Monterey Bay: The Rise, Fall and Revival of Two Industries

In Connie Chiang’s book, Shaping The Shoreline, Chang examines struggle between the fishing and the tourism industry along the Pacific Coast of California.  The tourism and fishing industries were both attempting to thrive at a time when the success of both industries led to the downfall of each industry. Chiang, through the novel, attempts to examine the importance of place and each industries conflicting vision about the future of the Monterey coast.   To quote a passage from Chiang, each industry “had a very different idea about what in nature had material value, how it should be developed, and who should have the power to do so”.  This quote is the center of the conflict between the two industries, which was the debate over how the abundance of resources on the coast would be used and who had the right to use them.

The Monterey Coast was seen in its early days as a prime fishing village. Needless to say, upon getting close to the area, one could smell the stench of fish upon arrival.  The fishing industry thrived in the early days due to the beautiful, clean habitat that was excellent for produce marine life. However as the popularity of the area increased so did the tourism industries desire to produce profits.  Houses and hotels were being built along the coast at a rapid rate.  As the tourist industry flourished along with the fishing industry, the increasing number of visitors to the area began polluting the environment. The garbage produced by the tourists polluted the once clean waters and began killing the marine life and driving it away from their habitats along the coast.  The overfishing by fisherman dried out the already dying waters.  There were a few different cultures of fisherman who fished the area, with the Chinese being the earliest population.  The people who lived in the Monterey Coast began to place the blame on the Chinese fisherman for depleting the natural habitat of the area. The Italian and Portuguese fishers began forcing out the Chinese, racially discriminating against them publicly calling them dirty and inferior.  The politics of the Monterey Coast were no different than the racial tensions that existed in America.

Eventually by the 1940’s both the fishing industry and the tourism industry were in trouble. The fishing industry was not regulated for years and the result was overfishing and overconsumption drying out the waters.  The tourism industry was in trouble because it was taking heat for ruining the environment of the area.  Mother Nature was also not so kind to either area, with extreme weather fluctuations and natural disasters one could say that nature may have been the dominant force in the area as opposed to the tourism and fishing industries. Both industries needed to realize that both could not be in control and something had to be done.

Some might say that the Monterey Bay Aquarium, established in 1984, could be considered the tie in between these two industries. Built on top of an old Cannery, the aquarium is an extremely popular tourist attraction of the area. The Aquarium displays all different sorts of marine life as well as promotes the health of our oceans. It is a place to learn about the history of the Monterey coast and the effects of overfishing, overpopulation and keeping our waters clean and healthy.

Chiang’s novel provides us with an excellent example of the debate between how to develop an area without destroying it at the same time.  The struggles between the fishing and tourist industry all but destroyed the area. However today, The Monterey Bay is still a highly popular tourist destination and the Aquarium provides a preservation of the history and life that make up the area.

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