This historically significant group of silver gelatin photographs offers a rare glimpse of foreign factory ships working in U.S. waters. In 1975, Congress passed the Magnuson Act, defining a boundary (3 miles from our coastlines to 200 miles out to sea) as U.S. waters. Many other countries had already done this or were following suit around this time.

Until then, there were no regulations in place to protect our domestic fishery from dwindling stocks resulting, in part, from the massive harvests taken from very efficient foreign factory trawlers.

Now, with the Magnuson Act in place, foreigners would have to apply for permits and pay for the privilege of fishing in our territory. In order to maintain our stocks, they were only allowed to take species underutilized in the U.S. (mackerel, squid) and were limited to yearly quotas. In addition, each and every vessel had to have an American observer on board during fishing operations to witness, document catches, and collect biological data.

From 1985 – 1990 Dean Kotula, employed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, worked aboard these factory ships as an observer, taking full advantage of an extraordinary experience by putting his camera to work. The images on exhibit represent a portion of an extensive portfolio.