Fisher Poets You've heard of cowboy poetry, sure, but how about the verse of modern-day fishermen and women? Taking the Cowboy Poetry Gathering as their model, fisher poets have plunged into the celebration of occupational culture with their own annual festival in Astoria, Oregon. Get a glimpse into this difficult, dangerous, and unpredictable way of making a living through the work of Erin Frestad, Geno Leech, Toby Sullivan, and others. Listen to the sounds of the gathering on this piece from PRI's Here & Now, too.
Wade in the Water In 2004, Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured the maritime cultures of the Mid-Atlantic region, from Long Island to North Carolina. Now, this site gives a home on the web to the cultural documentation gathered for the festival -- music, recipes, stories and oral history, an interactive map, the occupational folklore and natural history of regional fisheries, photos, video, and more. The material, ably compiled by folklorists and educators, creates a lasting and very accessible archive of festival highlights as well as an excellent overview of the distinct coastal culture of the Mid-Atlantic. Don't miss the great menhaden net-hauling chantey Help Me to Raise 'Em (links to mp3).
How Many Fish are in the Sea? During the heady days of the late 19th century, in response to a perceived decline in coastal finfish stocks, Spencer Baird and his clutch of young naturalists at the Smithsonian set out to find the answer. In 1871, Baird founded the U.S. Fish Commission. The Comission set up operations in Woods Hole, MA, where it continues its work today as the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (a branch of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service). The Fish Census of 1880 established the fist benchmark on fish populations in coastal waters; crews of Gloucester schooners competed to see who could bring the most bizarre fish finds up from the platueaus of the Grand Banks, and America’s first research vessel, the Albatross, was purpose-built for the project. Baird's protege (and later successor) George Brown Goode compiled the data into the first comprehensive reference work on American fisheries. Known to students of salt water as “Goode’s Fisheries”, the report (beautifully illustrated) remains invaluable to researchers today, as today's fish populations dip into an even more drastic decline.