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napa Bulletin 28/ African American Fishermen 109
NAPA BULLETIN 28, pp. 109–122, ISBN 1-931303-35-5. © 2007 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights
reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California
Press’s Rights and Permissions website, http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/napa.2007.28.1.109.
LIFE ON THE WATER: A HISTORICAL–CULTURAL
MODEL OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FISHERMEN
ON THE GEORGIA COAST (USA)
Ben G. Blount
University of Texas at San Antonio
Kathi R. Kitner
A challenge in ﬁsheries research is development of a rigorous and reliable method for repre-
senting local ﬁshing knowledge. One solution is to elicit knowledge initially in semistructured
interviews and then to model information held in common among groups of ﬁshermen.
Content analysis of interviews using keywords, the terms by which ﬁshermen talk about and
organize their knowledge topically and thematically, allows for the identiﬁcation of discourse
content and for its hierarchical organization in the form of cultural models. Cultural model
analysis shows how ﬁshermen construct and organize the central components of their lives as
ﬁshers. Results of a case study are reported here, based on interviews conducted in 1999 with
elderly African American ﬁsherman on the coast of Georgia, focusing on the history of their
participation in coastal ﬁsheries. Keyword analysis showed that the basic cultural model of the
African Americans was of life on the water, which contains a number of submodels that
elaborate the content and meaning of life on the water. The cultural model shows that the
way of life based on making a living from ﬁshing has become increasingly difﬁcult and may
be nearing an end. The loss of means of livelihood raises ethical considerations about access to
natural resources. Keywords: African Americans, cultural models, ﬁsheries, ethics
This article presents a method to describe the cultural knowledge of retired and elderly
African American ﬁshermen on the coast of Georgia (USA). The method consists of
analysis of interviews using keywords, the terms which the ﬁshermen use to describe
their knowledge of ﬁsheries and ﬁshing experience. Keywords provide a means of identi-
fying content and organization of discourse, enabling a researcher to detect the sharing
of the content and organization across individuals. The analytical construction of that
information is in the form of cultural models. Constructed models thus are represen-
tations of shared information, that is, cultural knowledge, providing a view of how
members of a community can talk meaningfully in their own terms about their under-
standings and experiences. The African Americans were asked in the interviews to talk
about their experiences as commercial marine ﬁshermen, to talk about what being a
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ﬁsherman was like. The construction of cultural models from their interviews showed
that the ﬁshermen organized their knowledge into a high-level model called life on the
water. That model contained lower-level models, such as making a living and catching
ﬁsh, revealing thematic patterns that making a living on the water now is more difﬁ-
cult than in earlier days and the historical period of living from ﬁshing may be coming
to an end.
To place the cultural model life on the water in broader perspective, a history of
African American participation in commercial marine ﬁsheries is presented from previous
historical analyses (Blount 2001). That research showed that for a period of 150–200 years,
African Americans did most of the commercial ﬁshing in that coastal zone but that they
were marginalized through time from the three major ﬁsheries on the coast: oyster,
shrimp, and blue crab (Blount 2001). Although the experiences of African Americans in
those individual ﬁsheries are not represented directly in life on the water, the model does
show that making a living from ﬁshing was always difﬁcult and involved hard work. The
model developed through the shared experiences of ﬁsherman within and across genera-
tions, leading to the generation of retired African American ﬁshermen who were in their
sixties and seventies during the interviews in 1999. Because the ﬁshermen saw their way
of life coming to an end, they used life on the water retrospectively and prospectively to
characterize how life was in the past and to show how it is changing with the current gen-
eration of younger adults. The changes raise questions about environmental ethics
because the environmental changes that appear to changing the social landscape affect
how people use natural resources to make a living. A discussion about ethical considera-
tions is presented later in the article.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUN D
The southeastern Atlantic coast of the state of Georgia and its associated creeks, rivers,
estuaries, and sounds were once teeming with ﬁsh, shellﬁsh, and other crustaceans.
When Europeans came to the area in the mid–18th century, historical records show that
ﬁsh were abundant, almost unimaginably so by today’s standards (Stewart 1996).
Europeans, however, appeared to not use the resource much if at all. When African slaves
were brought to Georgia, beginning in 1751, they and their descendants, however, relied
heavily on ﬁsh, ﬁrst for subsistence and then for small-scale commercial gain. That pat-
tern of ﬁshing continued for almost two centuries, but radical changes began to occur at
the beginning of the 20th century. African Americans were marginalized from three local
ﬁsheries in succession over the course of three generations.
The ﬁrst settlers from England arrived on the Georgia coast in 1732, but, remarkably,
they did not utilize the abundant wild game and ﬁsh. The settlement was based on a
utopian plan that called for the creation of an orderly landscape of small free-holder
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farms. The “Georgia Plan,” as it was called, was based on the notion that the discipline
and self-sufﬁciency of farmers would create a stable and productive social and economic
system (Stewart 1996). The settlers chosen to participate in the Georgia Plan were mostly
urban poor, many of whom had been imprisoned in workhouses. Thus, they had no
knowledge or experience in farming, hunting, or ﬁshing, and, in fact, they were prohib-
ited from hunting and ﬁshing in England of the time, activities reserved for royalty and
The survival of these misplaced urban poor was in the hands of the philanthropic
group, the Georgia Trustees, who provided them with food and provisions. Not surpris-
ingly, the utopian settlement plan was unsuccessful, despite almost two decades of ﬁnan-
cial underwriting. By the middle of the century, the plan had been scrapped, thereby
opening the area to plantation agriculture. Planters experienced in plantation systems in
South Carolina and in the West Indies began to acquire land in the coastal area of
Georgia. The plantation system required cheap or “free” labor, and the ban on importa-
tion of slaves from Africa was lifted in 1751. From that date, plantation owners began to
import African slaves into the region.
African Slaves and Fishing
Unlike the ﬁrst English settlers, the Africans were much more likely to have hunting and
ﬁshing experience, and they evidently participated in those informal economies in
Georgia from the outset. Although the plantation work that they were required to per-
form left them little time for their own activities, they both supplemented their diet and
engaged in informal trade. Fishing was a substantial part of that activity. It is estimated
that sea island slaves may have procured as much as one-half of the meat in their diets
from foraging, especially ﬁshing (Gibbs et al. 1980). In addition to ﬁshing in rural areas,
African Americans who managed to live in urban areas, principally the city of Savannah,
did virtually all of the ﬁshing, supplying the local market and even outlying populations.
In the late 19th century, Savannah was the major seafood market on the Georgia coast,
where shad, whiting, snapper, bass, catﬁsh, oysters, clams, and shrimp were sold. African
Americans were both the major suppliers and consumers.
The pattern of small-scale ﬁshing continued after the Civil War and through the post-
bellum historical period, from 1865–1900. Emancipated African Americans continued to
ﬁsh, as before, for food and to make a living. They caught most of the ﬁsh and were cen-
trally engaged in the processing, marketing, and distribution, just as had been the case in
Savannah a hundred or more years earlier. There was thus a cultural pattern of ﬁshing
and ﬁsh consumption spanning 150 years. A few years before the turn of the 20th cen-
tury, however, the patterns of ﬁshing on the coast began to change, ﬁrst with the oyster
ﬁshery and, eventually, the shrimp and blue crab ﬁsheries. In each case, white
European–Anglo commercial ﬁshers migrated to Georgia, primarily from the northeast-
ern Atlantic region of the United States, bringing with them an established and distinct
history of commercial ﬁshing and the capital to afford new, more advanced technology.
Within a few years they gained dominance in each ﬁshery, and African Americans had
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begun to be marginalized, moving from the center to the periphery or even out of the
Commercialization began with the oyster ﬁshery. Oysters had long been abundant on
the southeastern Atlantic coasts, constituting a staple of winter fare and a survival food
in lean times (Fleetwood 1995:188). Most of the oystermen initially were African
Americans, who harvested oysters mostly during the winter months and in their own
boats. With the opening of the Atlantic seaboard to railways that linked the larger east
coast cities, demands for oysters by urban populations increased. As demand increased,
oyster canneries began to appear in the late 1880s, and so the rate of harvesting increased,
escalating as more canneries were built. The consequences for African Americans were
twofold: (1) opportunities for jobs were expanded through substantially increased harvest
levels and processing, but (2) African Americans were pushed disproportionately to the
lower-income end of the business. The harvesters and the pickers were African American,
whereas the managers and owners were of European origin. African Americans essentially
became wage laborers. After the crash of the canneries around midcentury, a few African
Americans returned to harvesting oysters. In 1999, only one ﬁsherman harvested oysters
to sell to a very limited and local market.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the shrimp market in the southeastern Atlantic
region was limited mostly to local consumption, and shrimp appears to have been a rel-
atively minor food item. Shrimp pickled in brine, for example, were available in local
bars as a free snack food, in much the same fashion as peanuts or popcorn today
(Fleetwood 1995:195). African Americans caught shrimp in the waterways, estuaries, and
sounds ﬁshing with small seine nets and cast nets. Beginning soon after the turn of the
century, however, the ﬁshery was commercialized within one generation. One factor
was the use of gasoline-driven internal combustion engines on boats, which provided
the means for major changes in ﬁshing gear and methods. In 1903 there were 50 auto-
mobile manufacturers in the United States, many of who made engines for boats as well
as automobiles (Fleetwood 1995:172). As engines became more powerful, larger boats
could be built, and by the middle of the 1920s, motor-driven boats were not only
becoming more common, they were becoming larger and more powerful. Boats could
cover much more water in shorter periods of time, and they could go further from shore
and return more easily.
A related factor was the importation of the otter trawl from England, where it had been
developed in 1894. The otter trawl consisted of two constructed wooden doors, each
attached to the open end of a large net. As the boards were pulled through the water they
were forced outward, opening the net up to form a large scoop. They could scoop up
much larger quantities of shrimp as compared to seine nets or cast nets. Engine-driven
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boats had the power to pull the nets. By the beginning of the second decade of the 20th
century, motor-driven boats with otter trawls has spread over the southeastern Atlantic,
and the shrimp ﬁshery had been revolutionized. With that revolution, African
Americans were shifted from the center of the shrimp ﬁshery to the periphery. As in the
oyster ﬁshery, but more directly and drastically, they were no longer the principal ﬁshers.
Because of the existence of institutionalized racism, very few African Americans could
afford the capital outlay that was required to purchase a large, motor-driven boat and the
otter-trawl system. They neither had the money nor the access to ﬁnancial institutions to
obtain loans to purchase the necessary boats and equipment. Most African Americans
who remained in the shrimp ﬁshery became laborers (strikers) on the boats, emptying
the nets, sorting the catch, and de-heading (“heading”) the shrimp, or else they sought
employment in the ﬁsh houses, cleaning and boxing the catch for shipment to external
markets. This pattern continues today.
Blue Crab Fishery
Longtime residents of the coast of Georgia report that blue crabs historically have been
viewed as a “poor man’s” food. The rationale was that crabs were plentiful and that a
meal could be caught easily with virtually no equipment and little effort. Another con-
tributing factor was that crabbing was associated with African Americans. As recently as
napa Bulletin 28/ African American Fishermen 113
Figure 1. African American Shrimpers, South Atlantic Coast. Photo by Kathi Kitner.
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the early 1970s, almost all of the crabbers were African American. Crabbers submerged
baited, wooden traps in the sounds, estuaries, rivers, and creeks, and the traps had to be
pulled to the surface at least every few days to remove any crabs that have been trapped.
Some crabbers pulled as many as 200 traps. African Americans used small wooden boats,
small motors, and pulled their traps by hand, which was arduous work, since the water-
logged, wooden traps, full of crabs, could weigh considerably more than 100 pounds.
Eventually, metal traps replaced wooden ones, but even a metal trap full of crabs can
weigh up to 100 pounds.
Two developments led to major changes in the blue crab ﬁshery. Migrants to the
Georgia coast, many retirees from other occupations, began to crab part-time. They
had the capital to buy larger boats with larger motors, and they could also purchase
“crab pullers,” a mechanical device based on a pulley and powered by the boat’s engine
to pull the traps from the water. The heavy work of hauling the traps to the surface by
hand is thus avoided. Within a few years, two classes of crabbers were evident,
European American crabbers with larger boats and crab pullers and African Americans
with smaller boats and engines and many without crab pullers. By 1980, the number
of African American crabbers had diminished signiﬁcantly, and the ﬁshery had become
European American. Again, African Americans were pushed to the margins of a ﬁsh-
ery that was once almost exclusively theirs. By the end of the century, only a few
African Americans remained in the blue crab ﬁshery. The development of a limited
entry plan at the end of the 1990s made even more difﬁcult the entry or reentry into
It is clear that signiﬁcant economic factors, principally severely limited access to capital,
marginalized African Americans from their participation of long-standing in the oyster,
shrimp, and blue crab ﬁsheries. Cultural factors may also have played an important role.
Expectations anchored in the cultural landscapes included a strong aversion to risk tak-
ing, understandably, given that the margin of security for African Americans during the
entire 150 years of the plantation system and the postbellum must have been very slim,
at best. There would have been few and marginally thin safety nets to guard against
economic disaster, and in that type of socioeconomic environment, risk taking would
have been a highly salient activity. Risks that ran the possibility of total economic col-
lapse especially were to be minimized. When commercialization of the ﬁsheries began,
African Americans must have been reluctant to take the risks necessary to compete,
even in the few cases in which resources might have been available. Racial discrimina-
tion was clearly a major factor. Bank loans were not available to African Americans,
thereby precluding the use of loaned capital to guard against total ﬁnancial collapse.
The interviewees, however, saw loans as double edged, commenting that loans could
escalate the risk of collapse. Inability to repay a loan would mean a total loss of means
to a livelihood, a risk that was stated by several interviewees as being too high. Risk
avoidance was an important strategy.
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CULTURAL MO DEL S OF LIF E OF THE WATER
A research project was undertaken in 1998–2000 to document the history of African
American participation in commercial ﬁsheries on the coast of Georgia and, in particu-
lar, to elicit the views of elderly ﬁshers who could provide in-depth accounts from the
lifetime of experience. The ﬁrst result that became apparent was that the number of eld-
erly ﬁshers was very small, as was the number of African Americans still participating in
the shrimp and blue crab ﬁsheries. One author was told repeatedly that his work was 10
or even 20 years too late, that many of the more experienced individuals had died within
that period. One goal of the research was to try to ﬁnd individuals who would have per-
sonal recollections of the changes that occurred in the shrimp ﬁshery, but those changes
had occurred earlier than originally thought, and that aspect of the project was certainly
too late. Nonetheless, a few individuals were located who had ﬁshed for 40 years or more
and who could provide historical and cultural perspective.
Eight retired African American ﬁshers were interviewed during the summer of 1999.
Six of them were retired shrimpers and two were retired blue crabbers. The age range was
50–84, but all but one of them was over 70. The interviews were conducted at the homes
of the individuals, and they averaged 90 minutes each. The format was semistructured
interviews, leaving the responses as open ended as possible. The interviews were all tape-
recorded. Seven questions, however, structured the interviews and were asked of each
respondent. These are given in Table 1.
The transcribed interviews were subjected to a content analysis, using the method of
keyword analysis (Blount 2002). The objective was to identify keywords, construct the
information content of those words, and to construct models of information shared
across individuals. To the extent that sharing occurs, the models can be considered to be
Keywords are terms or, more commonly, phrases that serve to structure discourse and
that have constructed informational content. The underlying assumptions are that lan-
guage is a symbolic guide to culture and that vocabulary is a sensitive index of culture
napa Bulletin 28/ African American Fishermen 115
TABLE 1 Core Interview Questions
1. Can you tell me what shrimping (crabbing) was like when you ﬁrst began to work in that ﬁshery?
2. What were the boats like? The gear?
3. Was it hard to make a living at shrimping (crabbing)?
4. What are some of the changes that you have seen in the ﬁshery?
5. Why did you begin to work as a shrimper (crabber)?
6. What do you see as the future for African-Americans in the shrimp (crab) ﬁshery on the Georgia coast?
7. Do young African-Americans do any kind of ﬁshing nowadays, recreationally or commercially?
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(Sapir 1933). Keywords, as words, point to categories or classes of objects referentially, but
for reference to work, they have to subsume units of agreed-on, that is, shared meaning.
The sharing of the meaning is possible because of experienced, that is, historical, cul-
tural matrices. Keywords subsume especially central or important cultural content.
Contemporary examples in ﬁsheries might be marine protected areas, overﬁshing, bycatch,
and so forth.
If the focus is on keywords in use, they have an indexing function, referencing
what is being talked about, and they also have an abstracting function, serving as a
label to extract cultural information and construct it in relation to the label
(Aitchison 2003). In effect, they serve as informational search and recovery devices
and frameworks for organization. Keywords are cognitive labels. If the focus is on dis-
course, then keywords serve as nodal topics in relation to which discourse is struc-
tured. Again, they can be seen as “what is talked about.” Discourse consists of
keywords and of the construction of informational content in relation to them. The
content of the construction depends on a variety of factors, but central is the idea of
the extent to which assumptions can be made about whether the discourse partici-
pants have access to the same or similar content, in effect, that the content is or can
Keywords and Cultural Models
Assumptions about informational sharing are based on experience. Keywords are used
indexwise and nodalwise in relation to expectations of shared experience. The informa-
tional structures that are generated can be referred to as “cultural models.” Cultural
models are shared, taken for granted, experientially based means of understanding
behavior. They frame interpretations of experience and serve as bases for inferences about
experience. In a sense they are models of the world that serve as means of understanding
the world (Blount 2003; Quinn and Holland 1987). The more a group of individuals has
similar experiences, the more likely they are to share models, and cultural models thus
can be seen as hierarchical structures. The greater the sharing of experience and infor-
mation, the higher the respective node is in the model. In addition, the higher the node,
the more one can expect that the information can serve to provide motivations, to have
directive force for behavior.
Keyword analysis provides the nodes for the diagrammatic construction of cultural
models (Blount 2002). The resultant model structure can be seen as an outline or struc-
ture of the way that the world is conceptualized, in relation to the topics represented by
the keywords. Discourse texts are analyzed for topic focus and organization, leading to
identiﬁcation of keywords. An illustration is provided with a brief section of one of the
interviews, with an individual named Captain J. and on the topic of changes in ﬁshing.
“Inv” refers to the investigator, and “CpJ” refers to Captain J.
Inv: Why do you think that all of those changes occurred?
CpJ: Well, I don’t know, don’t really know.
Inv: But there are not as many ﬁshermen now?
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CpJ: No, nothing like as many as what used to be. Life on the water was all we had then. Only way
to make a living.
CpJ: Lot of oysters then. Now not enough oysters to make a living.
You have to leave here, live in the city to make a living now.
Inv: Yes, I guess that’s true.
CpJ: Was hard work, but you could make a living. That way of life is gone.
Inv: So young people can’t make a living ﬁshing now?
CpJ: No, they go live in the city, Savannah or Brunswick. Or deal drugs.
Analysis of the African American discourse tapes led to the identiﬁcation of 14 prob-
able keywords. These are shown in Table 2 below. The number in the second column
refers to the number of the respondents who used the keyword in nodal-fashion, not the
total number of times that it was used collectively or by an individual.
The list of terms can be seen as an interview “free list,” indicating scalar salience. The
greater the number of individuals who used the term, the more important the keyword
was and the higher in the cultural model it was. From these keywords and their use in the
discourse, three cultural models can be constructed. One model is life on the water as a
way of making a living by paying bills. This model is given below as Figure 2. In this dia-
grammatic representation, life on the water involves making a living, which is truncated
and simpliﬁed as pay bills. To pay bills, one must have a steady income, which in ﬁshing
involves hard work.
The second model is also life on the water, but here the focus is on the risks involved,
on taking a chance at making a living. In this model the ability to live on the water
napa Bulletin 28/ African American Fishermen 117
TABLE 2 African American Keywords for Fishery Cultural Models
KEYWORDS—NODAL TOPICS NUMBER OF RESPONDENTS
Life on the water 8
Make a living 8
Pay bills 7
Taking a chance 7
Steady income 6
Way of life 5
Young people 5
Hard work 5
Not enough ﬁsh 5
Getting started 4
Living in town 4
No money left 4
No future 4
Deal drugs 4
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involves critically the availability of ﬁsh. If there are not enough ﬁsh, then there is no
money left and thus there is no future. This model is given in Figure 3.
The third model concerns young people in relation to life on the water. Because making
a living is necessary, young people must have sufﬁcient ﬁnancial means for getting started,
which is a major obstacle to entering the shrimp ﬁshery. Getting started for most young
people is prohibitively expensive, since they have to invest in a boat and gear, meaning
that there is no money left and, thus, no future. Because that option is not promising, the
choices are either to move to the city, live in town, or sell drugs. Living in town is a short-
hand way of saying that in urban areas the possibility of work is much greater, enabling
one to make a living. If young people choose to stay in the rural areas where shrimp and
blue crab are caught, there are few options open to them to make a living, and some of
them do, in fact, turn to selling drugs as a way to have an income. The diagrammatic rep-
resentation of the cultural model is given in Figure 4.
118 napa Bulletin 28/ African American Fishermen
Way of Life
Life on the Water
Make a Living
Steady Income Hard Wor
Figure 2. Cultural Model of Life on the Water–Steady Income.
Way of Life
Life on the Water
Make a Living
Taking a Chance
Not Enough Fish
No Money Left
Figure 3. Cultural Model of Life on the Water–Taking a Chance.
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The three models can be constructed into a larger hierarchical composite model, as
shown in Figure 5. The two major facets of making a living through life on the water, that
is, taking a chance and steady income, can be seen as coordinate to each other. Making a
living requires, of course, a steady income, but in ﬁshing there are always risks, taking a
chance. Each has its respective submodels, to be activated depending on the nature of the
discourse and the extent to which sharing of perspective can be expected. The submodel
of young people can be embedded in the larger model in terms of making a living. Young
adults are eventually faced with having a way to support themselves, and, historically, the
way that African American youth did that was to enter a ﬁshery. As the model shows,
they really do not have that option now. They are faced with moving to a city to seek
employment or else engage in the illegal selling of drugs.
napa Bulletin 28/ African American Fishermen 119
Way of Life
Life on the Water
Taking a Chance
Not Enough Fish Young People
No Money Left Getting Started
No Future Living In Town Dealing Drugs
Way of Life
Life on the Water
Make a Living
Taking a Chance Steady Income Hard Wor
Not Enough Fish Young People Pay Bills
No Money Left Getting Started
No Future Living In Town Dealing Drugs
Figure 4. Cultural Model of Young People–Make a Living.
Figure 5. Collective Cultural Model of Life on the Water.
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SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The cultural pattern of making a living through ﬁrst artisanal and then commercial ﬁsh-
ing appears to be near the end for African Americans on the coast of Georgia. They pre-
dominated in each of the three historic ﬁsheries, oyster, shrimp, and blue crab, but they
were pushed to the periphery in each of those cases because of migration to the area of
individuals who had the capital to afford recent technological advances. Still, a few ﬁsh-
ers managed to continue in the ﬁsheries, but by the end of the 20th century, the future
prospects for life on the water appeared dim. In 1999, African Americans held only 12 of
159 licenses in the blue crab ﬁshery, and seven of them were over the age of 70. All but
one of the crabbers was either in the same family or was related to each other through
marriage. Once those individuals retire, African Americans will no longer be in the crab
ﬁshery. One of those individuals still harvests cluster oysters and sells them to a few cus-
tomers through his backyard ﬁsh house.
In the shrimp ﬁshery, only 5 of approximately 400 boats in 1999 were owned and
operated by African Americans, and one of those boats has since burned and sank. While
a number of African Americans work as strikers on shrimp boats, the work is part-time
and seasonal, and only local men who have no other options work in that capacity. The
number is dwindling. Shrimping on the Georgia coast is in serious difﬁculty at the pres-
ent because of the volume and low cost of imported shrimp, and the future of the ﬁsh-
ery is in doubt. A few African Americans appear to have made it to the end of the ﬁshery,
despite the marginalization, but life of the water, a way of life that spanned almost
200 years, is clearly coming to an end.
It is well worth noting that it is not only the African American ﬁshermen that have
and are suffering a loss of livelihood, a way of life. The entire conﬁguration of small-
scale domestic, commercial ﬁshing in the U.S. South (and elsewhere) is being severely
curtailed and, in some instances, extinguished because of a variety of events: state and
federal ﬁshery regulations, land development schemes, tourism and gentriﬁcation, envi-
ronmental factors, and the substitution of locally caught, wild seafood by less expensive
foreign- and domestic-farmed and wild-harvested seafood. What is sorely missing from
this occurrence is the awareness by local government management agencies (responsible
for both terrestrial and marine management) of the cultural and social histories and cur-
rent realities of small scale commercial ﬁshing. There is little if any attention paid to
understanding what factors may be causing environmental injustice in coastal ﬁshing
communities. In particular, federal ﬁshery management agencies have reduced the input
and analysis of social scientists even though such analysis is required by law and many
social scientists have given their time freely attempting to improve the management
process and outcomes. As such, this paper serves to ﬁll one more gap in the social science
literature on ﬁshing, also providing an account that incorporates history perspective.
Historical accounts of ﬁshing cultures in the Mid- and South Atlantic coasts add sub-
stantially to our knowledge of the place and importance of small-scale ﬁsheries, as shown
vividly in recent work by David Grifﬁth (1999), Ben Blount et al. (2000), and D. Robert
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Historical reconstruction of cultural landscapes provided information for this
account of African American ﬁshing on the Georgia coast for the past 150–200 years.
Keyword analysis and the consequent construction of cultural models allow for a more
detailed representation of current knowledge about life on the water in terms of the
central concepts and of their relationship to one another. Cultural models can represent
local knowledge and perspectives, initially in abstract and diagrammatical terms but
also as a framework for “ﬁling in” historical ethnographic and ecological detail (see
Garcia-Quijano 2006, for a recent example on Puerto Rican ﬁsheries). It is perhaps
ironic that only as the long historical period of a ﬁshing culture comes to an end that a
more detailed cultural account has been provided. At least, however, African American
ﬁshers can themselves contribute to the ﬁnal chapter of their history of participation in
Acknowledgments. This research was supported through a National Sea Grant award, no. USDA RF
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