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IEHN Network Meeting - Peter Jones - 28 January 2016

IEHN Meetings

28th January, 2016, Trinity College Dublin

The 25th Public Lecture & Meeting of the Irish Environmental History Network featured a lecture by Dr. Peter Jones of the University of Strathclyde, entitled "The 'Pre-History' of Industrial Trawling, and its Impact on the Coastal Fisheries of the U.K. and Ireland".

Little has been written about the early history of beam trawling in British and Irish waters, beyond the fact that it was complained of as early as the 14th century in a petition to King Edward III. Yet there is evidence to suggest that it spread to particular localities from that period on, taking hold in particular in the Thames estuary and on the south coast of England. More importantly, as that 14th century petition demonstrates, medieval and early-modern evidence almost always framed beam trawling as a problem, a practice which was vehemently opposed by fishermen using ‘traditional’ gear, and one which (according to the anecdotal evidence, at least) had a rapid and overwhelmingly negative impact on coastal ecosystems, as well as on stocks of groundfish and other commercial species. By the later eighteenth-century, beam trawling was common in many locations around the English coastline, as well as on the eastern and southern coasts of Ireland, and was a cause for greater concern than ever. This paper is a first attempt to map the spread of beam trawling around the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland between ca.1550 and 1850, and to investigate both the reasons for that spread and the success (or otherwise) of local and national measures to block it.

Dr. Jones has spent most of the last 20 years as a social historian, teaching at a number of English universities and publishing widely on popular protest, poverty and the poor law in eighteenth- and nineteenth- century Britain. More recently, his research interest has shifted towards environmental history and marine historical ecology, and has focused on the impact of increased fishing activity on the coastal fisheries of Scotland in the nineteenth century (e.g., with A. Cathcart and D.C. Speirs, ‘Early evidence of the impact of preindustrial fishing on fish stocks from the mid-west and southeast coastal fisheries of Scotland in the 19th century’, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 2016). He is currently investigating the ‘pre-history’ of industrial trawling in U.K and Irish waters (ca.1550-1850), and its potential impact on inshore fisheries.

The meeting was Chaired by Dr. Frank Ludlow.

Last updated 13 September 2017 History (Email).