1905The otter trawl’s introduction revolutionized fishing on New England banks.Economy and Industry, Maritime & Fishing Industry, Technology

Fish processing, c. 1920s. Gardner Lamson, Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Photo 11272
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The otter trawl is a long, broad net towed behind a vessel along the ocean bottom. As it is dragged forward, a pair of flat plates called otter boards—one on each side of the trawl net and weighing several tons—spreads horizontally to keep the mouth of the trawl open. At the same time, a long rope with steel weights keeps the mouth open along its bottom edge. Unlike baited hooks used in dory trawling, the otter trawl catches everything in its path, so once mechanized winches haul it back on board, the indiscriminate catch would be sorted and the bycatch –which could be considerable — would be tossed overboard. Like seine nets, they offered the advantage of not needing bait, with the bonus of eliminating the extra fishermen who were no longer needed to row seine boats and dories. Dory fishermen complained that otter trawlers were depleting the stock of bottom fish but their large catches and quick turnaround were incentive enough for commercial fish dealers, such as Pew-Gorton, to invest in them.

“FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture.” https://www.fao.org/fishery/en/geartype/309/en. Morris, John N. Alone at Sea: Gloucester in the Age of the Dorymen, 1623 - 1939. Commonwealth Editions, 2010.
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