For the past few years I’ve been reading the Pacific Fishery History Project, environmental historian Carmel Finley’s blog. Finley’s dissertation and first book, All the Fish in the Sea, examined the influence of US strategic and economic interests on fisheries management in the early postwar years, and in particular on the international adoption of Maximum Sustained Yield (MSY) as the basis for fisheries regulation. (You can read a briefer version of her argument over at Solutions.) At her blog Finley is following-up on that story, covering – among other things – the arrival of Soviet fishing fleets in American waters and the Cold War politics that came with them.
Finley lays out the basic issues in a blog post that asks “So why were those Soviet boats fishing off Washington?”
The answer, it turns out, is:
that the U.S. State Department wanted them to. Or, more precisely, the Departments of State and Defense did not want to do anything to prevent Soviet boats from fishing off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Why? Because the cornerstone of American foreign policy after 1945 was open seas and open skies—for American military vessels, merchant marine vessels–and fishing boats.
Finley is continuing to post about the topic, including a series of reminiscences by marine biologist Bob Hitz about the arrival of the Soviets in 1965–66, the Second World War transfer of fishing vessels to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease, and related themes like the involvement of fisheries research vessel R/V John N. Cobb in the preparatory work for using atomic bombs to blow open a harbour on the Alaska coast.