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Immersed in his career


John Dean ‘58 examines the tuna at a fish market in Istanbul, where he has spent the last five years studying the Mediterranean’s bluefin tuna.

Despite his calling, John Dean ’58 doesn’t go fishing as often as people might think. A professor in the marine science program at the University of South Carolina at Columbia—his home since 1970—Dean is as likely to immerse himself in museum archives as he is in water. His research specialty is the age and growth of recreationally and commercially important fishes in fresh water, estuarine, and oceanic ecosystems.

His studies help set resource management policies of several species including tarpon in Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Florida, and mudskippers in Japan. Over five summers Dean has studied bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, collaborating with colleagues in Sardinia, Athens, and Istanbul.

“The bluefin tuna is a very contentious fishery resource because it has such a high value,” he says. In Japan, the primary market, bluefin is a delicacy and can fetch $40 per pound wholesale. Bluefin tuna is heavily fished, and some might argue over-fished. “Operating within the limits of the natural system is a value that cultures are not willing to accept today. Instead, they think a tech fix can do it.”

Dean and his colleagues think part of the answer lies in the use of the trap system, a fishing technology that has been used in the Mediterranean for about 1,200 years. The trap captures only tuna that have spawned.

A partial list of his research papers stretches five pages, and now Dean is tapping his creative writing abilities with more mainstream magazines in mind. “My son says, ‘Dad, you don’t need to write another article for an obscure journal.’

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