This is the intriguing story of how the tiny herring became a vital part of a vast economy. Over the centuries, processing and distribution of products from land and sea has stimulated the growth of a global economy. In the broad sweep of world history, it may be hard to imagine a place for the meager little herring baitfish. Yet, as Brian Payne adeptly recounts, the baitfish trade was hotly contested in the Anglo-American world throughout the nineteenth century. Politicians called for wars, navies were dispatched with guns at the ready, vessels were seized at sea, and violence erupted at sea. Yet, the battle over baitfish was not simply a diplomatic or political affair. Fishermen from hundreds of villages along the coastline of Atlantic Canada and New England played essential roles in the construction of legal authority that granted or denied access to these profitable bait fisheries. "Fishing a Borderless Sea" illustrates how everyday laborers created a complex system of environmental stewardship that enabled them to control the local resources while also allowing them access into the larger global economy.
Brian J. Payne is an Assistant Professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he teaches courses in environmental and maritime history.