Oral Histories Shed Light on Georgia’s Family Fishing Culture

The Takeaway: Interviews of family fishermen, a project supported by the Georgia Coastal Management Program, hold important lessons for today’s policy makers and resource managers.

Georgia’s 11 coastal counties have an economic stake in commercial family fishing culture, a traditional industry struggling against global competition and the loss of working waterfronts to development, among other pressures. An oral history project exploring the legacy and lessons of this culture reached audiences through numerous community events and will be on permanent display in Brunswick at the joint facility for Georgia Sea Grant and the Marine Extension program. The project was made possible by a state grant through the Georgia Coastal Management Program.

The audios, “Fishing Traditions and Fishing Futures in Georgia,” are available from NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries oral history repository. A presentation also is online.

Commercial family fishing veterans have seen workplace injuries, even death from drownings and lightning strikes—yet they relish their ties to the ocean. “They describe areas of the sea where key events happened in their own lives,” says Jennifer Sweeney Tookes, assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University. “The interviews that we heard really illustrate how the ocean is intimately tied to their own sense of culture and heritage and community history.”

Anthropology grad students from Georgia Southern University joined with Georgia Sea Grant and the Marine Extension program to interview and photograph the fishermen and participate in their working lives on the water. Georgia Sea Grant also hosted the students and promoted the project. (2019)

Partners: Georgia Coastal Management Program, Georgia Sea Grant, and Georgia Southern University