Books About Women In Commercial Fishing

Women In Commercial Fishing

The Hungry Ocean
A Swordboat Captain’s Journey

by Linda Greenlaw

The term fisherwoman does not exactly roll trippingly off the tongue, and Linda Greenlaw, the world’s only female swordfish boat captain, isn’t flattered when people insist on calling her one. "I am a woman. I am a fisherman… I am not a fisherwoman, fisherlady, or fishergirl. If anything else, I am a thirty-seven-year-old tomboy. It’s a word I have never outgrown." Greenlaw also happens to be one of the most successful fishermen in the Grand Banks commercial fleet, though until the publication of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, "nobody cared." Greenlaw’s boat, the Hannah Boden, was the sister ship to the doomed Andrea Gail, which disappeared in the mother of all storms in 1991 and became the focus of Junger’s book. The Hungry Ocean, Greenlaw’s account of a monthlong swordfishing trip over 1,000 nautical miles out to sea, tells the story of what happens when things go right – proving, in the process, that every successful voyage is a study in narrowly averted disaster.

There is the weather, the constant danger of mechanical failure, the perils of controlling five sleep-, women-, and booze-deprived young fishermen in close quarters, not to mention the threat of a bad fishing run: "If we don’t catch fish, we don’t get paid, period. In short, there is no labor union." Greenlaw’s straightforward, uncluttered prose underscores the qualities that make her a good captain, regardless of gender: fairness, physical and mental endurance, obsessive attention to detail. But, ultimately, Greenlaw proves that the love of fishing – in all of its grueling, isolating, suspenseful glory – is a matter of the heart and blood, not the mind. "I knew that the ocean had stories to tell me, all I needed to do was listen."

She’s smart, hard-working and good at what she does, though sometimes she wishes she had a life. Greenlaw is captain of the Hannah Boden, sister ship to the Andrea Gail, the sword-fishing boat whose disappearance was described with agonizing verisimilitude in Sebastian Junger’s bestseller, The Perfect Storm. Greenlaw tells a comparatively quotidian tale, "the true story of a real, and typical, sword-fishing trip, from leaving the dock to returning." Not trying to compete with Junger’s operatic tale of death on the high seas, Greenlaw deals with stormy personalities rather than with bad weather. She rounds out the story with her gimlet-eyed description of a captain’s biggest headache after nature itself: the crew. Racism, drug use, baffling illnesses: these are all elements of a 30-day journey for six people crammed aboard a 100-ft. boat designed less for human comfort than to carry the 50,000 pounds or more of fish it will eventually take on. But Greenlaw picks her sailors carefully and, through her own example, inspires a fierce loyalty among the men – such as the one who extracted his own abscessed tooth rather than return to shore ("In my experience," she notes, "very few men are willing to pull their own teeth"). Greenlaw’s narrative should foster an abiding respect in anyone who has tossed a swordfish steak on the grill, and it is certain to induce jaw-dropping admiration among personnel managers everywhere

Life on an Alaskan Shore

Nancy Lord, Laura Simonds Southworth (Illustrator)

Nancy Lord writes like an angel about the hard, often lonely, and always rewarding work of fishing along an agate-strewn Alaskan inlet, where she and her partner do what she calls the ‘sustaining work’ of landing evasive salmon far less efficiently than do the neighborhood grizzly bears. That sustaining work grows ever more difficult, she writes, as it becomes more unusual for individual fishers to market their goods in the Lower 48, the province of large-scale food distributors and of the "pale imitation that packages well." Reading this lovely book may well make you hungry – and not a little envious of Lord, who seems to have found a little corner of paradise in the backwoods of the far north.

"These pages teem with provocative ideas about wild country, its uncertain place in the world, and the way landscape can shape a life…[Lord] is a wonderful writer, and this is a terrific book."

The Entangling Net
Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Women Tell Their Lives

Leslie Leyland Fields

This is a well written book about fascinating women. I know many of the women Leslie writes about and all are perfectly illustrated by the rich text within the book… a great book that takes your mind for a ride on the most dangerous job in the world,fishing in alaska and being a woman too…

This book made the struggles and accomplishments of Alaska’s fishing women a great read! I felt like I got to know these women as friends.

Out on the Deep Blue
Women, Men, and the Oceans They Fish

by Leslie Leyland Field

Though journalists and other outsiders have often written about the perils and rewards of taking to the sea for a living, this is "the first collection written by fishermen themselves," a distinction that proves substantial after reading Out on the Deep Blue. These first-hand accounts by men and women involved in the world’s most dangerous occupation are gripping not only because of their authenticity, but because these people represent a slim minority who willingly engage in a daily battle against nature at a time when "85 percent of Americans live in urban or suburban areas," far from any kind of true wilderness. These are gripping stories of quick riches and even quicker death, of fishing seasons that last less than a day, and of jobs that involve hours of tedium interrupted by bouts of frenetic effort. Set in the frigid and unforgiving waters of remote places such as the Bering Sea and the North Atlantic, these 19 chapters vividly describe the realities and motivations of those pursuing swordfish, herring, salmon, crab, urchins, and other creatures of the deep. They also deal with the realities of dwindling resources, and subsequent jobs, and the bitterness and loss of purpose that often results for those whose sense of self is intrinsically tied to their occupation. Featuring such noted authors as Peter Matthiessen, Spike Walker, and Linda Greenlaw, this fine compendium is an absorbing look at a world few even consider, much less experience.

Fields (English, Univ. of Alaska; The Entangling Net: Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Women Tell Their Lives) gathers 19 first-person accounts by people who fish, some of them also well-known writers (e.g., Peter Mathiessen and Linda Greenlaw). While some of the vignettes concern working with or for sports fishermen, many others deal with the business of fishing, covering areas from the U.S. coastline to remote locations such as the Barents Sea. Ocean fishing is inherently dangerous, as the oceans themselves are changeable and often threatening. Each account conveys this danger to the reader but at the same time expresses the writer’s respect and love for the ocean. The collection is pulled together by Fields’s insightful introduction. While not a sports book exactly, this collection will be of interest to people who fish as well as to those who enjoy stories of adventure at sea

Hair of the Dog
Tales from Aboard a Russian Trawler

Barbara A. Oakleyr

Get a glimpse of US-Soviet relations that few Americans have witnessed. This book is not just a factual account of life at sea; it is a view into the Russian soul and psyche.

Hard to find

Salmon and Women
The Feminine Angle

Wilma Paterson, Peter Behan

Fishers, traders, farmers, wives
The life stories of ten women in a fishing village

Jeanne Frances I. Illo

To Work and to Weep
Women in Fishing Economies

Jane Nadel-Klein, Dona Lee Davis

Winds of Change
Women in Northwest Commercial Fishing

Charlene J. Allison, et al Published 1990

As in other male-dominated industries, the role of women in commercial fishing has not been widely known nor well documented. This four-year study, done in the early 1980s, presents oral histories of ten women involved directly and indirectly in the Pacific Northwest maritime fishing industry during this century. Some run their own boats, some work with spouses, some supervise packing or processing operations. All have seen great changes in the industry. Research methodologies, historical context, appendixes, glossary, and bibliography make this appropriate for anthropological, maritime, and women’s studies collections in academic or large public libraries. For one person’s more popular, extended account, see Marie De Santis’s Neptunes’s Apprentice: Adventures of a Commercial Fisherwomen.

Neptune’s apprentice
Adventures of a commercial fisherwoman

by Marie De Santis

If you like commercial fishing, or are interested in the San Fransisco Bay fisheries… she spins a great chronicle of her fishing career, and some of the interesting personalitys that are in the fishing game.

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