Mount Desert Island Historical Society
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Mount Desert, ME
The history of cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine, particularly around Mount Desert Island and the Down East coast, begins with a tremendous diversity and volume of fish and ends in a marine ecological tragedy. It is a story of decline that cannot be told in isolation from farming and timber harvesting or from other fisheries. But it is also a story of people. Many thousands of people around Mount Desert Island in the last four hundred years have built their lives around cod and other fish. Cod drew settlers to the region, provided work in the fishery and in myriad ancillary businesses, and spawned social, cultural and economic systems that persist, despite the utter collapse of the fish themselves.
This article is divided into two parts: the first, an historical account of the fishery in the Mount Desert Island region, proceeding from colonial European settlers through the early twentieth century and including an in-depth look at log books from the Frenchman Bay Customs District.3 The second part explores the last 100 years through interviews. Participants recall catching fish, working on wharves where fish were landed, and living through the transition to gear that could catch, as one interviewee put it, “every last fish."
Springuel, Natalie; Leavenworth, Bill; and Alexander, Karen, "From Wealth to Poverty: The Rise and Fall of Cod around Mount Desert Island" (2015). Maine Sea Grant Publications. 29.
Springuel, N., W.B. Leavenworth, and K. Alexander. 2015. From wealth to poverty: the rise and fall of cod around Mount Desert Island. Chebacco XVI: 66-91.
© 2015 MDI History
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