Ship Naming Traditions

What’s in a Name? (developed by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center)

The spirit of a ship. . . a historical tradition

Traditionally, NOAA fisheries vessels have been named for historical figures (i.e., deceased for five years or more) who have made significant contributions to fishery science, development, management, or are otherwise pioneers in a fisheries-related field. A ship’s name gives it an identity for the scientists and crew, and the ship itself can take on a personality of its own. A name is officially given to a ship at the keel laying ceremony before the vessel leaves the shipyard, and it will be a legacy for many, many years to come.

Breaking Champagne

Breaking a bottle of champage during a launching ceremony


Examples of Current Ship Names

Homeport: San Diego, CA Dr. David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) was the most influential of all American ichthyologists (fish biologists). He and his students dominated the field in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has been said that all ichthyologists today can trace their professional ancestry back to Jordan, including numerous scientists that worked for the predecessor agencies that became NOAA Fisheries Service. Jordan spent much of his scientific career at Indiana University (1879-1891), Stanford University (1891-1931), as well as the Smithsonian Institution for much of his career. The foundations for American ichthyology owe greatly to the field work, mentoring and teaching of David Starr Jordan. Jordan’s legacy lives on in the NOAA research vessel that bears his name.

David Starr Jordan


Homeport: Honolulu, HI Dr. Oscar Elton Sette is considered the father of modern fisheries oceanography in the U.S. He is recognized nationally and internationally for many significant contributions, including the concept that the "changing ocean" plays a key role in the natural fluctuations of fish stocks and their vulnerability to harvesting. He also originated the importance of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, including the interrelationships between fisheries, oceanography, and meteorology, to understanding and solving marine fisheries problems. He published scientific papers demonstrating the connections between food webs, ocean currents and trade winds to understand the distribution and abundance of tuna in the equatorial Pacific. He was the founding director of what is now the NOAA Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.

Oscar Elton Sette