GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Top Stories

September 21, 2012

Fishtown slides as a top port

Catch landed in Gloucester declines 63 percent in 2 years

Once the world’s preeminent fishing port, even today Gloucester is arguably its best known, heralded in literature, cinema and lore.

But Gloucester’s fishing industry is in steep decline, the epicenter of a regional disaster, declared days ago by the federal government. In a nation that imports 91 percent of its seafood, Gloucester has dropped nearly out of the top 20 ports in the U.S. based on landings volume, its fleet now barely 75 boats, according to a spokesman for the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, the charitable nonprofit permit bank that leases quota from acquired rights.

The degree of contraction is vividly expressed when today’s harvest in Gloucester is measured against its own history:

In only two years, according to the government’s annual report of domestic and global fisheries, released Wednesday, landings have declined by 63 percent, from 122.3 million pounds landed in 2009 to 77 million landed in 2011.

The precipitous decline was at odds with national trends, whose indicators, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are mostly pointing upward, and shoved Gloucester from 10th place in landings volume to 19th place.

A longer view creates a more dreary picture. Figures in Pringle’s “History of Gloucester” show that in 1891, a fleet of 374 boats landed 118 million pounds of fresh fish — not including landings of haddock and other stocks that supported the port’s 44 businesses outfitting boats over the winter.

Pringle did not clarify the strange statistical anomaly.

On a single day in 1917, roughly in the middle of the port’s apex period, more than 5 million pounds were landed, notes the website GoodMorningGloucester.com, quoting the historical site, downtothesea.com.

Gloucester was top o’ the world back then. Its tercentenary in 1923 was a time of unrivaled prosperity with Gorton’s feeding the world frozen, processed wild caught seafood for the first time. The industry kept its perch through the 1950s but as the post-war reconstruction produced factory trawlers that dramatized the outdated technology of Gloucester boats, the long decline began.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Top Stories

Pictures of the Week
Your news, your way
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage