Social and Cultural Aspects of Commercial Fishing
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.
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
and regional legislation severely regulating the fishing
industry, the vicissitudes of the weather, and a multitude
of stories and anecdotes.
Greenlaw, Linda. 1999. The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat
Captain's Journey. New York: Hyperion. Greenlaw,
a successful female swordfish captain, provides the reader
with an inside look at the operations and challenges of a
deep sea fishing trip. The book is written in diary-like
entries that cover the span of a 30-day fishing trip. Greenlaw
begins by describing the preparation of the boat and continues
through the entire course of the adventure. She talks about
dealing with the weather, the crew, and other vessels that
all present challenges along the way.
Johannes, R.E. 1981. Words of the Lagoon: Fishing
and Marine Lore in the Palau District of Micronesia. Johannes
was a marine biologist that spent over a year in Palau
learning about the marine environment and cultural traditions
with fishing and the marine environment from local fishermen.
Words of the Lagoon was a seminal work that brought fishermen’s
knowledge to the attention of marine scientists and managers.
For those with interests in marine biology, anthropology,
coral reef ecology, and/or fishing techniques.
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
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
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
in search of his ancestral roots and left a year later with
the makings of a book.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Warner, William W. 1983. Distant Water: The Fate
of the North Atlantic Fisherman. Boston:
Little, Brown. Distant Water chronicles the history of
Atlantic Fishing Fleet since World War II. Warner narrates
occupations of shipboard life, and examines the fleet’s
current operations and future prospects.
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.
**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.
July 3, 2007
| | © 2004