This was once the sardine capital of the world

Don’t laugh. Sardines were once big business.

The first sardine canning in America happened in Eastport in 1876, and at its peak, 18 canneries were packed in against the waterfront downtown, along with the fishermen’s dories and fishing boats at the docks.

One of the few surviving cannery buildings. This one was small in comparison to others right downtown. 

The largest of them, the L.D. Clark and Son factory, extended far into the water from the north end of Shackford Cove only a block where I now live. It was the world’s largest sardine cannery, employing 500 men and women who packed 4,000 cases of 100 cans daily when the small Atlantic herring were available.

Heads and other parts were cut from the fish and dumped into the harbor, where they were devoured by bottom-feeders that then attracted whales close to shore.

Over the years, though, the fishery was depleted, though whales can still be seen in season.

And then the market and American tastes changed.

Does anyone eat sardines anymore?

Few signs remain of the city’s once flourishing industry.

The 1908 Seacoast Canning Co. plant, which made sardine cans.



5 thoughts on “This was once the sardine capital of the world

  1. I love sardines, canned and straight from the water as well. My grandfather used to fish at times, and he would come home with all kinds of fish, octopus … Fried sardines with bread, one of my best memories.

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