Gale of February 24, 1862

This week we received confirmation that New Bedford, Massachusetts, for the 19th consecutive year is the most valuable fishing port in the United States, based on the revenue of the catch landed at our docks. All of us here in New Bedford are very proud of this accomplishment.

I also noticed today when updating my calendar, that this week is the date of a terrible fishing tragedy that occurred on Georges Bank on the night of February 24, 1862. On this night, a gale descended onto the fishing grounds and pummeled the Gloucester fleet of approximately 70 schooners. These schooners were dory fishing, so they were all anchored up for the night. As the storm intensified, the vessels began to drag their anchors and crash into one another. The result was 15 schooners with a total of 120 Gloucester fishermen lost on this one night.

The fishermen of Gloucester paid a heavy price to open the Georges Bank fishery, an area that is primarily responsible for New Bedford’s current success. In the 1800s, Gloucester lost more than 3,000 men while dory fishing, while New Bedford was losing men pursuing whales in every ocean of the world. Both of these maritime Massachusetts cities know well the risk of putting to sea. During the Civil War years of 1861-1865, a young man from Gloucester was statistically safer if he joined the Union Army than if he became a Georges Bank fisherman.

As we celebrate our current success as America’s Most Valuable Fishing Port, we recognize the sacrifice and the efforts of all who paved the way to today; our New Bedford fishermen past and present, the men of Gloucester, the fishermen of the Canadian Maritimes, and the fishing fleets from Europe that opened the Grand Banks. It is all linked, it is all of our history and our legacy!

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