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Dutch Herring

Dutch Herring: An Environmental History, c. 1600-1860

Bo Poulsen
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  • Book Info
    Dutch Herring
    Book Description:

    In the seventeenth century, the Dutch herring fisheries in the North Sea were considered the most sophisticated and demanding fishing operation in the world. This is the first study to assess the North Sea herring and herring fisheries over the span of several centuries. It contributes to the understanding of pre-modern natural resource exploitation and the role of the natural environment in long-term development of the Dutch herring fisheries.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2117-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 20-23)

    Today, climate change is considered a prime concern when it comes to the future management of the World’s fisheries resources. In the 2005 review of global fisheries resources from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) climate variability and its potential impact on fisheries received special attention.¹ In modern fisheries, the climate is seen as a highly important factor influencing the overall fluctuations of many fish stocks. One of the problems facing fisheries managers is the task of distinguishing between the pressure caused by fishing and climatic variability, when analysing changes in modern fish stocks. Moreover, with...

  2. 2 Methodology
    (pp. 24-35)

    Sound science, including historical science, is issue-driven. When the issues involve interaction between natural systems and human society, we must incorporate methods from the human as well as marine sciences.

    This is not unproblematic and the two types of science often lead separate lives. Some fifty years ago, physicist C.P. Snow lamented this fact, when coining the term the two cultures, the natural sciences and the humanities, operating in separate intellectual worlds.¹ Since then, the differences have most likely grown greater in many ways. In recent theoretical works on historical science, it has even been claimed that there are absolute...

  3. 3 Hypotheses and questions
    (pp. 36-39)

    This study attempts to present analyses covering all three corners of Worster’s triangle. This is achieved by applying multiple perspectives on the interaction between North Sea herring populations and the human fisheries systems and societal factors impacting the fisheries.

    The individual analyses in chapters 4-11 each address at least two corners of the triangle. The synthesising chapter 11, however, is intended to present a system of herring exploitation in the North Sea, approx. 1600-1850 as well as analyses spanning all three ‘corners’.

    The next step is to apply the above theories on interaction between man and nature to the empirical...

  4. 4 Producers and Production of Salted herring
    (pp. 40-75)

    Herring is – both today and historically – a welcome guest in the waters of northern Europe, having been exploited by various European powers at different times. In the Middle Ages, the Danish king hosted Europe’s then largest fishery for herring at the Sound. By the 17th century, the Dutch high seas herring fishery had risen to prominence and dominance, whereas the 18th century saw the growth of a number of different major herring fisheries in European waters. In the 19th century, Scottish and Norwegian herring fisheries came to dominate the European market for salted herring. During this entire period, salted herring...

  5. 5 Did fisheries impact herring stocks?
    (pp. 76-81)

    The above analysis of the total production of salted herring is also relevant to the question whether or not the amount of herring extracted from the North Sea in the 1600-1850 period could significantly impact the abundance of North Sea herring. A historical study suggests this by asking whether ‘Perhaps overfishing reduced the catches…’.¹

    If the herring fisheries during the 1600-1850 period impacted fish stocks, the fishing pressure would have to be taken into account in applying fisheries data as a reflection of the spatial movement and relative abundance of herring stocks over this long time span. If, however the...

  6. 6 Markets, Prices and Consumption. Herring trade in the North Sea and Baltic region
    (pp. 82-105)

    This chapter presents an overview of the long-term trends in terms of trading patterns for salted herring in the area of the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and their respective hinterlands in the period between approx. 1600-1850. The market is defined as ‘the interaction between supply and demand to determine the market price and corresponding quantity bought and sold.’¹ In this period the north European herring market underwent several changes. These changes are analysed from four different perspectives:

    The first main section examines the main trading routes for herring in Northern Europe on the basis of records from the Sound...

  7. 7 Cooperation and communication in the Dutch herring fisheries
    (pp. 106-129)

    For centuries, the Dutch North Sea herring fisheries were the largest in Europe and the envy of other nations. This study applies economic resource theory and the results of anthropological case studies in order to discuss institutional, technological and cultural information sharing in a historical context.

    How did the Dutch herring fishers manage to find the fish at sea? How and to what extent did they cooperate with each other, and which environmental and institutional incentives did they have for cooperation? The political body, HetCollege van de Grote Visserij, governed the regulations of the Dutch herring fisheries for almost...

  8. 8 Reconstructing stock fluctuations of North Sea herring, 1604-1850
    (pp. 130-159)

    This chapter presents a reconstruction of the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of the Dutch herring fishery, approx. 1600-1850. This is the longest time series of CPUE ever compiled.

    The CPUE time series is constructed by using historical data of a very homogenous nature from this entire period. This enables the standardization of all main units of catch and effort. The CPUE is analysed at three different levels:¹) catch per boat per year,²) catch per boat per day at sea for each fishing trip and³) catch per boat per day at sea over the entire season. This is supported by...

  9. 9 Fishing strategy and dynamics of movement, 1856-1863
    (pp. 160-185)

    For the first time, this chapter presents an in-depth study of the spatial dynamics of mid 19th century Dutch North Sea herring fishery. This is the first quantitative study to use fishers’ own logbooks as a main source of information on an essentially pre-modern North Sea herring fishery.

    As we have established, the Dutch high sea herring fisheries were the only major North Sea herring fishery that could operate independently of geography. Most other pre modern herring fisheries were shore-based industries along the English, Scottish, Norwegian, Swedish or Dutch coastlines. In principle, the Dutch fishers could fish wherever they pleased....

  10. 10 Long-term spatial distribution of fisheries, 1600-1892
    (pp. 186-213)

    “I remember a night near Bahia, when I was enveloped in a firework display of phosphorescent fireflies; their pale lights glowed, went out, shone again, all without piercing the night with any true illumination. So it is with events; beyond their glow, darkness prevails.”¹

    French historian, Fernand Braudel was not necessarily thinking about fisheries when he coined the above analogy of fireflies and historic events. But the fleeting apparitions of fireflies against a background of darkness perfectly illustrate the starting point for this chapter. The movement and fishing patterns of the Dutch North Sea herring fisheries appear only in glimpses...

  11. 11 Dynamics of change and the exploitation of North Sea herring stocks
    (pp. 214-237)

    The starting point for this book was the formulation of three overarching questions.

    What were the main forces stimulating changes in the exploitation of North Sea herring in the period between approx. 1600-1860. In other words, what were the dynamics of this particular historical system?

    What was the role of the natural environment in this regard?

    What caused the long-term decline of the Dutch herring fisheries?

    An assessment was then carried out to determine the potential of marine environmental history and historical ecology as a tool in answering these main research questions. Much of current environmental history is occupied with...

  12. English summary
    (pp. 238-243)

    In short, the purpose of this study is to increase our understanding of the driving forces in pre-modern resource exploitation. Within this framework, the goal is to distinguish between human and natural impacts on the marine ecosystem through analyses of relevant sets of historical source material.

    This leads to the formulation of three overarching questions.

    What were the main forces stimulating changes in the exploitation of North Sea herring in the period between approx. 1600-1860. In other words, what were the dynamics of this particular historical system?

    What was the role of the natural environment in this regard?

    What caused...

  13. Dansk resume
    (pp. 244-249)

    Formålet med denne afhandling er at bidrage til en øget forståelse af drivkræfterne i før-moderne ressourceudnyttelse. Herunder er det et mål at analysere en række relevante historiske kilder med henblik på at kunne skelne mellem humane og naturlige påvirkninger af et marint økosystem. Udgangspunktet for undersøgelsen er formuleringen af tre overordnede spørgsmål.

    Hvad var de vigtigste historiske drivkræfter bag udviklingen i udnyttelsen af sild fra Nordsøen i perioden cirka 1600-1860? Med andre ord, hvordan forstås dynamikken i et bestemt historisk system af naturlige og menneskelige påvirkninger?

    Hvilken rolle spillede miljøet for den historiske udvikling?

    Hvad forårsagede det store hollandske sildefiskeris...