On the Water

Commercial Fishers

In the 1800s, American fishers reaped ever-larger harvests from the waters to feed a growing nation.

By 1880, there were 43 distinct fisheries around the country, employing more than 130,000 people in fishing and related industries ashore. In this era, the Atlantic cod, Chesapeake oyster, and Columbia River salmon fisheries all flourished. Whole communities grew around these industries, often built by immigrants who used their knowledge of fishing to build successful enterprises and distinctive places. Though these fisheries continued to thrive for decades, by the end of the 20th century, each was in crisis.