American Merchant Ships and Sailors eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 320 pages of information about American Merchant Ships and Sailors.

**Transcriber’s Note:  Page 268:  change infreqently to infrequently

CHAPTER IX

THE NEW ENGLAND FISHERIES—­THEIR PART IN EFFECTING THE SETTLEMENT OF AMERICA—­THEIR RAPID DEVELOPMENT—­WIDE EXTENT OF THE TRADE—­EFFORT OF LORD NORTH TO DESTROY IT—­THE FISHERMEN IN THE REVOLUTION—­EFFORTS TO ENCOURAGE THE INDUSTRY—­ITS PART IN POLITICS AND DIPLOMACY—­THE FISHING BANKS—­TYPES OF BOATS—­GROWTH OF THE FISHING COMMUNITIES—­FARMERS AND SAILORS BY TURNS—­THE EDUCATION OF THE FISHERMEN—­METHODS OF TAKING MACKEREL—­THE SEINE AND THE TRAWL—­SCANT PROFITS OF THE INDUSTRY—­PERILS OF THE BANKS—­SOME PERSONAL EXPERIENCES—­THE FOG AND THE FAST LINERS—­THE TRIBUTE OF HUMAN LIFE.

The summer yachtsman whiling away an idle month in cruises up and down that New England coast which, once stern and rock-bound, has come to be the smiling home of midsummer pleasures, encounters at each little port into which he may run, moldering and decrepit wharves, crowned with weatherbeaten and leaky structures, waterside streets lined with shingled fish-houses in an advanced stage of decay, and acres of those low platforms known as flakes, on which at an earlier day the product of the New England fisheries was spread out to dry in the sun, but which now are rapidly disintegrating and mingling again with the soil from which the wood of their structures sprung.  Every harbor on the New England coast, from New Bedford around to the Canadian line, bears these dumb memorials to the gradual decadence of what was once our foremost national industry.  For the fisheries which once nursed for us a school of the hardiest seamen, which aroused the jealousy of England and France, which built up our seaport towns, and carried our flag to the furthest corners of the globe, and which in the records both of diplomacy and war fill a prominent place have been for the last twenty years appreciably tending to disappear.  Many causes are assigned for this.  The growing scarcity of certain kinds of fish, the repeal of encouraging legislation, a change in the taste of certain peoples to whom we shipped large quantities of the finny game, the competition of Canadians and Frenchmen, the great development of the salmon fisheries and salmon canning on the Pacific coast, all have contributed to this decay.  It is proper, however, to note that the decadence of the fisheries is to some extent more apparent than real.  True, there are fewer towns supported by this industry, fewer boats and men engaged in it; but in part this is due to the fact that the steam fishing boat carrying a large fleet of dories accomplishes in one season with fewer hands eight or ten times the work that the old-fashioned pink or schooner did.  And, moreover, as the population of the seaport towns has grown, the apparent prominence of the fishing industry has decreased, as that industry has not grown in proportion to the population.  Forty years ago Marblehead and Nantucket were simply fishing villages, and nothing else.  To-day the remnants of the fishing industry attract but little attention, in the face of the vastly more profitable and important calling of entertaining the summer visitor.  New Bedford has become a great factory town, Lynn and Hull are great centers for the shoemaking industries.

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American Merchant Ships and Sailors from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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