The Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project is an ongoing oral history project documenting the history and culture of the commercial fishing industry and other port trades. The project was begun in 2004 in conjunction with the Working Waterfront Festival, an annual, education celebration of commercial fishing culture which takes place in New Bedford, MA. Interviewees have included a wide range of individuals connected to the commercial fishing industry and/or other aspects of the port through work or familial ties. While the majority of interviewees are from the port of New Bedford, the project has also documented numerous individuals from other ports around the country. Folklorist and Festival Director Laura Orleans and Community Scholar/Associate Director Kirsten Bendiksen are Project Leaders. The original recordings reside at the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Maryland with listening copies housed at the Festival's New Bedford office.
Mike Bruce is a fifty-year-old commercial fisherman based in New Bedford. He was born in New Bedford on April 15, 1956, to parents who emigrated from Newfoundland in the 1940s. His father was also a fisherman, continuing a family tradition that dates back to the 1600s. Bruce is of Canadian (New Foundland), Irish, and Scottish descent. He has served in various roles on fishing vessels, including as a skipper and a mate. Bruce is currently considering retiring from the fishing industry due to the prevalence of drug use among the available crew members.
Scope and Content Note
This interview with Mike Bruce, conducted by Janice Gadaire Fleuriel on September 24, 2006, provides an in-depth look into the life and career of a commercial fisherman in New Bedford. Bruce discusses his family history, detailing his parents' emigration from Newfoundland and the long line of fishermen in his family. He also talks about his own experiences in the fishing industry, including his roles on various boats and his reasons for considering retirement. The interview also delves into the challenges and issues facing the fishing industry, particularly the problem of drug use among crew members. Bruce advocates for mandatory drug testing and training for all crew members, arguing that this would improve safety and productivity. He also discusses the importance of knowing how to handle emergency situations on a boat, such as how to pump out a boat and use survival suits and life rafts. The interview provides valuable insights into the realities of the fishing industry from the perspective of a seasoned fisherman, making it a useful resource for researchers interested in maritime history, labor issues, and the social dynamics of fishing communities.
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