In the 1970’s the basking shark was a common shark in The North Sea. Fishermen were hunting the big shark in spring and summer. For many Norwegian fishermen this hunt was an important part of the income.
The basking shark was not used for food but this large shark had a lot of valuable liver. The oil extracted from the liver was highly priced as it was used in high-temperature-engines. In the 1970’s the fishermen also cut off the fins which was sold to Asia and used in shark-fin soup.
This fishery (or hunt) has now been banned for a couple of decades. The price of the liver (and oil) has dropped due to synthetic alternatives.
During the 1980’s it was clear that the basking shark was not as numerous as in the past. Overfishing, a drop in prices and the moral aspect about this catch led to a stop in this hunt. In Norwegian waters it is not allowed to hunt for basking shark, Greenland shark or porbeagle.
It is easy to judge what former generations did for a living and the hunt for basking shark may look cruel to most of those who see the film. Still the hunt for basking shark was one of many fisheries and the film shows a piece of cultural history. Here is another film from this fishery.
I keep publishing films and this one is rather special. Allthough the quality is «average» it is a very rare film as it is from 1952 and in colors. It is also a unique documenation of the first years of fishing bluefin tuna with purse seine in Norway.
The film shows an ordinary Norwegian fishing vessel using a tuna purse seine. Allthough it seems primitive, this was how it was done in the early 1950’s. The fishing vessel gets a large catch and the catch is more than the vessel and the crew can handle. The captain calls for help, and when the film starts we can see that another vessel (named «Ådrott») has arrived. With one vessel on each side of the purse seine the crew lift the tuna out of the purse seine.
When a bluefin tuna dies it sinks, and the weight of the dead fish in a large catch could make it impossible to lift the purse seine and the fish to the surface. The force of the heavy purse seine could also be a danger to the purse seiner and the crew. That is why we can see that a third vessel and two motor boats starts to tow the purse seiner and the catch while the vessel «Ådrott» still helps to stabilize the weight in the purse seine.
The heavy purse seine, the purse seiner and the vessel «Ådrott» are towed towards land, and when reaching shallow waters the purse seine with all the dead tuna is rested on the bottom. Then we can see how the fishermen are «fishing» for dead tuna in the purse seine. We can see several smaller boats helping out, and this film is recorded by a man in one of the motorboats that assisted the purse seiner.
1952 was the best year for bluefin tuna fishing in Norway. Catches of several hundred fish were not unusual. The tuna seen on the film have an average weight of 120 kilogram. Unfortunately the number of fish in this catch is not known. The catch was loaded on several vessels and landed on different locations. It is still likely to believe that there must have been more than 200 bluefin tuna in the catch.
The film shown below is recordet off the coast of Norway around 1970. Only adult bluefin tuna migrated to Norwegian waters in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The mean weight grew bigger year by year and in 1970 it was common to catch tuna weighing from 270 – 310 kilogram. A film of tuna fishing in 1967 shows slightly smaller fish (250 – 290 kilogram). The stock of bluefin tuna migrating northwards was fished down year by year till the last giant tuna was caught in 1986.
The giant tuna – bluefin tuna – once was a common fish along the Norwegian coast. Every summer large schools of bluefin tuna entered the coast. From 1950 this became an important fishery for Norwegian purse seiners. The film shown below shows a Norwegian fishing vessel named «Speranza» on the fishing grounds in 1967.
In 1986 the last school of bluefin tuna was surrounded by a Norwegian purse seine. Today the bluefin tuna is endangered – suffering from the pressure of commercial interests all over the world. Norway has a quota, but the Norwegian Department of Fishery has stated that Norway will not fish bluefin tuna until the stock is managed in a responsible way and in accordance with the advice and recommendations given by scientists.
Norway is familiar with overfishing, but the nation has learned by mistakes done in the past. Hopefully the bluefin tuna some day again will find its way northwards to the feeding areas along the Norwegian coast.