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The Icelandic fisheries in the pre mechanization Era C 1800 1905 Spatial and economic implications of growth

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To cite this article: SigfÚs Jónsson (1983) The Icelandic fisheries in the pre-mechanization Era, C. 1800–1905: Spatial and economic implications of growth, Scandinavian Economic History Review, 31:2, 132-150,
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=sehr20 Scandinavian Economic History Review ISSN: 0358-5522 (Print) 1750-2837 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/sehr20 The Icelandic fisheries in the pre-mechanizationEra, C. 1800–1905: Spatial and economicimplications of growth SigfÚs JÓnsson To cite this article:  SigfÚs JÓnsson (1983) The Icelandic fisheries in the pre-mechanization Era,C. 1800–1905: Spatial and economic implications of growth, Scandinavian Economic HistoryReview, 31:2, 132-150, DOI: 10.1080/03585522.1983.10408006 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/03585522.1983.10408006 Published online: 20 Dec 2011.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 4View related articles  TheIcelandicFisheriesinthePre-Mechanization Era, C.1800-1905: Spatial and EconomicImplications of Growth bySIGFUS JONSSON I.Introduction The seaareassurroundingIcelandare among themostprolificfishinggrounds of theworld. For manycenturiesthefishstocksinIcelandicwaterswereaninternationallyopenaccessresource,exploitedbyfleetsfromvariouscountries,whilethedomesticfisheryremainedinadefectivestate.Thissituationbegantochangewiththeexpansion Of Icelandicsailingsmacksduringthelatenineteenthcenturywhichprovidedanintermediatestagebetweenthetraditional and moderntechnology. The mechanization of thefisheriesgotunderway about 1905,althoughafewengineshadbeeninstalledintosmallfishingboatsbeforethen.Thispaperwillexaminevariousaspects of thehistoricaldevelopment of thefisheriesduringthelaststages of thepre-mechanizationera,c.1800-1905, and howthegrowth of thefisheriesimpingeddifferently upon differentsections of thecoast. After a brief review of thefragmentedsourcesdealingwiththisperiod,regionalvariationsintheexpansion of thesmackfleetwillbeexamined.Thesubsequentsections of thepaperdiscussprocessingactivity,foreignfisheriesinIcelandicwaters and governmentpolicy.Thefinal part of the paper willexaminethe major changes thattook placeinthesettlementpattern and inforeigntradeduringthepremechanizationera,aswellasattemptingtoidentifythe major spatialpatterns of fisheries and employment around 1905. II. Sources Fisherieshavebeenrecordedcontinuouslyinofficialstatisticssince1897.Before that fragmentedfisheries data from about 1850 are available , That particularset data is of uncertainqualityandpartialinscope,especiallyasmany of thenineteenth I. The fisherystatisticsareincludedinthefollowingstatisticalpublications: SkyrslurumlandshagiaIslandi /849-72, Stjornartidindi,c. /878-98 andLandshagsskyrslurfyrirIsland,/899-/9/2.  THE ICELANDICFISHERIES133 centuryeconomicactivities took placeinsettlements of asubsistence natureand didnotthereforereachtherecordbooks. Themajor characteristicsoftheinitialgrowthperiod of commercialfisheriesinthenineteenthcenturycanonlybetracedbyfusingtogethervariousfragmentedreferences.G.Schevingwroteaninformativeessayon the contemporaryexperience of saltfishprocessing and thesmacksingeneral-. Th. Bjarnasonprovidesageneralinformativereview of the contemporary trendsincod and herringfisheries. A.Thorsteinssonisfamousforhiswideknowledge of theherringfisheries and hissuggestionsforintroducingforeignmethodstoimprovetheindustry. O.DavidssonreviewsforeignoperationsinIcelandicwaters,suggesting that thenativesshouldfollowsuit and calculating the probableincomeaccruingfromsuchoperations.>B.Saemundsson,thefirstIcelandicichthyologist,isoutstandingforhisgeneralreview of contemporaryissueswithinthefisheries,recommendationsforimprovedfisheries and aconvincingargumentforincreasedgovernmentassistancetofisheries. 6 Among thesparsehistoricalliterature of thepresentcentury,G. Gudmundsson isnoticeableforhisvoluminous but descriptiveaccount of thefishingfleetduringthelatter half of thenineteenthcentury. 7 Other references of someimportanceincludeavery shortand descriptivereview of the fishing industry1874-1940 byL.Kristianssonf and thehistory of Iceland 1871-1903 byM.Jonsson ,Someinsightsarealsoprovidedbythreeratherundiscriminatingbooks(Intheherringfishery and itshistoryby Thordarson 10 andEydajIl. III.Growth of Fleet and Catches Atthe start of thenineteenthcenturyallfisheriesinIcelandwerecarried out fromopenrowing boats only.Duringthefirstdecade of thecenturyafewsuccessfuloperationsinvolvingdeckedsailingsmacksbegan.Thesegrewrapidlyinimportance 2.G.Scheving, 'Nokkrar hugleidingarurnthilskipaveidaraIslandi', Armann aAlthingi, IV,1832,83-106.3.Th.Bjarnason,'UrnfiskveidarIslendingaogutlendingavidIslandadfornuog nyju',  ndvari IX,1883,166-242.4.A.Thorsteinson,'Sildogsildveidar', Timarithinsislenskabokmenntafelags, IX,1883,1-82.5.O.Davidsson,'ThilskipaveidarvidIsland', Andvari, XII,1886,1-48.6.B.Saernundsson,'Faeinordurnfiskveidar vorar', Andvari, XX,1895,138-62.B.Saernundsson,'Fiskveidarutlendingahervidlandasidustu arum' , Andvari, XXI,1896,122-47.7.G.Gudrnundsson, Skutuoldin1-V, Reykjavik,1977.8. L. Kristjansson,'FiskveidarIslendinga1874-1940', Almanak hins islenskathjodvinafelags, VXX,1943,65-11.9.M.Jonsson, SagaIs/endinga IX /87/-/903, Reykjavik,1957.10.M.Thordarson, Havetsrigdomme,deresBetydningogUdnyttelse, Copenhagen,1927.1 I. A.Eydal, Sildveidarogsildaridnodur, Reykjavik,1941.A.Eydal, Silfurhafsins, Reykjavik.1948.  134 THE SCANDINAVIANECONOMICHISTORYREVIEW inthecourseofthenineteenthcentury.By1900thesmackscaughtaboutathirdofthetotalcatchesinIceland.Thesmacksweremainlyoperatedfromrapidlyemergingfishingvillageswhichprovidedshelteredanchorageswhiletherowingboatsrepresentedthetraditionaldecliningelement of thefishery-thepart-timeoccupation of coastalfarmersandcroftersinsmallfishingvillages.Thegradualtransferfromrowingboatstosmacksthuscentralizedthefishingoperationandgraduallyshiftedtheorganizationfromfarmerstomerchantsandfull-timefishermen.Thesmackswereamajoradvanceonrowingboatsastheycouldfishfurtheroutfromthecoastandhadmuchgreaterrangeandmobility.Theycouldthusmovefrompoorfisherytogoodfisheryandfishinworseweatherconditions.Thismadeoperationpossibleforagreaterpart of theyear. It alsomadedistantwateroperationpossibleduringtheslackseasononhomegrounds,butnotinthedeepocean.Concomitantwiththegrowth of thenewvesselswerehugeincreasesincatches,whichchieflyenteredexportmarkets.Therefore,improvementsinpreservingthecatchashorewererequired,replacingthecapriciousandprimitivepreparation of stockfish,asexplainedbelow.Thefirstsignsofacontinuousanduninterruptedexpansionoflarge-scaleoperation of smacksappearstohavebeeninIsafjordur,theregionalcentre of Vestfirdir,duringthemiddle of thenineteenthcentury.Isafjordurgrewrapidlyat  THE ICELANDICFISHERIES 135 thattime,due to itsfunctioningasatradecentreandafishingbase.Thetownenjoyedacentrallocationintermsofseatransport,arelativelylargehinterlandoffarmers and fishermen-farmers,aswellasthevicinityofrichfishinggrounds.Asgeirsverslun,thedominatingfisheriesandmerchantfirminlsafjordur,establisheditsowntradelinksabroad,especiallywithCopenhagen.Theexportgoodswerechieflysaltedcod,butalsomeat and wool.Themainimportitemsweretimber,salt,lines,coal,textiles and variousfooditems.ThetradeorganizationwassimpleasmostexportsandimportswereatransittradeviawholesalingfirmsinCopenhagen. Many smallfishingcommunitiesemergedinthesurroundingfjordsduringthisperiod.TheirexpansionwasfurtherstimulatedbytradewithIsafjordur.ThetrucksystemexistedasmostinhabitantsintheregionbarteredwithAsgeirsverslun.Signsofthefirstintegratedregionaleconomycanthereforebediscernedinthenorthern part of Vestfirdir around themiddleofthenineteenthcentury.Figure2 .-\ ; J 8 . Ii .. / ~ B moe 0 r l I   \ , ~   I : ..-,/ r c ) ~ 011 I i  j-- -< J-s. ,.~\ I } s I vo,  ; ; 1  ---t; v I  \:; _r«~   ~ , .   -<01 J a H \j-; I l -   ~ i TheFishing Fleet by Regions  853 Sourt. Sl<yrslur umLQne,/ IQq,a  ,landJ. (ISS l. ~Ol 1 ~ . Ie   TheprominentpositionofVestfirdirincomparisonwithotherregionsisapparentattheverybeginningoffisherystatisticsin1853(fig.2).Atthattime,17outofthe25inthenationalDeetofsmacks,or68percent,werebasedinVestfirdir,whiletheregion'sshareinthenationalpopulationwasless than 20percent.Uptothe1850stheoperationofsmackswasdeveloped and perfectedinthestimulatingnaturalconditionsofVestfirdir,whilethesizeofthemajorityofthemstilldidnotexceed15grossregisteredtonnage(G.R.T.).
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