OCEAN SPRINGS -- Jim Franks, longtime fisheries biologists and marine conservationist, has a research boat named after him.
The 60-foot, $2 million Jim Franks is the newest research vessel in USM Gulf Coast Research Lab’s fleet. It arrived last week and will take the place of research vessel Tom McIlwain.
Franks is probably one of the best-known faces at the University of Southern Mississippi's coastal lab. Tall and lean, he has been on the job for 35 years and is still going. As a spokesman for the GCRL's Center for Fisheries Research and Development, he is often asked to speak to the public on marine environment matters, the lab said. He's seen at fishing tournaments.
In his field, Franks is best known for his work with bluefin tuna and sargassum, the huge floating mats of macroalgae that shelter the tiny larvae of many Gulf fish species.
His research changed the global perception of sargassum, once thought to be the ocean's waste, and won the GCRL an American Fisheries Society Outstanding Project of the Year award, the lab said in a press release. And after 2010's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it was Franks who fought a proposal to burn the oil-soaked mats.
But best of all, he's popular with his peers.
The research lab selected him after taking a poll of its faculty and staff.
It called the honor "a way to immortalize the work and dedication of the still-practicing fisheries biologist."
Franks' reaction: "It was an emotional experience when I first saw my name on the boat. I wondered if I even deserved such an incredible honor."
James Skrmetta, GCRL spokesman, contributed to this report.