Internationalist and Norwegian at the same time: Johan Hjort and ICES
reportposted on 2022-03-01, 12:45 authored by V. Schwach
The marine biologist Johan Hjort (1869-1948) remained at the forefront of Norwegian marine research for more than half a century. He also belonged to a small group of Scandinavians who, around 1900, committed themselves to founding ICES. For a small nation, international collaboration was considered crucial for maintaining the quality of research. The marine sciences were also a source o f national pride, an area in which Norway could and did shine internationally. For almost fifty years, Hjort was one of the Council’s leading characters both as a scientist and as an organizer. In the formative years of ICES, Hjort established a programme for fishery studies integrating national and international investigations. While the British and German scientists were preoccupied with the problem of overfishing, Hjort was the foremost spokesman for focusing on natural variations in the catches. In 1914, he and his colleagues at the Directorate of Fisheries concluded their research by publishing "Fluctuations in the great fisheries of northern Europe". This report laid out theoretical foundations o f the emerging field and improved the Council’s scientific reputation. His experiences within the ICES community also influenced Hjort's political ideas and work. Like his compatriot, the biologist and oceanographer Fridtjof Nansen, Hjort held that building scientific and cultural bonds and establishing agreements in these areas between nations were essential for avoiding the hubris amongst nations and lessening the chance of war in Europe. In the interwar period, Norway and Hjort indeed used the Council as a channel for bilateral negotiations with Great Britain, via Henry G. Maurice, the long-term President o f ICES, that led to agreements on the conditions for the Norwegian whaling industry in the Antarctic area and Norway’s offshore territorial limit.