Alaska
Southern California / Baja Peninsula
Gulf of Mexico
New England
Chesapeake Bay
Maine

Alaska

Matsen, Brad. 1998. Fishing Up North: Stories of Luck and Loss in Alaskan Waters. Alaska Northwest Books. From the decade when fishing fleets turned king crab into fortunes, to the annual circus of Bristol Bay’s monster salmon runs, the true stories in Fishing Up North carry the flavor of the modern fishermen’s life and fortunes in the waters off Alaska. This book presents the reader with firsthand accounts of storms, good and bad fishing, and the enjoyment of living from the decks of trawlers, longliners, crabbers, trollers, and gillnetters.

McCloskey, William. 2000. Their Fathers' Work: Casting Nets with the World's Fishermen. International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press. Fishing is a hard and fiercely independent life, one of the world’s last hunting occupations, and one of the most hazardous. Although traditional fisheries are become more modernized, overfishing and pollution are threatening stocks, and political pressures are increasing; at the heart fishing still remains the same. Sons, and now sometimes daughters, still follow their fathers to sea.

Upton, Joe. 2003. Alaska Blues: A Season of Fishing the Inside Passage. Sasquatch Books. For seven months, Joe Upton steered his 32-foot boat through the open channels and narrow, twisting passageways of Southeast Alaska, trolling for salmon. In Alaska Blues, Upton presents his account of that fishing season-the lonely hours at sea as well as the close community of small-boat fishers, the sudden, violent storms and the glorious days of sun, the difficult, frenzied work and quiet moments of contemplation. Most of all, Alaska Blues describes to the reader the people and their way of life, and the haunting, beautiful shores that draw them back, season after season.

Walker, Spike. 2003. Working on the Edge: Surviving in the World's Most Dangerous Profession: King Crab Fishing on Alaska's High Seas. McClelland and Stewart Inc.: Canada. Few professions put man against nature more brutally than king crab fishing in the frigid, unpredictable waters of the Bering Sea. Walker combines his personal story with the stories of survivors of the industry’s largest disasters, he re-creates the boom years of Alaskan crab fishing, a modern-day gold rush that drew hundreds of fortune, and adventure-hunters to Alaska’s dangerous waters and the crash that followed.

Southern California / Baja Peninsula

Steinbeck, John, Edward Ricketts, and Richard Astro (Introduction). 1995 (Reprint edition). The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Penguin USA. This book is the daily account of a trip on a sardine boat Steinbeck and Ricketts, a biologist, took in 1940 around the Baja Peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez. This book is considered a classic for those interested in marine biology. Additionally, it is part travel essay, relays stories of the scientific expedition, and provides philosophical commentaries.

Gulf of Mexico

Jenkins, Peter. 1995. Along the Edge of America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. In this book, adventures occur each day in a small boat traveling from the Everglades to Brownsville, Texas. Jenkins provides an exploration of the fascinating marine communities and salty characters of the Gulf of Mexico coast.

New England

Carey, Richard Adams. 1999. Against the Tide: The Fate of the New England Fisherman. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company. This book was reviewed in the NY Times Book Review with the comment that it is "deep ecological journalism at its best, an effective and compassionate chronicle of a threatened way of life." Carey follows the lives of four fishermen and reflects on their changed fortunes. He weaves the details of the fishermen’s lives with passages on local and global fishing history, the minutiae of national and regional legislation severely regulating the fishing industry, the vicissitudes of the weather, and a multitude of stories and anecdotes.

Kurlansky, Mark. 1997. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. New York: Walker and Company. The cod helped inspire the discovery and exploration of North America. It had a profound impact upon the economic development of New England and eastern Canada from the earliest times. Unfortunately, overfishing has led to significant population decline and threatens survival of the species. (There is also a version of this book geared towards children in elementary school: Kurlansky, Mark. 2001. The Cod’s Tale. Putnam Pub Group Juv.)


Philbrick, Nathaniel. 2000. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. New York: Viking. In 1819, the 238-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage to hunt whales. Fifteen months later the unthinkable happened: in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale. Fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, the 20-man crew set out in three small boats for South America, almost 3,000 miles away. Three months later, only eight were left alive, the survivors having been forced to eat the bodies of their dead shipmates. The Heart of the Sea shares a saga of survival and adventure steeped in the lore of the whaling tradition, with deep resonance in literature and American history, and in the life of the Nantucket community.

Playfair, Susan R. 2003. Vanishing Species: Saving the Fish, Sacrificing the Fishermen. Hanover: University Press of New England. Playfair provides an account of New England groundfishing since the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) was passed in 1996. The SFA resulted in the development of regulations aimed at rebuilding groundfish stocks. Vanishing Species tells the story of the ongoing debate among New England fishermen and communities, federal regulators, scientists, and environmentalists around the state of groundfish stocks and corresponding management strategies. Playfair interviewed a variety of stakeholders, including fishermen, fisheries scientists, public officials, politicians, restaurant managers, and environmentalists, which provide the reader with insights into the perspectives of those personally involved in groundfish sustainability issues.

Warner, William W. 1983. Distant Water: The Fate of the North Atlantic Fisherman. Boston: Little, Brown. Distant Water chronicles the history of a North Atlantic Fishing Fleet since World War II. Warner narrates the day-to-day occupations of shipboard life, and examines the fleet’s current operations and future prospects.

Chesapeake Bay

Brooks, William K. 1996. The Oyster: A Popular Summary of a Scientific Study. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. The Oyster thoroughly covers the biology of the oyster, a species whose harvest has fallen to its lowest level on record. Brooks provides a critical scientific review of oyster management in the Chesapeake Bay. He comments on and criticizes contemporary laws and regulatory practices, many of which are still in place today.

Peffer, Randall S. 1979. Watermen. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. For three hundred years, generations of Tilghman Islanders have lived by harvesting the waters of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. They are watermen, an old English term for commercial fishermen, and their lives today retain much of the spirit and practice that characterized their land’s first Anglo-Saxon settlers. Watermen is the story of their lives told by Randy Peffer, a young writer who came to Tilghman Island in search of his ancestral roots and left a year later with the makings of a book.

Warner, William W. 1976. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. Boston: Little, Brown. William Warner won the Pulitzer Prize for this book, and it has been labeled as a modern American classic. Beautiful Swimmers combines a natural history of the Atlantic blue crab with a historical and ecological study of the Chesapeake Bay and a chronicle of the commercial crabber's year. The book immerses the reader not only in the world of the Chesapeake’s most famous crustaceans (the blue crab), but in the winds and tides of the Bay itself and the struggles of the watermen who make their living in pursuit of the blue crab.

Whitehead, John Hurt. 1987. The Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay. Tidewater Pub. This book depicts the lives and work of the Chesapeake Bay watermen through the use of pictures and stories.

Maine

Acheson, James M. 2003. Capturing the Commons: Devising Institutions to Manage the Maine Lobster Industry. Hanover: University of New England Press. Acheson provides a detailed case study of the Maine lobster fishery and argues that it is a successfully managed fishery that can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries management for policy makers, politicians, and communities dealing with such issues.

Acheson, James M. 1988. The Lobster Gangs of Maine. Hanover: University Press of New England. Acheson’s detailed account of lobstering in Maine quickly dispels notions that the lobsterman is the eastern version of the cowboy, struggling alone for survival against the elements. In reality, he writes, “the lobster fisherman is caught up in a thick and complex web of social relationships. Survival in the industry depends as much on the ability to manipulate social relationships as on technical skills.” Acheson replaces our romantic image of the lobsterman with descriptions of the highly territorial and hierarchical “harbor gangs,” daily and annual cycles of lobstering, intricacies of marketing the catch, and the challenge of managing a communal resource.

Thorndike, Virginia. 1998. Maine Lobsterboats: Builders and Lobstermen Speak of their Craft. Down East Books. Thorndike interviews builders of lobsterboats in Maine and shares stories about the craft and about lobstering.


**Special thanks to Marc Hershman, Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs (http://www.sma.washington.edu/ ), for sharing a reading list from the SMA 500 course, from which many of these books and summaries were drawn.

 
Contact us