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The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail

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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 his innovative account of this interdependency, W. Jeffrey Bolster, 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, Bolster 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. Bolster 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, Bolster 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. Bolster 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.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published October 8, 2012

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W. Jeffrey Bolster

3 books4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Reese.
Author 3 books160 followers
March 26, 2015
Until the twentieth century, it was commonly believed that the oceans, filled with vast quantities of fish, were immortal. It was impossible for mere humans to ever make a dent in the sea’s enormous bounty. Similarly, iron miners once believed that the Lake Superior lodes could be mined for eternity. The white pines of the region were so numerous that it would be impossible to cut them all down. Incredible fantasies are common among folks who are blissfully ignorant of eco-history, and don’t understand the reality of fish mining, mineral mining, forest mining, soil mining.

A society unaware of eco-history is like an elder lost in an Alzheimer’s fog. He doesn’t recognize his wife or children, and has no memory of who he is, where he is, or what he’s done. History turns on floodlights, sharply illuminating the path of our journey, making the boo-boos stand out like sore thumbs. It’s more than a little embarrassing, but if we can see the pitfalls, we’re less likely to leap into them. In theory, we are capable of learning from our mistakes.

Jeffrey Bolster is a history professor who once loved to fish. He realized that the Hall of History desperately needed more illumination on humankind’s abusive relationship with the oceans, because it was a tragicomedy of endlessly repeated self-defeating mistakes. He wrote The Mortal Sea, which focused on the rape of the North Atlantic — and he quit fishing.

In prehistoric Western Europe, many folks congregated along the water’s edge. They harvested shellfish from the sea, but most of their fish came from rivers and estuaries. Following the transition to agriculture and metal tools, their population grew and grew. Forests were cut, fields were plowed, and streams were loaded with eroded soil, livestock wastes, human sewage, and industrial discharges. Hungry mobs got too good at catching too many fish with too many traps. England passed the Salmon Preservation Act in 1285, but it was little enforced and generally ignored.

Meanwhile, Viking innovations resulted in boat designs that were excellent for travelling the open seas. They made it possible to aggressively pursue saltwater seafood, which was incredibly abundant. Vikings learned to air-dry cod, which could be stored for years, and provide sustenance for long voyages of walrus hunting, auk killing, raping, and pillaging. Before long, all coastal communities started building seaworthy boats, and hauling in the cod, mackerel, herring, and so on. The human population grew, and marine life diminished.

In the sixteenth century, when Europeans explored the American shoreline, they were astonished by the abundance of sea life. They observed hundreds of thousands of walruses, which could grow up to 2,600 pounds (1,180 kg), critters that were nearly extinct at home. In those days, the oil industry was based on whales, walruses, and seals.

Halibut could grow to 700 pounds (317 kg). There were sturgeons more than 600 pounds (272 kg), and cod five feet long (1.5 m). One lad caught 250 cod in an hour, with just four hooks. They killed seabirds like there was no tomorrow, using many for fish bait. Lobsters were huge and plentiful, but their flesh spoiled quickly, so they were fed to hogs, used for bait, and spread on fields for fertilizer.

Maine and northward was home to the Mi’kmaqs and Malecites, who got 90 percent of their calories from sea life. Their population was not supersized by agriculture. They had no metal tools or high tech boats, nor a spirituality in which humans were the masters of the universe. For some reason, they had failed to destroy their ecosystem. Then, they were discovered, and the whites went crazy with astonishing greed. “By 1800 the northwest Atlantic was beginning to resemble European seas.” Where’s the fish?

Between America and Europe, the boreal North Atlantic had been among the world’s most productive fishing grounds. The bulk of the book discusses how clever white folks skillfully transformed unimaginable abundance into an aquatic disaster area. In the waters off Maine, Peak Cod occurred around the Civil War, long before industrial fish mining. By 1875, writers were speculating about the extinction of menhaden, lobster, halibut, eider, shad, salmon, mackerel, and cod.

The fish mining industry was driven by a desperate arms race. Hand-line fishing had been the norm since the Middle Ages. Each fisherman set four to twenty-eight baited hooks. Then, geniuses invented long-line fishing, which used 4,000 hooks. More fish were caught, and more money was made. By 1870, some fishers were setting 63 miles of lines with 96,000 baited hooks.

By 1880, geniuses were delighted to discover that gill nets could triple the haul — and they eliminated the need for bait, which was getting scarce and expensive. For mackerel mining, the new purse seines were fabulous. They used nets to surround an entire school of fish, and could land 150,000 per day. In 1905 came steam-powered otter trawls — huge nets dragged across the sea floor that caught everything. Only 45 percent of the fish landed were kept. Unmarketable fish were tossed back dead, including juveniles of marketable species. Millions of dead juveniles did not grow into mature fish, reproduce, and maintain the viability of the species.

Throughout the long gang rape of the North Atlantic, there were always voices urging caution and conservation, but they never ran the show. As more and more capital poured into fish mining enterprises, resistance to regulation increased. The one and only objective for fat cats was maximizing short-term profits. Government bureaucrats who monitored the industry experimented with many interesting programs for increasing fish stocks — everything except for reducing fishing pressure.

New technology expanded the market for seafood. Salting and drying were replaced by keeping fish on ice, and shipping them to market by rail. Later, canneries created even bigger demand for fish. The first floating fish factory was launched in 1954, and was followed by many more. These boats had assembly lines for gutting, cleaning, and filleting the fish. The fillets were quick frozen, for indefinite storage. Waste was turned to fishmeal, another source of profit.

In 1992, the cod landings in Canada vanished, and the fishery was closed. The U.S. closed fishing on Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. “The impossible had occurred. People had killed most of the fish in the ocean.” Folks had been overfishing since Viking days, but industrial fishing put the process into overdrive. The cod show no signs of recovery.

Bolster concluded that the way to avoid unsustainable harvests was to adopt the precautionary approach, which meant always selecting the least destructive option. This was an excellent idea, for a world ruled by pure reason. Maybe we should contemplate phasing out all commercial fishing, because history is clear: any enterprise having to do with the accumulation of personal property, wealth, and social status tends to turn ambitious folks into insatiable parasites with no respect for the future. Actually, the industry is working hard to terminate itself — before oceanic acidification beats it.

One more thing before I go. Some folks have dreams of replacing today’s maritime fleet with zero emission sailing ships, but they don’t remember the downside. Bolster warns us, “Fishing made coal mining look safe. No other occupation in America came close to the deep-sea fisheries for workplace mortality.” In just Gloucester, from 1866 to 1890, more than 380 schooners and 2,450 men were lost at sea. When powerful squalls race in, sailboats are hard to control, and very dangerous.

Over the centuries, interregional commerce has made many fat cats fatter, but it’s also led to many catastrophes, like the spread of bubonic plague, cholera, malaria, influenza, measles, smallpox, rinderpest, potato blight, chestnut blight, assorted empires, and on and on. Countless millions have died as an unintended consequence of long-distance travel. It isn’t necessary for a sustainable future.
Profile Image for Austin.
171 reviews8 followers
June 6, 2016
'The Mortal Sea' is an important environmental history of the north Atlantic marine ecosystem, and how Europeans have depleted its waters from the Middle Ages. I learned that Scandinavia, the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, and the New England coast down to Cape Cod is all part of this singular boreal ecosystem, featuring much of the same flora and fauna. The book begins tracing history from the Viking age, and surveys the introduction of increasingly effective fishing technologies employed by the Vikings, the Basques, the French, the Spanish, the British, and finally the Americans in order to both supply growing demand for sea fish, but also to compensate for declining stocks resulting from a combination of natural population fluctuations and also human depredation and overfishing. The depletion of the north Atlantic reads as a long, drawn out tragedy of the commons, a real-life play driving inexorably towards collapse. This is a sad, but extremely important history to read, for it shows, among other things, the importance of strong national and international government as a means of enforcing wise policies to protect and sustain natural resources perpetually. The book clearly shows that some farsighted individuals and interests have always sought to regulate fishing, but their efforts were mostly too little and too late, resulting not only in the collapse of most commercial fish stocks, but also the extirpation of the Atlantic Grey Whale and the Great Auk. The book stops in the 1920s, leaving me wondering whether our government today is stronger, wiser, and more able to protect what's left.

Here are some important passages:

--Speaking of the early European explorers of North America: "Men for whom vigilance and observation were second nature paid close attention to their surroundings, and wrote copiously about them, without realizing that American abundance reflected European depletion." pg. 41.

--"By the outbreak of the American Revolution, per-capita gross domestic product in the provinces that would become the United States was substantially higher than that of every other country in the world, and higher than it would be for the foreseeable future. Such unparalleled prosperity rested on the abundance of natural resources in British North America, and on colonists' work ethic and willingness to exploit both land and dependent laborers." pg. 58

--"The power of living Nature lies in sustainability through complexity." ~E.O. Wilson, pg. 78

--By the mid-nineteenth century the small town fishermen were protesting against the overfishing of corporate interests: "The interests of the many, demand protection from the monopoly of the few wealthy capitalists, who by this means may appropriate the whole fishing privilege upon the coast." pg. 147. (discussing the practice of seining Menhaden for oil)

--Already by the year 1880 the fisheries had transformed themselves mostly without mechanization in ten ways: 1. previously underutilized species were heavily targeted, e.g. menhaden, lobster, halibut, swordfish, and juvenile herring ("sardines"), 2. Net fisheries expanded dramatically, 3. The hook fishery multiplied itself dramatically via technologies such as long lining, 4. Bait fisheries grew exponentially in response to hook multiplication, 5. The volume of fish unintentionally killed and discarded increased dramatically with adoption of these net and hook innovations, 6. New means of marketing and product development, e.g. ice, the Erie Canal, 7. Considerable capital was deployed in the fisheries, e.g. sleek mackerel schooners, menhaden rendering plants, purse seines, etc., 8. Vessel design became more effective, e.g. sharpshooter and clipper schooners, 9. The federal subsidization of the cod fishery ended in 1866, 10. Government involvement in the fisheries shifted from local to state and federal, e.g. fish hatching programs. pp. 164-166.

--"Without the crucial context provided by historical frames of reference fisheries management will remain captive to the two-year or four-year political cycle, a scale irrelevant to ecological time." pg. 277.

--"Modest stewardship would have perpetuated renewable resources for the future. Resources such as fish, marine mammals, and sea-birds, harvested sustainably, can return a dividend almost perpetually . . . stewardship pays dividends." pg. 279.
Profile Image for Peyton .
25 reviews
November 2, 2015
I am a history student at UNH, though I haven't yet had Professor Bolster in class. However, I have heard him talk about why he wrote this book. He wanted to write a narrative of the facts while staying within the rules of being a historian. He wanted to give the ocean and the average fisherman of the time a voice. Though his argument is based largely off from anecdotal evidence, there is no denying that the fishing stocks of the northwest Atlantic are nowhere near what they once used to be. It's well researched and Bolster strives to evaluate each source in the context in which they were written. It can be detail heavy at times and taxing occasionally to not get lost in them, but I found this to be a worthwhile read.

The Mortal Sea is not just a book about fish and the northwest Atlantic, it is a book about profound human greed and its impact on a fragile environment that we've come to depend on. It is clear that Bolster cares about the ocean, as a seafarer himself, but it is equally clear that he hopes this work will cause readers to care about it too.
September 16, 2020
The Mortal Sea is a story of incomprehensible loss that can enlighten our attitudes towards conservation

This is a very important read that gets down to the facts surrounding one of humanities greatest failures in the area of conservation. The Mortal Sea acts as a cautionary tale for the future ripe with cutting examples of our ignorance and binging of resources. Well written and concise enough, though it may be quite thorough for someone not entirely used to historical writings. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of the tidal waves of human consumption that have ravaged our planet and what pitfalls we may be able to avoid in the future.
Profile Image for Heather.
687 reviews4 followers
October 18, 2020
This book looks at the historical misunderstandings that humans have had regarding fishing and the environment in the Northern Atlantic region. An in depth exploration of how nature has been historically exploited and understood which leads to a groundwork for current understandings.
Profile Image for Larry.
198 reviews3 followers
March 16, 2021
Entry 5 in #LarryReadsTheBancroftWinners. Bolster won the award in 2013. This is an excellent, eye-opening look at the history of the North(-West) Atlantic and the role it played not so much as a means of transportation from the Old World to the New, but as a source of food for the Old.
Profile Image for Nicholas Vela.
389 reviews45 followers
March 17, 2018
A beautiful book that seeks to show how Man has changed the sea via fishing in the Age of Sail.

Bolster's argument is well supported, and it was a book that I found I heavily enjoyed.
Profile Image for John.
915 reviews92 followers
March 7, 2016
I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Prof. Bolster a couple years ago, and I skimmed through some of this then. I'm glad I picked it back up and started from the beginning. It's easy to see why this won the Bancroft. An enormous amount of great research and good writing, all in the service of a simple thesis: this conversation we've been having in the last couple of decades about overfishing is not new. This has been going on for generations, for centuries. And in past generations, the debate was often reversed, with the fishermen arguing for restrictions and caution, and the "scientists" claiming that the fish were doing fine.
I thought the chapters on the 19th century were particularly eye-opening. I never realized many fishing stocks already crashed years ago, and what we have now is basically stocks 2.0 (or really, 3.0 or 4.0). This is akin to reading other history books and realizing that we already logged almost every inch of New England 150 years ago, and everything we have now is second or third growth. In the late 19th century, menhaden stocks collapsed. Then mackerel, then lobster, then flounder. People were already talking about exhausted cod fisheries way back then.
What ended up happening, over and over, was fish that could be caught in great quantities, not far from shore, ended up disappearing. So people sounded the alarm. But then fishermen went out farther, and fished more intensively with better technology, and they got lots of fish. So everyone breathed a sigh of relief - the fish aren't gone after all! Everything's fine. But everything was not fine. The baseline changed, and the new generation just thought it was normal to go halfway across the Atlantic to get relatively small cod. But you can't change the baseline forever. Eventually, you fish out everyplace and you've got no place left.
This is also great for transnational history, because Bolster is dealing with the whole northeastern region, including Atlantic Canada, not just stopping at the border like so many American histories do.
Profile Image for David Bates.
181 reviews10 followers
April 16, 2013
W. Jeffrey Bolster’s 2012 work The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail attempts to reconstruct the impact of humans on the marine ecosystem of the North Atlantic, with a main focus on the Northwest Atlantic along the coast of New England and the Maritime Provinces. Arguing that overfishing had been a steady and continuous process from the Middle Ages on, Bolster’s account of marine exploitation dwells on questions of how fishermen and scientists perceived and adapted to declining stocks and species driven to extinction. If an understanding of extinction eluded colonial Americans, knowledge that humans could affect fish populations did not, and Bolster traced the local regulation meant to conserve the natural wealth of the ocean that appeared as early as the seventeenth century. The fishermen themselves, in the knowledge of sea life they gained through their work, often show a bias toward conservation in Bolster’s narrative but the effectiveness of this experiential knowledge was undermined by what ecologists call “shifting baseline syndrome” as the gradual rate of change led each generation to take the diminished ecological capital of an environment with fewer whales, fish, walrus, seabirds and shellfish to be the norm. From the nineteenth century on, improving fishing technology also increased catches, which undermined observations that otherwise would have been made as the same men with the same gear caught fewer fish in the same spot year by year. The lack of authoritative specialists in the antebellum period who could make determinations about nature tended to militate against real acceptance or action by governments even when some fishermen pointed out worrisome trends. Scientists continued to insist that the ocean was eternal and unchanging, especially as corporations became involved in capital intensive fishing boats that also served as floating processing factories.
147 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2014
The current state of the world's fisheries is well known to any who care to pay attention to the issue and for nerds like myself who have read books like "Cod" and "Four Fish," the depressing facts are well known. For the most part, these books and the current narrative focus on the last hundred years or so. To some degree, this can skew the perception because the baseline is relatively recent and ignores the impact of previous human fishing.

What makes The Mortal Sea so interesting is that the author presents data from the very beginning of Western exploitation of the northern Atlantic, starting shortly after the 'official discovery' of the New World. In doing so, and pulling from colonial publications and reports, the author finds that fishery depletion has been a chronic issue, with generational (and typically failed) attempts at conservation. As the centuries passed, ever new technology has improved the efficiency of fishing to hide the declining stocks and typically this is done to the same tune: traditional fishers bemoan and decry the new technology as ruining the fishing, and then promptly adopt the new technology and forget about the past as their own yields improve.

To truly grasp the scope of the devastation that has afflicted the Atlantic in the past 500 years, and to see the impact humans had even with 17th century technology, is truly depressing but important to understand. Where I live in New England, we take for granted our lack of anadromous fish and never expect to be able to pick a three foot lobster off the beach or land a six foot cod. Three hundred years ago this was common however. The important thing to keep in mind is that even the scarcity of today will be considered abundance tomorrow unless we can affect true changes to our ocean management.
Profile Image for Tom Johnson.
402 reviews21 followers
July 19, 2016
American history from a different angle. Some day I may feel like writing a review. Right now I feel a tad enervated by too much non-fiction. So glad to be moving on to the short novels of Paula Fox. I'm a slow reader, turning the pages gets laborious. Mortal Sea is a worthy read and gods know it is timely. The lasting image for me is from chapter three, The Sea Serpent and the Mackerel Jig, page 100, "On July 12, 1830, Captain Blanchard sailed his small schooner from Lynn to the south on a day trip, anchoring east of Scituate. Three men accompanied him, one of whom - his father-in-law, Joseph Blaney - headed off alone in a dory about half a mile from the schooner. Several hours later Blaney screamed for help and waved his hat, but before anyone could render assistance they saw a huge fish lying across the dory, a flurry of foam, and then nothing as Blaney, the dory, and the fish all disappeared. Blanchard and the other men recovered the victim's hat, and when the dory resurfaced it appeared scratched, as if, "by the rough skin of a shark." Scientists and fisherman now know that only the great white shark, a visitor to the Gulf of Maine, acts hat way." A few years ago, while watching the news, I saw a video shot by fisherman who were in the general area. It was of a similar incident sans the tragic results. The great white was only a 10 foot juvenile and their powered 20 foot boat was of modern metal construction. Still the shark put up a good show of smashing into the boat with its tail. Aggressive behavior to say the least.
Profile Image for Bob.
4 reviews6 followers
August 25, 2013
Want to look for some poems that use the sea as a metaphor for immortality or for eternity? Thanks to this book, you can find them in the metaphorical trash can along with all of those time metaphors such as "sands of time", "hands of time", etc.
If Bolster's subtitle "Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail" sounds like romance and adventure to you, it's time for you to hoist your most literal sails for this voyage. You will read about the varieties of fish people catch, the changing technologies used to catch them and the foods that fish eat. You will engage in a thousand year debate on whether or when we are overfishing our streams, lakes rivers and oceans.
For me, this book changed the historical narrative of the discovery and exploration of the Americas by the Western Europeans. Before Plymouth Rock and before Jamestown, Europeans were sailing west not to be free, or to convert native populations or to practice their religious beliefs or to establish communities of any kind or even to find gold or silver. THEY SAILED WEST TO GET FISH!
I'm giving this book five out of five stars only because it profoundly changed my perspective. However, I do not consider this a "fun" read by any means. The illustrated glossary providing pictures of many of the fish as well as the variety of fishing boats and other fishing gear was quite helpful.
5 reviews
March 30, 2016
A very important & well written book. A heartbreaking look at centuries of man's failure to understand that the ocean's resources are not infinite. Well-researched & loaded with data, the book conveys the despair of fishermen unable to overcome pressure from big fish business & local, state, & federal politicians. Despite the very significant decline in catch, noted by all, ever larger, more efficient boats relentlessly continued to take all the fish they could. Local fishermen insisted on their right to all "their" fish, & so the destruction of the ocean floor & extinction of entire species continued. Politicians studied & reported & failed to enforce any legislation they did pass.

The fish are going or in some cases, already gone, even though the problem was identified centuries ago. A case where the seriousness of the problem was known and where passionate advocacy was not enough.
Profile Image for Chris Reid.
Author 1 book1 follower
April 26, 2013
Winner of the Bancroft Prize for history. Elegantly written, demonstrating why detailed narrative history is so necessary to a clear understanding of the world and our place in it. Many of the facts are known; the Sea is mortal, a mortality demonstrated by the barren fishing grounds across so much of the Northwest Atlantic, once one of the great sources of fish biomass in the world. But of course the real point, the real value of the book is the careful case Bolster makes of the long history of overfishing, its consistent depletion of the biomass, and the constant incremental, and incrementally bad decisions that were always made in favor of capital and the short term. The 400 year absence of stewardship has brought us to today. Is there any hope that the role of steward will be taken up now?
Profile Image for J.E.Lindberg.
Author 1 book
January 2, 2014
The "tragedy of the commons" retold in the north Atlantic; once the richest fishing grounds on planet earth now an economy and ecological web in collapse. This scholarly work by a history professor at the University of NH presents the scientific underpinnings of the complex ecosystem that produced the greatest biomass in the world's oceans in parellel to the tale of the economy based on the resource, the evolving technological genious of the fishery and the failure of fishermen and goverments to act in the face of evidence of decline; a precarious and ultimately failed attempt to find balance between human need, greed and the limits of nature. This work documents the earliest attempts to preserve the bounty of the sea from the first period of north american colonization by europeans through the early 20th century; all of which has come to the devasted ocean ecosystem that we know today.
Profile Image for Bruce.
69 reviews6 followers
August 28, 2014
Impressive. May be a little too detailed and thorough for some casual readers, but worth the effort. The author manages to evoke the oscillations of maritime life in relation to human activity in a manner that gives much needed context for contemporary issues related to the harvesting of seafood and the sustainability of fish stocks. It is fascinating if more than a little chilling to discover just how subjective human understanding of such issues is even with the availability of substantial objective evidence. Here's yet another area in which humans mostly see and/or understand according to their expectations and projections.
Profile Image for Laura Anne.
326 reviews8 followers
December 9, 2014
If I had more time. If it wasn't so dry already. If I wasn't so busy. If I cared more about oceans in the 1700's. There are a lot of ifs for me and this book but the facts are these: I was bored to tears, I don't care enough about the fishing being done before the Industrial Age, or rather the dry facts discussing such.
I picked this up at my college library because the cover art simply entranced me (seriously though, whoever handled the art did a fantastic job). Unfortunately the factual reading inside did nothing but put me to sleep and during finals week this is not what I needed.
So here we go. I quit. It's too boring.
Profile Image for Rob Moir.
2 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2013
A rip-roaring remarkable read of ocean exploitation through time and surprising conservation efforts by the users despite scientists saying there's plenty of fish in the inexhaustible sea. Jeff Bolster is undaunted as he networks a complicated ecosystem of interactions and spinoff effects. The cod are not what they seem. Bolster demonstrates why the air-drying of cod to create "stockfish" may have been the greatest technological invention of all time, one that forever changed the ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
28 reviews
April 22, 2014
I really liked this book and found it extremely interesting. I would have given it a higher rating except that I thought it was badly in need of a good editor to week out some of the redundancy. I'm sure it was impeccably researched.

I would have been even more interested to know what effect the current policies are having on the fish supplies and to what extent we are recovering, if at all. I understand that that was out of scope, but without that data, I was left with a lot of concern and no call to action.

Overall an important book. A sequel would be great!
Profile Image for Samuel.
430 reviews
February 5, 2015
The North Atlantic is one of the largest ecosystems in the world. The western fishing banks from Cape Cod to Newfoundland have been fished for more than 500 years, and W. Jeffrey Bolster has the history here to tell of it. The modern problem of overfishing (an ecological disaster) was less of an abrupt industrial problem as some might think--the sustained harvest of these fisheries transformed the sea in a quiet catastrophe in the past couple of centuries.
Profile Image for R.Bruce Macdonald.
58 reviews15 followers
September 27, 2013
Bolster provides a strong warning of the effect that over-fishing has had on the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful and well researched prose. The title of the book is a bit misguided as Canada and Canadian fishing history is skipped over with the lion's share of the text being about the New England fishery.
2 reviews
January 16, 2017
A sobering but important read for anyone concerned about the well-being of our fisheries, our oceans, and our planet. Shouldn't that be everyone? There is some redundancy and more rigorous editing would have been helpful. Overall, however, it is compelling and well-written.
Profile Image for D.
15 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2013
Whew. That was rough. Way too many unrelated facts.
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