The Last Fish Tale: Book summary and reviews of The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky

The Last Fish Tale

The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America's Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town

by Mark Kurlansky

The Last Fish Tale

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Book Summary

The culture of fishing is vanishing, and consequently, coastal societies are changing in unprecedented ways. The once thriving fishing communities of Rockport, Nantucket, Newport, Mystic, and many other coastal towns from Newfoundland to Florida and along the West Coast have been forced to abandon their roots and become tourist destinations instead. Gloucester, Massachusetts, however, is a rare survivor. The livelihood of America’s oldest fishing port has always been rooted in the life and culture of commercial fishing.

The Gloucester story began in 1004 with the arrival of the Vikings. Six hundred years later, Captain John Smith championed the bountiful waters off the coast of Gloucester, convincing new settlers to come to the area and start a new way of life. Gloucester became the most productive fishery in New England, its people prospering from the seemingly endless supply of cod and halibut. With the introduction of a faster fishing boat–the schooner–the industry flourished. In the twentieth century, the arrival of Portuguese, Jews, and Sicilians turned the bustling center into a melting pot. Artists and writers such as Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, and T. S. Eliot came to the fishing town and found inspiration.

But the vital life of Gloucester was being threatened. Ominous signs were seen with the development of engine-powered net-dragging vessels in the first decade of the twentieth century. As early as 1911, Gloucester fishermen warned of the dire consequences of this new technology. Since then, these vessels have become even larger and more efficient, and today the resulting overfishing, along with climate change and pollution, portends the extinction of the very species that fishermen depend on to survive, and of a way of life special not only to Gloucester but to coastal cities all over the world. And yet, according to Kurlansky, it doesn’t have to be this way. Scientists, government regulators, and fishermen are trying to work out complex formulas to keep fishing alive.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A lucent addition to Gloucester's town treasury, featuring a wealth of dramatic stories." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Starred Review. Kurlansky provides a delightful, intimate history and contemporary portrait of the quintessential northeastern coastal fishing town ... Illustrated with his own beautifully executed drawings, Kurlansky's book vividly depicts the contemporary tension between the traditional fishing trade and modern commerce, which in Gloucester means beach-going tourists." - Publishers Weekly.

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Author Information

Mark Kurlansky Author Biography

© Lisa Klausner

Mark Kurlansky was born in Hartford, Connecticut. After receiving a BA in Theater from Butler, Kurlansky worked in New York as a playwright, having a number of off-off Broadway productions, and as a playwright-in-residence at Brooklyn College. In the mid 1970s, unhappy with the direction New York theater was taking, he turned to journalism. He worked as a foreign correspondent for The International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, and others. Based in Paris and then Mexico, he reported on Europe, West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

His articles have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including Time, Harper’s, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Audubon Magazine, Food & Wine, Gourmet, and others. He has had 19 books ...

... Full Biography
Link to Mark Kurlansky's Website

Name Pronunciation
Mark Kurlansky: ker-LAN-ski

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