Exploring Seattle's fishing industry

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Seattle’s economy was based on natural resources and the processing of them. Timber from the region’s vast forests was turned into lumber. Wheat and produce were milled and canned for consumption elsewhere. Coal from places with names like Black Diamond fueled industry and was exported to other areas. Fish from Alaska was processed in the canneries that lined the waterfront.

As late as the 1960s Seattle remained dependent on resource-based industries — despite the fact that a modest builder of commercial aircraft had recently introduced a global game-changer called the “jetliner.” In 1962, as the Seattle World’s Fair prepared the region for its debut on the international stage, dozens of sawmills still operated from Everett to Tacoma.

Today most of that resource-based industry is gone, eclipsed by coffee, software, biotech, computer games, sophisticated retail operations, global trade and, of course, aerospace. But one of those original industries still flourishes: fishing. Despite all the changes the Seattle economy has been through in the past century, this one industry has endured. As one fisher put it: “The salmon still swim the same way.”

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