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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: A hundred and twenty five years ago the French and Prussians went to war, and thanks to them and fish tycoon Julius Wolf, Americans learned to love sardines. The war cut off the supply of French sardines, so Mr. Wolf built a cannery in Eastport, Maine, to package those small, silvery fish that belong to the herring family. Commercial fishing towns sprang up along coastal Maine and even spread to California, where John Steinbeck immortalized them in his classic Cannery Row. At its peak in 1950, Maine alone boasted 75 canneries and produced more than three million tins of sardines packed in oil with those neat little keys on the bottom. But with no catch limits, the hunger for sardines soon emptied the bays. Today only five Maine canneries remain. In recent years, though, the fish have begun to recover. That's thanks in part to a 1997 federal law which prohibits large-scale sardine fishing until there are studies that show it would be sustainable. This is one industry that's learned the hard way, there aren't always more fish in the sea. And for this week that's the Living on Earth almanac.

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