December 16, 2021

Obituary - John T. Hughes, 1922-2021

Photo: Vineyard Gazette

Lobster culturist John Thomas Hughes, a man of many talents, died peacefully on November 28, 2021, at the age of 99, four months shy of his 100th birthday. He was the former Director of the Massachusetts Lobster Hatchery and Research Station, a pioneer in lobster research, author of many research publications and recipient of many awards.

White a student at UMass, he wrote his senior thesis on the American lobster. In 1950, he was asked to oversee the building and operation of the first Massachusetts Lobster Hatchery and Research Station on Martha’s Vineyard island, holding various positions as a marine biologist and eventually becoming Director in 1975. He served in that role until he retired in 1984.

By 1951, Hughes began lobster rearing experiments, gradually improving on techniques previously tried by others and studying the life cycle of this species. He was the first to successfully breed the American lobster in captivity with the goal of restocking the populations in New England waters. To that end, he worked tirelessly to selectively breed lobsters of a solid blue color as a phenotypic marker to track the restocking effort.

His annual production and release of lobster larvae and associated life history studies contributed to the knowledge of this species which also significantly benefited other researchers working on not only lobster biological but also human biological theses. Research specimens generated by the facility were sought after by the scientific community, and the facility served as a base for many visiting researchers. He retired from DMF in 1984.

During his accomplished career, he received many awards, recognitions and citations for his contributions to aquaculture. In 1973 he was recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for his pioneering work on lobsters. The same year the Mass. State Scientists Assoc. named him State Scientist of the year. In 1980, he was named an Honorary Life Member by WAS. In 1984, the Mass. Lobstermen’s Assoc. recognized his contribution to the lobster fishery. At the ripe age of 90, he was honored by the renaming of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Lobster Research Station to the John T. Hughes Research Station.

His peers praised him for his innovative and practical spirit, mentoring of younger scientists and willingness to share information. His work brought him to aquaculture conferences around the world, traveling to more than 20 different countries to consult with governments and agencies on his seawater tanks and cultivation techniques.

He explored the deeps in the Alvin, the submersible which found the Titanic. He consulted with Jacques Cousteau and his son, Phillipe Cousteau. He was hosted in Tahiti by Marlon Brando, who wanted to bring aquaculture to the Tahitian people. He was even consulted by Julia Child when she was looking for guidance on the most humane way to cook a lobster

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