Skip to content

Search Collections

The mortal sea :fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail /W. Jeffrey Bolster.

Collection Type
Variant Title
Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail
Bolster, W. Jeffrey.
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Prologue : The historic ocean -- Depleted European seas and the discovery of America -- Plucking the low-hanging fruit -- The sea serpent and the mackerel jig -- Making the case for caution -- Waves in a troubled sea -- An avalanche of cheap fish -- Epilogue : Changes in the sea.
Since the Viking ascendancy in the Middle Ages, the Atlantic has shaped the lives of people who depend upon it for survival. And just as surely, people have shaped the Atlantic. In this account of this interdependency, the author, a historian and professional seafarer, takes us through a millennium-long environmental history of our impact on one of the largest ecosystems in the world. While overfishing is often thought of as a contemporary problem, he reveals that humans were transforming the sea long before factory trawlers turned fishing from a handliner's art into an industrial enterprise. The western Atlantic's legendary fishing banks, stretching from Cape Cod to Newfoundland, have attracted fishermen for more than five hundred years. The author follows the effects of this siren's song from its medieval European origins to the advent of industrialized fishing in American waters at the beginning of the twentieth century. Blending marine biology, ecological insight, and a remarkable cast of characters, from notable explorers to scientists to an army of unknown fishermen, he tells a story that is both ecological and human: the prelude to an environmental disaster. Over generations, harvesters created a quiet catastrophe as the sea could no longer renew itself. The author writes in the hope that the intimate relationship humans have long had with the ocean, and the species that live within it, can be restored for future generations.
xi, 378 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Illustration courtesy of Historic New England's Library and Archives: George H. Donnell with a tub of pollock, York, Maine, ca. 1882, photograph by Emma Lewis Coleman (on page 13 of illustrations).
Includes bibliographical references (pages 291-333) and index.
Call Number
Stacks SH213.5.B65 2012
Descriptive terms
Fisheries History.
Fishers History.
Atlantic Coast (Canada)
Atlantic Coast (New England)
New England
North Atlantic Ocean
North Atlantic Ocean.