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Case Study On New England Fisheries

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The 1800’s the George’s Banks off the coast of New England was very generous to the fisherman who fished the sea for a living. There was a balance between what the fisherman took and what the sea could provide. By the mid-1900 that balances began greatly to shift. Technology developed during the 1950s allowed fishermen to take in much more fish than previous years. Through continued over fishing and lack of controls in place at the time, the fish stock depleted to the point the George’s Banks could no longer support the fisherman.

As early as 1914, the Government was receiving reports from the U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries on the potential impact to unregulated fishing. By 1931, serious questions were being asked about the ability of the fish to be able to continue to meet the demands and ever-increasing fishing that was occurring in the area. By the 1980s, the fishing in the George’s Banks has almost become unprofitable. (, 2004)

New England Fisheries

The fishing off the coast of New England provided jobs for many people in the New England area. The fisherman and those that worked in the canneries were first and foremost the beneficiaries of the plentiful fishing. These people were very independent group and were passionately against any form of regulation by the U.S. Government. It was recognized very early that over fishing was going to be a problem in a 1930 report done by Harvard University. A recommendation was to increase the mesh size of the net then however; it was not until 1953 that regulations occur. (, 2004) History shows 23 years to make a decision was too little to late. The fishermen took a very anthropocentric view of the entire situation. Even when faced with evidence indicating that fish population could not continue to support the over fishing, fisherman refused to implement steps to protect their livelihood and was strongly against the government doing much unless it involved removing foreign competition.

In addition to the fisherman, several sub-industries grew from the success of the fishing industry. Local salt mining was established for curing fish, ice ponds for keeping fish from going bad, and shipbuilding to support the ever-growing demand for more fish. All these businesses had a very large stake in the continued success and growth of the fishing industry. Without their business, they would have no business since they spawned from the industry themselves.

The industries mentioned thus far are strongly against regulation, as that was believed to stymie continue growth of the industry and the mention of regulations goes against the American principle. At the time, it was felt by the fisherman the fish were a continually renewing resource that was inexhaustible. They refused to look at the yearly numbers that clearly shown the continued reduction of fish. Most fisherman believed it was not their over fishing, but the competition that was occurring from foreign fishing fleets. To protect the U.S. and Canada fishing industry the Magnuson Act of 1976 was enacted that granted, the U.S. and Canada control of a much greater section of the sea. In addition to gaining greater control of the sea off the U.S. coastline, it also allowed the Government to implement regulations on the industry. (, 2004)

The Government was actively involved with the fishing industry on several levels. The government was involved heavily in protecting the interests of the fishing companies against foreign fishing companies and extending the U.S. controlled seas. In this utilitarian view, the Government was more concerned with our own well-being and how makes better use of the resources of the sea and no concern was giving to the fish themselves. At the same time, viewing the situation from an ecocentric mindset the Government was very aware of the inability of the environment to continue to sustain the ever-increasing amount of fish that were being taken from the area. Knowing this information did not help in coming to any decision or ability to implement solutions any more quickly.

Scientific Research

Numerous research and scientific studies were performed on the impact of the extensive fishing along the U.S. coastline. In 1871, National Marine Fisheries Service was launched. Their mission as stated on their website,, “…devoted to the protection, study, management, and restoration of fish.” (, 2004) While the organization contributed significantly to the study of the fish and the region, the organization was completely ineffectual in any manner in protecting the fish from over fishing and unable to get passed any effective policies to control fishing. Their biocentric view allowed the organization to study fish in a manner that many groups at the time had no concern with due to the mindset of the endless capacity of the sea. The value of many of these studies while questionable at the seriousness at the time they were taken, when looking back through the history



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