16 Apr 2014

In Memoriam – Carlos Fetterolf

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Photo of Carlos Fetterolf

Carlos Fetterolf circa 1975, photo from GLFC

Carlos Fetterolf, 88, past president of the American Fisheries Society, died on 22 March 2014 from complications due to a fall in Chelsea, Michigan. He had a long, distinguished career during which his good health and high spirits kept him active in fisheries and environmental causes to the end. His last years were devoted to protecting local streams and lakes.

After serving in the military during the waning days of World War II, Fetterolf entered the University of Connecticut where he earned a B.S. degree, but not before becoming a three-year all-American and captain-elect of its soccer team, which won a national championship in 1948. Next, he received a M.S. in fisheries from Michigan State University in 1952 under the tutelage of two elders of our tribe, Peter Tack and Robert Ball. While at Michigan State, he became a member of AFS.

Prepared now to move mountains and brimming with enthusiasm, two traits that did not diminish with his age, Fetterolf worked on reservoirs for the state of Tennessee, where he was successful in negotiating water levels and discharges that benefited black bass and tail-water trout. While in Tennessee he became active in the Southern Division of AFS, including service as president (1952-1957). Accepting employment in 1958 with the Michigan Water Resources Commission to lead a large, professional staff conducting water-quality appraisals, Fetterolf shifted his focus from fisheries and soon found himself in the vanguard of governmental efforts to restore U.S. waterways.

His efforts in Michigan resulted in acceptance of an invitation from the Environmental Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences to serve a two-year term in Washington, D.C., as science coordinator for establishing the water-quality criteria that were to become the basis for Water Quality Criteria 1972, popularly known as the “Blue Book.” Release of the Blue Book was a milestone in setting national standards for wastewater treatment and was certainly one of his proudest accomplishments. Returning to Michigan in 1972, Fetterolf became the chief environmental scientist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. No longer leading a field team, he devoted his time to counseling agency staff, including policy makers, on environmental issues, and representing the state’s Bureau of Water Management on interagency committees and groups dealing with water management.

The year 1975 brought about yet another new career focus as Fetterolf became executive secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During his tenure with the commission, which lasted until 1992, its program of fisheries research expanded greatly; it supported several international symposia, the proceedings of which are still foundational; it invigorated collaboration with the International Joint Commission, where Fetterolf was already a member of its Water Quality Board (renamed the Science Advisory Board); and it produced “A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries,” a seminal document that formalized working arrangements among fishery agencies, including tribal organizations, with responsibilities for the Great Lakes. While executive secretary, the commission’s program of research aimed at improved control of sea lamprey expanded considerably, and control operations shifted more to an integrated pest management approach.

Fetterolf’s involvement with professional societies was extensive, and included service as president of the Michigan Association of Conservation Ecologists (ca. 1965), Midwest Benthological Society (1966), International Association of Great Lakes Research (1976-1977), Water Quality Section of AFS (1983), AFS (1991), and the Fisheries History Section of AFS (1998-1999). Among the honors bestowed on him were memberships in Pi Alpha Sigma and Sigma Xi. The honor he most likely cherished, however, was induction in 2013 into the National Freshwater Fisheries Hall of Fame, because, among other things, it put him in the company of Izaak Walton, Earnest Hemingway, and Ole Evinrude.

Fetterolf was preceded in death by his loving wife, Norma, after 54 years of a marriage that produced four children. He was a remarkable person who would have been successful in any endeavor that he undertook. We are grateful that he chose our profession as his passion.

–Randy Eshenroder (randye@glfc.org)