The Mortal Sea

A detail from cover of

A detail from cover of "The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail" by W. Jeffrey Bolster, published by Harvard University Press.

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We are all well aware by now of how the seas have become fished out. But, astonishingly, reports of overfishing go back to the Middle Ages. Historian and mariner W. Jeffrey Bolster takes us on a centuries old tour of a very modern problem.


Often when the sea is referred to in literature, mythology or just conversation, it's as if the sea is considered part of some great continuum of nature.

In the words of the English Poet William Wordsworth:

Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither.

According to W. Jeffrey Bolster, this lovely image, full of poetry, with an almost transcendental yearning, must be amended.

Jeffrey Bolster is a master mariner who for a decade worked fishing boats and sailboats. He's also an historian, who teaches at the University of New Hampshire. His book, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail won the prestigious 2013 Bancroft Prize in History. It's published by Harvard University Press.

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