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Anchor – a heavy object attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom

Barometer—an instrument that measures change in air pressure; generally, a rising barometer (increasing pressure) means clearing weather and a falling barometer means clouds and rain

Bibs – rubberized overalls typically worn by fishermen working on deck in foul weather

Birds – steel rods used to stabilize a scallop vessel.

Blackback flounder (seafood auction abbreviation is “BB”)—One of the most common flounder species caught along America’s North Atlantic coast; a right-eyed fish; most are under 14” but can reach 25”; also known as “winter flounder” and “lemon sole”; see also yellowtail flounder

Block and Tackle – a mechanism consisting of ropes and one or more pulley-blocks, used for lifting or pulling heavy objects

Bollard – a short, thick post on the deck of a vessel or on a dock, to which a vessel’s rope may be secured

Bottom-feeding fish – bottom-dwelling fish such as flounder, cod, and haddock; also called flatfish

Bow – front of the boat; see also port, starboard, stern

Buoy – an anchored float serving as a navigation mark, to show reefs or other hazards, or for mooring

Captain – person in charge of the fishing vessel at sea (not always the owner); also called skipper

Catch – the fish that the fishing vessel brings back to sell

Cod – Atlantic Cod, one of the most widely known food fish, also sold under common names of “rock cod,” “codling,” and “scrod cod;” distinctive “barbell” hanging from chin

Codling – see cod

Cookies – chaffing gear for a scallop dredge typically made from recycled rubber tires

Devil’s thumbprint – black mark on haddock skin that lets you tell it apart from cod

Display auction – seafood auction where catch is on display in coolers for inspection by buyers/their representatives

Dory – a flat-bottomed rowboat with high, flaring sides, used chiefly in commercial fishing

Dragger – fishing vessel that drags trawls (nets) for scooping up bottom-dwelling flatfish such as flounder, cod, and haddock

Dredge – steel frame with attached net used on a scalloper to harvest sea scallops

Eastern rig – fishing vessel with trawls that stick out on either side on booms; increasingly rare; see also Western rig

EPIRB – Emergency Position Indicating Radion Beacon, is a distress beacon used by mariners worldwide to alert Search and Rescue (SAR) forces that they are in distress

Fishing vessel – term generally used for a commercial fishing boat; abbreviated F/V

Flatfish – bottom-feeding fish

Fleet – group of ships at the same port

Flounder – type of flatfish with eyes on one side of the head; see blackback flounder and yellowtail flounder

F/V – abbreviation for fishing vessel

Foc’sle – The section of the upper deck of a vessel located at the bow forward of the foremast where the crew sleeps

Galley – a boat’s cooking and eating area

Georges Bank – abundant fishing grounds about 175 miles northeast of Cape Cod

Gill net – flat net suspended vertically in the water with meshes that allow the head of a fish to pass through but entangle it when it tries to get back out

GPS – (Global Positioning System), a radio navigation system that allows land, sea, and airborne users to determine their exact location, velocity, and time 24 hours a day, in all weather conditions, anywhere in the world

Grub – slang for food on a fishing vessel

Haddock – fish similar to cod, but smaller and with a more delicate flavor; often sold with the skin, to tell it apart from cod by its black mark called the devil’s thumbprint

Hawser – a thick rope or cable for mooring or towing a vessel

Highliner – boat captain with a reputation for bringing back a quality catch

Lemon sole – see blackback flounder

Long Line – a heavy and very long fishing line with a large number of baited hooks, used in deep-sea commercial fishing

Loran – a system of long-distance navigation in which position is determined from the intervals between signal pulses received from widely spaced radio transmitters

Lumpers – workers who unload the catch from a fishing vessel

Magnuson Act – 1970s law that created a 200-mile zone from U.S. shores closed to foreign fishing vessels; actual name was the Fishery Management and Conservation Act; see also Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA)

Marlinspike – a pointed, cylindrical tool used to separate strands of rope for splicing as well as for prying and hauling smaller line tight

Mast – long pole on a ship supporting the ropes and other parts

Mate – person on the fishing vessel next in rank after the captain

Midwater Trawl – net fishing, at a depth that is higher in the water column than the bottom of the ocean

Monkfish – fish whose muscular tails and livers are eaten, used to have little commercial value

Offload – take the catch off the fishing vessel, done by lumpers

Oilers – oilskin garments (today made from rubber) used to keep fishermen dry and warm

Packet ship – ship carrying people and cargo between places, as with Schooner Ernestina during the 1950s and 1960s between Cape Verde and U.S.

Pelagic – of, relating to, or living or occurring in the open sea

PFD – personal flotation device

Pick the pile – putting sea scallops into baskets, then into shucking boxes on boat’s sides

Pilothouse – another name for wheelhouse, an enclosed structure on the deck of a vessel from which it can be navigated

Port – a harbor town or city where ships take on or unload cargo; b: the left side of a boat, looking forward; see also bow, starboard, stern

Right-eyed – flatfish with both eyes on the right side; see also flounder, left-eyed

Rusty dabsee yellowtail flounder

Rock codsee cod Sandy dab – see yellowtail flounder

Scallop Bag – a muslin bag that is specially made to store scallops in the fish hold after they have been shucked

Scalloper – fishing vessel for catching scallops by dragging steel dredges along the sandy ocean floor

Schooner – sailing ship, typically with two masts

Scrod codsee cod

Sea scallop – shellfish with a smooth shell, usually about 4 to 6 inches across; rings on the shell mark each year of age; most are caught in about 150 to 250 feet of water

Seafaring – use of the sea to travel or to transport items

Seafood auction – auction for selling the daily catch in a central place; see also display auction

Shellfish – a fish with a shell, especially a type of fish that can be eaten

Ship to Shore – a radiotelephone connecting a fishing vessel to land in use before cell phones

Shucking – removing the edible part of a sea scallop

Skipper – boat captain

Species – a classification of animals with common characteristics

Splicing – joining one piece of rope to another permanently (unlike knots)

Starboard – the right side of a boat, looking forward; see also bow, port, stern

Stern – back of the boat; see also bow, port, starboard

Subsistence – growing or making most of what you need to live

Surge – a large wave or series of waves, causing a rise in water level

Survival Suit – An immersion suit, or survival suit (or more specifically an immersion survival suit) is a special type of waterproof dry suit that protects the wearer from hypothermia from immersion in cold water, after abandoning a sinking or capsized vessel, especially in the open ocean

Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) – 1996 law that replaced the Magnuson Act; designed to build up stocks of fish through limits on fishing; actual mane is the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

Tote – a plastic bin used to hold filleted fish

Trash – unmarketable fish and also actual trash hauled up in fishing nets Trawl – net on a fishing vessel

Turnbuckle – a coupling with female screw threads used to connect two rods, lengths of boat rigging, etc., lengthwise and to regulate their length or tension

Western rig – fishing vessel with net at the stern, allowing for dragging bigger nets; see also Eastern rig

Wharf – structure built along shore, or at an angle from it, for ships to pull up and take on or unload passengers and cargo; see also wharfinger

Wharfinger – operator or manager of a commercial wharf

Wheelhouse – another name for pilothouse, an enclosed structure on the deck of a vessel from which it can be navigated

Winch – a hauling or lifting device consisting of a rope, cable, or chain winding around a horizontal rotating drum, turned by a crank or by motor or other power source; a windlass

Winter flounder – see blackback flounder Yellowtail flounder (auction abbreviation is “YT”) – type of flounder also known as “rusty dab” or “sandy dab;” a white, boneless mild meat when cooked; used to be tossed overboard if caught; see also blackback flounder



38 Bethel Street
New Bedford, MA 02740

Located in New Bedford, the nation’s most valuable fishing port, New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of the fishing industry past, present, and future through exhibits, programs, and archives.

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