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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

04 March 2013

Friday Harbor, The Shrimp Fisheries Headquarters.

Text from the San Juan Islander newspaper,
Front page, 16 Nov. 1907.

County seat and port of Friday Harbor, WA.
Photographer unknown. Possible date 1907-1912.
Cropped photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

Shrimp boats OCTOO, ORLOU, VIOLET, off watch.
OCTOO & ORLOU were built at the Reed's on Decatur Island
 for the below mentioned Seattle Oyster Co.
  Capt. Louis Van Bogaert of Orcas Island
started his long, salty, career on a shrimper VIOLA.
Photograph courtesy of J. R. Paterson©
"The fact that Friday Harbor is now the headquarters of the shrimp fleet of the Harris Oyster Co, the pioneers in this unique branch of marine industry, makes the following article of special interest here:

      'A unique seafaring life on Puget Sound is that of the shrimper. In his search for crustaceans that live only in deep water, the shrimper meets many adventures. He is educated to his business, studying the habits of shrimps, increasing his knowledge of the reefs where they are found--and in spite of the vicissitudes of the industries, manages to give the market a regular supply.
      It was only by accident that shrimps were found in the Sound. For many years the inhabitants along the shores never saw one until a fisherman brought some to light in his net. This was near Olympia, and Captain Haines, of the Haines Oyster Co who is the pioneer in the business, set to work and obtained 25-lbs of the pink sea food. They were taken to Seattle, but more than half of them were thrown away, as there was no demand for them.
      That was 14-years ago, and now 1,200-lbs a day scarcely supplies the Seattle market alone, not counting the shrimps that are sent to other states. For some time after the discovery near Olympia shrimps were found in the waters of the lower Sound, until they entirely disappeared. They eluded the search of the fishermen. Month after month went by, and men were prospecting for them everywhere, with no results. No one could guess where they had betaken themselves in the depths of the Sound. Much of the failure to find them was due to the lack of knowledge concerning their habits, and the poor facilities for catching them.
      The work was carried on in a 3-ton boat, with a rope and windlass. Now a tug is employed with a steam windlass, and a crew of three, captain, engineer, and assistant. The shrimper has come to be a man of much knowledge in the matter of navigation as well as fishermen's lore.
      In obtaining the shrimps the men attach a cable to the windlass. The cable runs down to the set that is on an iron frame. The net is towed along the bottom, often being torn to pieces by contact with the rocks. When the net yields its burden of shrimps they are hoisted on board and cooked. Like other abysmal forms of marine life, when brought to the surface of the water, they immediately expire on account of the pressure. They are of a brownish yellow color when lifted out of the water. In the steaming process they change to a salmon pink. When the industry was in its infancy, dyes were used to make the shrimp a bright pink, and therefore more attractive for the market, but the strict food laws of the states to which the shrimps are exported, put an end to this practice. 
      When the shrimps were found after their long disappearance, they were discovered in large quantities on Hood Canal, near Union City. 
Union, WA. 
Undated. From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

Since 1877, the inhabitants of this town had never seen a shrimp in their waters. Since the discovery by the shrimpers more than 100-tons have been taken out within sight of Union City. The most abundant supply of shrimps at present come from the San Juan Islands. Captain Haines and his son are the leading shrimpers of the Sound, and have two steamers, the ALTA and ZEBEITKA, the latter called after the captain's daughter. The work is carried on whether it is bright or stormy, at early morning or late at night--whenever it is convenient for the little creatures of the deep sea to be allured from their hiding places. The Seattle Fish and Oyster Co. and the Morgan Fish Co, both of Seattle, employ boats in the business.
      The discovery of a new shrimp bed is something like finding a gold mine, and yet very much unlike also, for the right of the discoverer of shrimps is not recognized. Others can jump his claim and he cannot complain. A shrimper may be the first to find shrimp in a new locality, but is powerless when it comes to poachers. In this way a bed is often over-fished, more shrimp is taken out than can be used at one time, and large numbers must be thrown overboard. A law that would give the shrimper a right to his own bed would mean more protection to the shrimp."

Below text from the San Juan Islander newspaper, Friday Harbor, WA. Dec. 1907.

"Capt. Backman who lately came home for the winter, is now master of the shrimp boat ZEBEITKA. He says it is quite a change from a sailing vessel of 1,000-tons to a little steamer of seven tons."

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