I grew up in a fishing town during a tough time for American fishermen. In the 1960s and 1970s Japanese and Russian factory ships raided the Atlantic coast depleting the once rich fishing grounds of George’s and Stellwagon Banks. In 1978 after years of intense lobbying from organizations like the Gloucester Fisherman’s Wives Association, Congress enacted a 200 mile limit, banning foreign vessels from fishing too close to our shores. It was rarely enforced. The much celebrated 200 mile limit was followed by a quota system intended to limit over fishing. It proved to be an economic disaster for New England’s fishing industry and an ineffective attempt to replenish the depleted fishing stocks. Fishermen were required to throw away any fish caught over the limit. Obviously this didn’t save any fish. The following decade saw many boats returning to port or departing with other things besides fish. Guns and ammunition were smuggled to support the Irish Republican Army in its struggle to liberate Northern Ireland from British oppression. Marijuana from Jamaica & Colombia flowed into Gloucester until a high profile bust of a Gloucester fishing captain slowed things down. When all else failed some desperate boat owners sank their vessels to cash out of what they saw as a dying industry.
My uncle Sam (on the left in this photo) retired just as it was starting to get bad. Before he moved to Texas I’d visit him at his Pleasant Street home in Gloucester where he’d drink Candian Club Whiskey and put wooden ship models he’d made into empty bottles.