SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — The Southern California coast is no stranger to purse seine fishing. A handful of vessels practiced the fishing technique in local waters in the early 20th century. The practice still continues today at Ventura Harbor, among other places.
An entry in the Fish and Game Commission’s Fish Bulletin – published in 1925 – stated Southern California purse seine industry was on the verge of disappearing altogether shortly after World War I – partly due to declining demand in certain fish (such as bluefin tuna) and the disappearance of the war economy.
“[The] economic losses during the years of 1920, 1921 and 1922 were very heavy,” a portion of the digest stated. “At the present time only about a half a dozen of the purse seine boats of Southern California are independent. The rest are more or less heavily mortgaged to, or owned by, banks, canneries or other concerns.”
The digest entry specifically connected the purse seine industry’s early 1900s success to World War I.
“It may be just to say that the purse seine industry of Southern California became a victim of the economic crisis following the war “boom.” It grew and collapsed as a result of market conditions,” the digest entry stated. “If conditions do not improve in the near future, the short, meteor-like history of the purse seine industry of Southern California probably will be brought to a sudden end.”
The digest entry continued to say the purse seine industry could survive with the “development of superior and more economical types of boats and methods … [resulting] in the evolution of a new fleet upon the ruins of the old.”