St. John Tradewinds News

Arthur E. “Jack” Dammann Passes

Arthur E. “Jack” Dammann died in Arizona on April 8, 2007.

He was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1920. Dammann received his doctorate in zoology from the University of Michigan. In Arizona, he held the positions of Director of the Animal Resources Center of Arizona State University and Scientific Director of the Phoenix Zoo.

In 1962, Dammann was traveling on the motor yacht “Careless Babe” from San Diego, captained by the famous Johnny Harms through the West Indies to Miami. On that trip he fell in love with the Virgin Islands, where he soon returned.

He was the founder and first director of the V.I. Environmental Research Station at Lameshur Bay on St. John and was the first director of the V.I. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife from 1972 to 1977.

Dammann was the chief scientist and later vice chairman for the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council from 1977 to 1985.

In the early 1980s, Dammann was a proponent of ecosystem management plans rather than species-specific plans and was consistently told not to pursue this. Now, 30 years later, the emphasisis is o ecosystem-based modeling and management plans are required to incorporate this.

History has also proven Dammann to be correct on predictions he made 30 years ago on the impending degradation of the marine ecosystem in the V.I.

Dammann’s quiet but firm arguments in Caribbean Fishery Management Council meetings about inevitable decline in fishery resources with ineffective management practices in the V.I., though sometimes hotly contested, have proven to be true and accurate. He was definitely ahead of his time.

Dammann was a remarkable person, a perfect gentleman, who greatly contributed to the natural history knowledge of the USVI. One of Dammann’s many lasting contributions is a book he published with David Nellis entitled “A Natural History Atlas to the Cays of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” a treasure chest of information which is currently available.

Dammann had a strong love of the ocean and fishing, which he was able to do with his pride and joy, a boat named “Skipjack.”

He also had a life-time love of reptiles. Dammann kept snakes, iguanas, and many other reptilian types of creatures.

Many will also remember him for his love of plants. Dammann collected and babied his many orchids, bromeliads, and other interesting plants which he collected from many parts of the world. He was truly an old time, all purpose, naturalist.

Dammann’s travels took him around the world. He collected plants in South America and drove 10,000 miles on the African continent, fished in Alaska and Costa Rica, among others.

In addition to numerous professional affiliations, he was a member of the Explorers Club and a charter member of the St. John Yacht Club.

Dammann was a good friend to many and a wise mentor to quite a few local biologists early in their careers. He was a reliable rudder and would steer a straight course in scientific matters, and his approach to avoiding the slimy side of politics stood as good practical guidance for many of us in our later careers.

His wish was to be cremated and for there not to be any services.

He is survived by his son Terry in Arizona and his daughter Jacque in Florida, as well as numerous friends on St. John and the mainland.

Arrangements are by the Messinger Payson Funeral Home in Arizona.

— Obituary submitted by family