Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fish Culture

The fish in Monterey Bay brought diversity to the land as well. Rumsen Indians had a fishing village for centuries at what is now Custom House Plaza. Portuguese whalers arrived in the 1850s, about the time Chinese fishermen landed at Point Lobos. Fresh fish markets were limited until the railroad arrived in 1874, then Italian fishermen moved to Monterey with larger boats to catch fish for San Francisco buyers, according to Tim Thomas, historian at the Monterey Maritime and History Museum. With growing competition, discriminatory laws were passed to limit Chinese fishing, so the “Chinatown” then in Pacific Grove turned to squid that nobody else wanted. Japanese divers arrived in 1895, settled on Cannery Row and started harvesting the abalone no one else valued. Monterey started focusing on sardines soon after that and Sicilian fishermen with large purse seiners moved in to catch tons of them for the 41 Cannery Row processing plants that were booming into the 1940s. Japanese fishermen dominated salmon fishing by then and owned 80% of the businesses on Fisherman’s Wharf until World War II erupted and they were forced to move to inland camps.

Photo: Monterey Wharf and waterfront. Ca. 1907. Credit: Monterey Public Library, California History Room

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