City of Monterey OnCell Tour
(Scroll down for audio and more.)
In 1919, the name "Cannery Row" first appeared in print. It described what was then called Ocean View Avenue. But long before someone first had the idea of putting sardines in cans, people had been making their living fishing Monterey Bay.
The first real "commercial" fishermen were the Rumsien, the Native People of Monterey. Going back almost five thousand years, this peaceful community harvested abalone and fished for sardines, anchovies and rockfish along what is now Cannery Row.
The first cannery on the Row, the Pacific Mutual Fish Company, actually packed - then later canned - salmon and abalone. It was owned and operated by a Japanese businessman named Otosaburo Noda. He was so impressed with the abundance of Monterey Bay that he sent for additional Japanese fishermen. By 1896 Monterey's first Japanese settlement was established.
It wasn't long before other fishermen and canners came to reap this "silver harvest," The street bustled with workers from all over the world processing the plentiful and seemingly boundless catch.
Sardines were king, and Monterey became the "Sardine Capital of the World." By 1938, there were 19 fully operating canneries and reduction plants here. They employed hundreds of workers and brought millions of dollars into the local economy.
When the fishing boats arrived to unload their catch, the air would fill with whistles from the canneries calling men and women to work. Each cannery had its own distinctive whistle to summon its employees.
In the 1941-1942 season, 250,000 tons of sardines were landed. They were canned for food and made into fertilizer or chicken feed. Everyone thought it would last forever. But in the early 1950s the fishery collapsed due to changes in ocean temperature affecting the sardine's food, other environmental factors, and overfishing.
The collapse of the fishery decimated the fishing economy. The last cannery, which was then canning mackerel and squid, closed in 1973.
Conservation efforts have helped California sardine populations recover. Sardines - along with other fish - are being caught in Monterey Bay once again.
As you continue to explore Cannery Row, be sure to include other audio tour stops along the way. Look for Pacific Biological Laboratories - also known as Ed Ricketts' Lab - at 800 Cannery Row, the three workers shacks just across the street from the Lab, and McAbee Beach. Each has its own story to add to the Row's rich history.
cannery-row-narration (1 MB)
cannery-row-tag (238 KB)