Publishing the history & culture

of Southeastern New England • Since 1981

Down to the Sea for Fish

History of the New Bedford Fishing Industry

In the 1920’s and 1930’s New Bedford fishermen did not need to go far to catch fish. Local waters held an abundance of seafood. As supply began to dwindle the men had to go farther out with longer trips, in order to make a profitable voyage.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s a wave of immigrant fishermen arrived, mainly from Norway and Newfoundland. They built larger vessels and were able to stay out longer and catch more fish. New Varieties of fish were caught. New Bedford fishermen were first to harvest under-utilized species, such as scallops. This variety was successfully marketed to the point where it has become a local and international favorite, and the most prize seafood variety landed today.

In the 1950’s and 1960’ a new era of fishermen arrived. Most of these people were the Portuguese who built larger and better boats and were able to catch more fish and stay at sea longer.

This trend culminated in the 1980’s as New Bedford became the nation’s top port in terms of value of seafood landed. While this status has faded, New Bedford still lands approximately 100,000 pounds of sea scallops, lobsters, cod fish, haddock, flounder, and a large variety of lesser-known varieties daily.