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From whaling days to cannery row : a survey of some aspects of the fishing industry at Monterey and vicinity from 1854 to 1920
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Malcolm R. Eiseler
In the days before there was a Monterey, there were whales in Monterey Bay. We know this because Vizcaino, who dropped anchor in the bay in 1602, kept a diary. And from this diary, Vizcaino's historian, one Venegas who wrote: A History of California in 1758, makes the statement that whales and sea lions swam about in the bay.1
Apparently, the whales kept on swimming in Monterey Bay for about one hundred and fifty years without being molested. Shortly after that, the whales and Monterey fishermen engaged in a long struggle which took place, with periodic cessation, over a span of, roughly, seventy-five years.
It is believed that a logical point of termination in this survey has been reached because a certain unity has been attained.
It must now be clear that the rise and decline in a certain type of fishing effort has a positive correlation with the rise and decline of certain national groups.
The Portuguese were prominent as whalers; the temporary cessation of whaling about 1900 destroyed their dominance at Monterey; there are reports in 1899 and 1901 of Japanese whalers as well as Portuguese. The revival of whaling in 1918 wa not responsible for a Portuguese renaissance because it was not longer an art, but wholesale slaughter by the most destructive weapons.
The Chinese lost their prominence in squid and abalone fishing through prohibitory legislation and a fire, which dispersed the Chinese as a fishing colony.
The Chinese loss was the Japanese gain, for abalone diving became, after 1900, one of their most effective pursuits. Salmon trolling was another fishing field in which the Japanese proved their worth; after 1916, however, salmon began a slow but steady decline. Consequently, the Japanese turned to albacore trolling in Southern California waters.1
The introduction of the lampara net in 1905 and the phenomenal growth in sardine fishing and canning brought the Italian, or Sicilians, to the fore in this type of fishing effect. Many Orientals found work in the canneries as cutters and packers as did many Occidentals. But the crews and captains of the lampara launches were, by and large, of Italian extraction.
Legislation and technical improvements have aided and restricted certain types of fishing. Legislative control during the war was in large part responsible for creating dissatisfaction among fishermen and giving them pretext for strikes.
The reasons for the rise and/or decline of a certain type of fishing effort should be clearly understood.
Whaling ceased about 100 because of a shortage of whales and inefficient means of securing those whales which remain.
Salmon trolling declined in spite of legislation of a restrictive nature, because that legislation was eminently defective.
After the legislation of commercial squid fishing in 1913 that fishery has steadily risen to a place of considerable importance. Since 1916, 97% of the California total squid poundage has been loaded at Monterey;3 the lampara note was a decisive factor in this remarkable tally, as it was particularly suited to this small form of marine life.
As for sardines, their remarkable rise from bait fish to case goods and meal and oil reduced other types of fishing to a place of secondary importance. In tonnage and in profits, in construction and employment, the sardine fishing by 1920, was supreme in Monterey's fishing industry.
There is a logical break in continuity after the year 1919; subsequent years brought a slump in the entire fishing industry and also a diversification in sardine fishing: i.e., reduction of edible fish into meal and oil. As this next period represents an entity in itself due to its technical and legal aspects, this survey is terminated with the year 1919.
Dennis, John Markley. (1945). From whaling days to cannery row : a survey of some aspects of the fishing industry at Monterey and vicinity from 1854 to 1920. University of the Pacific, Thesis. https://scholarlycommons.pacific.edu/uop_etds/1034