Sei-Ichi Saitoh (Japan) – PICES 2016 Wooster Award

Dr. Sei-Ichi Saitoh with Dr. Laura Richards (PICES Chairman) after receiving the 2016 Wooster Award

Slide show at the Opening Ceremony

At the 2016 PICES Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA, USA, it was announced that Dr. Sei-Ichi Saitoh (Hokkaido University, Japan) was the recipient of the 16th annual Wooster Award.

The presentation ceremony took place on November 6, 2016, during the PICES-2016 Opening Session and was conducted by Drs. Laura Richards (PICES Chair) and Thomas Therriault (PICES Science Board Chair). Dr. Therriault introduced the award and read the following Science Board citation.

Science Board citation for the Wooster Award

In 2000, PICES Governing Council approved the establishment of an award named in honour of Professor Warren S. Wooster, a principal founder and the first Chairman of PICES, and a world-renowned researcher and statesman in the area of climate variability and fisheries production. The criteria for selection are sustained excellence in research, teaching, administration or a combination of the three in the area of North Pacific marine science. Special consideration is given to individuals who have worked in integrating the disciplines of marine science, and preference is given to individuals who were or are currently actively involved in PICES activities. Please join me in congratulating the recipient of the 2016 Wooster Award, Dr. Sei-Ichi Saitoh.

Dr. Sei-Ichi Saitoh is a director and professor at the Hokkaido University Arctic Research Center, and a professor at the Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences at Hokkaido University, where he conducts research, advises graduate students, and teaches courses in satellite oceanography, marine-GIS, and fisheries oceanography. He has over 30-years’ experience as a satellite oceanographer, fisheries oceanographer, GIS specialist, and consultant on fisheries issues in the North Pacific Ocean and its adjacent seas, including impacts of climate change. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles.

Sei-Ichi was born in Mikuni, Fukui Prefecture where his father was a kimono merchant. He lived in Fukui until high school where he enjoyed fishing and swimming. That was the starting point of his career as an oceanographer. Later, he entered Hokkaido University. At University he was a member of the Exploration Club where in 1971, during his first undergraduate year he participated in the KINAMBO project, an experimental cruise across the Tsugaru Strait. KINAMBO is the Ainu word for sunfish drifting at the surface of ocean. The club failed three times and then the fourth time, when Sei-Ichi was on the drifter, they were successful.

In 1975, before starting graduate school, Sei-Ichi participated in an Expedition to the Aleutian Islands, which was the 15th Anniversary project of the Exploration Club. He enjoyed diving and climbing in the Aleutians. His photo of sea lions was published in a Japanese photo magazine. He has visited the same area on the Oshoro-maru multiple times since 1995.

After completing his PhD, Sei-Ichi joined the Japan Weather Association as a research engineer and continued to work on satellite remote sensing. In 1988, he married Ryoko, who has supported him in both his life and research. She has been a frequent participant at PICES annual meetings. In 1993, he returned to Hokkaido University as an associate professor. Sei-Ichi was a pioneer in using NOAA SST sensors and ocean color data from various satellites for fisheries oceanography. Using GIS, he merged satellite, environmental, and fisheries data to inform fishermen where to catch fish. He extended this to provide aquaculture facility sitings.  Based on these scientific achievements, in 2014 the Japanese Society of Fisheries Oceanography awarded Dr. Saitoh the Uda Award.

Unlike many satellite oceanographers, Dr. Saitoh goes to sea regularly, participating in many oceanographic and fisheries surveys in the North Pacific, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea. He was the lead investigator of International Polar Year cruises to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and 2008 onboard the Oshoro-maru. Data obtained from these cruises has been openly shared and widely used by scientists from PICES and other organizations. He convened mini-symposia on marine ecological studies in the Bering Sea and North Pacific when the Oshoro-maru stopped in foreign ports.

Sei-Ichi has conducted research for scientific knowledge and has applied these for human well-being.  He created the Traceable and Operational Resource and Environment Data Acquisition System (TOREDAS) to provide fishermen with near real-time forecasts for squid, saury and tuna fishing grounds.  The system is used widely in Japan to reduce fuel expenses and improve fishers’ financial conditions.

In PICES, Dr. Saitoh has been an active member of the Technical Committee on Monitoring (MONITOR). He co-chaired the MONITOR Task Team of CCCC and continued as vice-chairman of the MONITOR Committee from 2004–2007. At PICES annual meetings, he has served as session or workshop convenor almost every year during the past decade. Outside of PICES, he has contributed to various projects and organizations. Sei-Ichi has been co-chair of the Ecosystem Studies of the Subarctic Seas (ESSAS) program, was a member of the Science Council of Japan, and participated on national committees to SCOR and IASC.

Besides his many scientific activities, Sei-Ichi is dedicated to education. He served as a lecturer and committee member for the PICES summer schools held in 2009 and 2013. He has encouraged and financially supported his students and young scientists to attend PICES annual meetings. His students and post-docs have received 11 early career best poster or oral presentation awards at PICES annual meetings. This is evidence of his mentorship and skill in recruiting young scientists.

In April 2015, Hokkaido University launched a new national center for scientific research on the Arctic and surrounding region. Sei-Ichi was named as the first director of this new center and is guiding it toward comprehensive and integrated research in the Arctic.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Sei-Ichi Saitoh as the recipient of the 2016 Wooster Award.

Dr. Saitoh's acceptance remarks

Thank you, Drs. Thomas Therriault and Laura Richards.
It is a great honor for me to receive such a prestigious award. I was completely surprised to receive this award. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have conducted research and education with me, and to share with them the pleasure and honor of receiving this award.

I want to introduce an old story about Prof. Warren Wooster today. In 1984, 32 years ago, when I finished my PhD course, I looked for a Post-Doc position as a satellite oceanographer, in the United State. I wrote a letter to Dr. George Maul, who was a famous satellite oceanographer at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, and who is still active as a professor of oceanography at the Florida Institute of Technology. I asked him about the possibility of getting a position working on the application of satellite remote sensing to fisheries. He suggested that I write a letter to Prof. Warren Wooster, at the University of Washington, as an appropriate person for me to work with. At that time, I, however, hesitated and gave up writing a letter to him. Then, I started different carrier as a research engineer in the Japan Weather Association. In 1993, I began working at Hokkaido University, and started to participate in PICES annual meetings and met Prof. Wooster in the late 1990’s for the first time. But, I could have no chance to tell this story directly to him. If he was here, I could tell him not only this award, but also my story.  At last, this award has made me reach Prof. Warren Wooster just today.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge that my achievements are mainly the results of contributions from not only mentors and various colleagues, but also of the many excellent students and post-docs who have been my co-workers and co-authors. Thank you very much again.