Competition and Compromise on the Monterey Coast

The competition for Monterey’s precious coastline, whether for its beauty or its abundant resources, served as the centerpiece of “Shaping the Shoreline”. This area of the country exhibited a unique relationship, however, in that both industries were able to find their footing and succeed while co-existing. The social and environmental implications of these two industries co-existing were at times serious, and caused complications for both trades. There was a distinct race divide that became emphasized as white tourists enjoyed the beauties of Monterey. The fishermen tended to be of color, or “less-esteemed” races, like the Italians. As fishing and tourism expanded, both industries began to sabotage the natural environment of the surrounding area and were forced to eventually correct their mistakes.

Fishing, the centerpiece of Monterey’s early economy, is unique in comparison to other hard labor industries that existed elsewhere in America at the turn of the century. While mining or manufacturing would be considered to be an “extractive” industry, taking away from the natural resources that would make tourists flock to one area or another, fishing had relatively little impact on the natural beauty of Monterey outside of the large fisheries that would eventually be erected. Entrepreneurs recognized that the fishing industry hadn’t hurt Monterey’s tourist appeal beyond repair and began to attract white tourists to the area for its beautiful weather and relaxed environment. This couldn’t have happened in Detroit or Cleveland, where industry had become rooted and any natural beauties the areas could offer had become pockmarked with mines and large factories.

The social implications of the competing industries were also very plain to see. The standard workforce in the fisheries was comprised of Asians, Hispanics, and Italians. While Italians had the advantage of skin color, at the turn of the century, they were still perceived as being a “lower” class of people. When the tourist industry blossomed and new developments designed as white upper-class vacation dwellings began to show up around Monterey, the divide was clear. One clear example of this deep race divide occurred during the end of construction of Point Alones village, when business and city officials forced the relocation of the Chinatown that had been set up by fishermen. It became abundantly clear to the members of the fishing community that while they may have had a significant role in contributing to Monterey, they were no more respected in their region than they would be anywhere else in the nation.

“Shaping the Shoreline” took very specific note of the environmental impact of these two industries on Monterey’s environment. The impact of fishing on the environment was clear, great amounts of fish were pulled from the ocean by almost anyone who was willing to throw a net out. As canneries popped up and Monterey’s industry became a national interest, many environmentalists grew concerned as sardine and other returns on fish decreased. The tourist industry was having a significant impact on the environmental health of the coast as well. Though the Monterey coast was beautiful by all standards, developers looking to create an even more idealized nature had begun to manipulate the area to the point of seriously endangering the indigenous species in the area. For example, as Pebble Beach was being designed, contractors did not like certain species of trees and they aimed to remove certain unwanted sights from the vision of those who stayed in the vacation area. This naturally created unwanted environmental pressures on the area, and they, too, were forced to comply with certain regulations. The two industries’ environmental impacts collided in the form of a wretched stink that surfaced from the canneries. The fishing and tourist industries of the area were forced to come together and solve this problem through the form of more regulation.

The emphasis on tourism and fishing on the Monterey coast has ebbed and flowed over the last century, though after the WWII boom of the sardine industry and the significant bust of the same industry in the mid- to late-sixties resulted in a coming together of the two to find a happy medium on the Monterey coast. The two industries have now found a way to coexist, and the tourist industry even touts its fishing roots as being a source of pride. No better an example of this coming together between the two communities exists than the Monterey Aquarium, a renowned exhibit that calls a retired cannery factory its home.

The Monterey coast presents a unique observation of tourism versus other industries. Despite years of ups and downs, comprises and divides between fishing and tourism, the two have now come to coexist and create a magnificent destination for tourists from around the world.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.