AGAINST THE TIDE by Richard Adams Carey


The Fate of New England Fishermen
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Slice it this way, slice it that, there’s no escaping the drastic changes in store for the New England fishermen, reports Carey (Raven’s Children: An Alaskan Culture at Twilight, 1992) in this nonetheless undespairing book. It’s just that the village may have to be burned in order to save it. For Carey, the foreclosure of yet another small fishing boat meant not just the crumbling of an ancient way of life. It was the loss of yet more carriers of fundamental knowledge, like small farmers, people deeply engaged in their place of work and understanding of the notion of limits. To get a better grasp of the situation, he went on an endangered-species watch with a lobsterman, a dragger, a quahog dredger, and a long-liner, all out of Cape Cod, all owner-operators who worked inshore waters. This was during 1995—96, when an amendment to stop all groundfishing was soon to be voted upon, and a sense of doom filled the cape air. Carey is a good storyteller, braiding the tales of the fishermen’s days, calling up nuggets of local history to give a sense of timelessness to their activity, introducing and making intelligible the byzantine world of fishery politics. The men portrayed here are crafty professionals and worthy souls, though Carey appreciates the fact that there is a reason why fishermen, even small-scale ones, are suspects in their own demise. He details how many of these herdsmen, big and small, trampled the commons. Arching over it all is the imperative of profits, which works against stewardship and foresight; “entry into the fishery has become a commodity, available only to those who can meet its price,” outsiders and fat cats who frequently have no stake in the long-term health of the fishery. Carey conveys “a Puritan’s prickle of outraged righteousness” at the treatment of the humble New England fisherman. Yet one of them recently caught a golden haddock, a sign of good times to come. Hope springs eternal.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-76530-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999


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