This site is no longer being maintained and will be retired in the fall of 2020. Please visit for NOAA heritage information. 

NOAA and the Preserve America Initiative headline banner

Preserve America logo

Bell Shimada
(Photo: Allen Shimada)

Bell Masayuki Shimada (1922-1958)

In his brief 12-year career as a fishery research biologist, Bell Shimada made a distinctive mark in the study of Pacific tropical tuna stocks. Working with interdisciplinary teams of biologists, chemists and oceanographers, as a researcher and then team leader, Bell Shimada developed and published much material on the distribution, spawning and feeding patterns of tuna. He also coordinated international data collection and studies for the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. A mark of his important contributions to the development of his field is the dedication of the Proceedings from the Symposium on the "The Changing Pacific Ocean in 1957 and 1958," in his memory, and the naming of a seamount-Shimada Seamount, southwest of Baja California-in his honor.

Born in Seattle, WA of Japanese immigrant parents, Bell Shimada excelled as a student at mathematics and science and graduated from Franklin High School in June 1939. He entered the University of Washington's School of Fisheries in September 1939 and studied there until April 29, 1942, when he was "evacuated," as were many other Japanese-Americans at the time. In May 1943, he was permitted to enlist in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for basic training. He was selected for Japanese language and intelligence collection training in August 1943 and transferred to Camp Savage, Minnesota. In April 1944, he was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force in Orlando, Florida and received three months of air intelligence training before being transferred to Honolulu, Hawaii as a translator/interpreter. Bell Shimada remained in Hawaii until May 1945 when he was transferred to Guam as a radio traffic monitor, and then moved in August 1945 to the U.S. Army Air Force headquarters in Tokyo. His task in Tokyo was to collect and synthesize economic and infrastructure data on the effects of strategic bombing, a task he continued until he was discharged from the military in February 1946.

After the war, Bell Shimada remained in Japan as a Fishery Biologist (P-2) employed by the Fisheries Division, NRS, SCAP, Tokyo until December 1946. In this research and analytical position he compiled and collated data obtained on Japanese fisheries activities. Bell Shimada had a major hand in drafting directives to the Japanese government, particularly on whaling. His first professional publication, Japanese Whaling in the Bonin Islands Area (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fishery Leaflet No. 248 (1947), grew out of the whaling studies and reports written in Tokyo. Bell Shimada then returned to the College of Fisheries, University of Washington and completed his remaining year of course work, graduating cum laude on December 20, 1947. During this year he worked a laboratory technician for the School of Fisheries and maintained the School's ichthyology collection. He remained at the School of Fisheries to work on his master's degree and worked as laboratory assistant for the Atomic Energy Commission maintaining aquaculture facilities. Bell Shimada graduated with his masters of science in fisheries in December 1948.

He had begun working for the Bureau of Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in September 1948 as a GS-9. From December1948 through January 1951, Shimada worked for the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Investigations, Honolulu, Hawaii, as a seagoing biologist in charge of science watches and research on research vessels. During this time he worked with many of the leading scientists in his field and in oceanography, including Oscar Sette, Wilbert Chapman, Roger Revelle and M.B. Schaefer. He also encountered many of the younger scientists who would be colleagues during the next decade; these included Townsend Cromwell, Fred Cleaver, Warren Wooster, Alan Tubbs, William Aron, Gerald Howard, Richard Hennemuth, Howard Yoshida and Tom Hida.

While he was in Hawaii, Bell Shimada also met and married Rae Shimojima. Rae Shimojima was born in Portland, Oregon. After a brief internment at the beginning of WWII, she began working as a clerk/typist for U.S. government agencies, eventually moving to Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bureau of Fisheries. During visits to Washington in 1946-1947, Oscar Sette recruited her for the new Honolulu Laboratory of Pacific Oceanic Fishery Investigations, and she moved there as Sette's secretary. She met Bell Shimada in Honolulu. Their children, Allen and Julie, were born in 1954 and 1957 respectively. During this time, Bell Shimada had taken graduate courses while in Honolulu and then, returning to the United States, he spent 1951 taking doctoral courses at the School of Fisheries, University of Washington. He completed his doctorate in 1956.

In February 1952, Bell Shimada moved from the Bureau of Fisheries to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission in La Jolla, California, and began the tuna work for which he is recognized. Working with M.B. Schaefer and Gerald Howard, Shimada began publishing his research and achieving international and national recognition. He rapidly moved up the hierarchy of the Commission and was Senior Scientist for the last two years before his death in 1958. The Commission was co-housed with the Scripps Institute for Oceanography and the Bureau of Fisheries laboratories, and drew on those institutions for scientific ideas, manpower, and cooperative ventures.

Bell Shimada and Townsend Cromwell frequently worked together, first at POFI and then at IATTC, on research involving the distribution of tuna throughout the Pacific Ocean. A physical oceanographer, Cromwell was interested in currents and their driving forces, such as temperature gradients, while Shimada was concerned with the availability of forage for the tunas. Linking this work together proved to be productive for both men. In 1957 they worked on the Island Current Study off Clarion Island, and were en route to join their research party, aboard the Scripps R/V Horizon, for the second year of work when they died. Their plane crashed near Guadalajara, Mexico on June 2, 1958.

This cruise was to have been the last for Shimada with the Commission, since he had been appointed to direct the new Bureau of Fisheries' Eastern Pacific Tuna Investigations and was to have taken up his post in July 1958.