin Umali, Guillermo Montalban, Claro Martin, Hilario Roxas, etc. It was Ronquillo who gave him the Pandaca pygmea specimen.

Other significant contributions of Herre to the study of Philippine fishes is his book, Checklist of Philippine Fishes (Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1953. 976p.). This book is not the first checklist of Philippine fishes because in 1910, David Starr Jordan and R. E. Richardson prepared a list which included 830 species. But this book by Herre is considered as the most comprehensive list of Philippine fishes until today.

This book is still being used by our fisheries researchers as a preliminary reference. It includes approximately 2, 145 species of fishes known to inhabit the waters of the Philippines in 1948.

The other technical books by Herre include: Gobies of the Philippines and the China Sea (Manila Bureau of Printing, 1927. 352p.), and English and Local Common Names of Philippine Fishes (Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1948. 128p.). The first book describes the sizes, color and inhabitants of hundreds of Philippine gobies. The Pandaca pygmea is described in this book.

He did not only write technical books and articles. Two of his works are Stories of Philippine Fishes (Manila, D. P. Perez Co., 1938) and Philippine Fish Tales (Rizal, Oriental Commercial Co., 1935) which showcase his literary skills. Some of his poems are found in the first book.

Herre was born on September 16, 1868 in Toledo, Ohio, U.S.A. He earned his undergraduate (A.B., 1904), graduate (A.M., 1905), and Ph.D. (1909) degree in Stanford University, California.

After graduation, he served as principal of a high school in California (1910-1912), then as director of the School of Hygiene in the same institution from 191901920. After this, he went to the Philippines and began his long career in fisheries. He was a member of four expeditions from 1928 to 1937. He was also a member of scientific associations like California Academy and California Botany Society.

After his duty in the Philippines, Herre went back to America. He wanted to visit the Philippines again sometime in 1962 or 1963 but a certain illness prevented him from doing so.

This greatly disappointed the Filipino scientists who wanted to see again the man who contributed much to the advancement of fisheries science in the Philippines. However, the great legacy left by Herre comforted and inspired them to work toward the development of Philippine fisheries.