P2.46 NOAA's Preserve America Initiative: Unlocking the history of African-Americans in Georgia's coastal fisheries

Friday, 13 November 2009
D. L. Hoskins, NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, Savannah, GA

African American participation in marine-related careers predates the programming efforts funded by federal agencies in the recent decades. As early as 1796, the federal government issued Seaman's Protection Certificates to merchant mariners defining them as “citizens” of the United States effectively making maritime employment one way for Blacks to shape their identities. In particular, fishing, crabbing, and shrimping were prominent parts of the slave economy and continued long after the Civil War. Coastal cities like Savannah, Darien, and Brunswick and African-American enclaves like Sandfly, Pinpoint, and Sapelo Island, Georgia were centers of fishing and shellfish processing. African Americans are now scarce in these coastal industries, the decline has been attributed to the increase in fishing costs and their inability to make a living (Blount, 2007). Only one published study has attempted to document the experiences of this population. The objective of this NOAA Preserve America Initiative project is to characterize the fishery-related occupations of African Americans in coastal Georgia 1865 to the present and to obtain information for future work that may ascertain the relationship between their decreased participation and changes in regional fish populations and the fishing industry. Using historical literature, landings data, field interviews with fishermen and their families, as well as interviews with former and current fish wholesalers and processors, we will identify trends in the Georgia African American fishing community.
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