Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Fishing the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 1783-1933

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Fishing the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 1783-1933

Article excerpt

Fishing the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 1783-1933. By Margaret Beattie Bogue. (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2000. Pp. Xix, 444. Illus.., tables, notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, $65.00, paper, $27.95.)

The story of commercial fishing in the Great Lakes is woefully under-researched in American history. The Great Lakes area is a distinct and important region, nationally and internationally and commercial fishing has played an important role in its development. Margaret Beattie Bogue's Fishing in the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 17831933 helps the rest of us understand the impact of human activity on the environment and how that impact affected human economy, culture, and politics, as well as fish species, in the region. She examines the records of United States and Canadian fishing policies, fishing technology, and policy enforcement to create a highly technical story of incredible scope. Bogue's primary argument is that long before the invasion of the sea lamprey in the 1940s environmental degradation was well underway as a result of pollution, over-fishing, and poor public policies.

Through comprehensive research of primary and secondary source materials Bogue casts her own historical nets upon the sometimes murky waters of Great Lakes' fishery management. Tracing what she views as the origins of the ecological damage to the fishery, she notes that, "the problems that eventually came to threaten the fish population of the lakes originated in the wilderness period when Great Britain and the newly created United States divided the waters and the fishes in 1783." (331) The early decisions by Great Britain and the U.S. continued to influence all subsequent policy decisions and perpetuated myths about the abundance of fishes in the lakes. …

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