Watershed Institute, CSU Monterey Bay
100 Campus Center Drive, Seaside, CA 93955
This section is a brief summary of some of the topics which will
be thoroughly covered in the Archaeological, Cultural and Historical Resources
section to be prepared during Phase II of this project.
Humans settled in the vicinity of MBNMS at least 10,000 years ago (Gordon
1996). At the time of Spanish arrival in the early 1700's, about forty Native
American tribes populated coastal areas from San Francisco Bay to Point
Sur (Margolin 1978), consuming acorns, terrestrial plants and animals, intertidal
invertebrates, fish, and marine mammals (Gordon 1996). The Spanish called
the Indians "Costanoans", meaning "coast dwellers."
Today they are known as the Ohlone, meaning "people of the west"
Shell midden piles left by the Costanoans have been found at most substantial
drainages and shorelines between Morro Bay and Monterey Bay, comprised primarily
of remains of abalone, California mussels, clams, snails, chitons, limpets,
and other invertebrate groups (Terrell 1995). The quantity of shells suggests
that Costanoan Indians were "a principal control of animal population
sizes" in the intertidal zone in some areas, though this collecting
is thought to have had little long-term effect on intertidal community structure
(Gordon 1996). Costanoans also used fire to manage terrestrial vegetation
for purposes such as enhancing growth and preparing plants for harvest (ibid).
The Spanish arrived in the late 1700's, and began to exploit both natural
resources and the Ohlone. They established a pastoral lifestyle and an extensive
network of missions which relied heavily on livestock. Sweeping changes
in the resulting landscape included greatly enlarged pasture lands throughout
fertile drainages of the MBNMS and incidental importation of many exotic
grasses and other plants (Gordon 1996). The Spanish also hired imported
Russian or local Indian hunters to hunt sea otters. These valuable pelts were exported to Asia, Europe, and the Americas . Sea
otters became scarce around Monterey Bay by the late 1800's (Riedman and Estes 1988). The Spanish
harvested abalone for trade with northwest coast Indians (Gordon 1996, Rawls
1984). Indian populations plummeted after establishment of the Missions
due to introduced diseases, cultural dissolution, and exploitation by the
Spanish and later the Mexicans (Rawls 1984).
Many European traders and explorers of the late 1700's wrote of the remarkable
abundance and richness of wildlife in the Monterey Bay area. French explorer
Jean Francoise de La Perouse, the first foreign visitor to the Spanish outposts,
wrote that his ships were "surrounded by pelicans and spouting whales...
There is not a country in this world which more abounds in fish and game
of every description." (Rawls 1984).
New England whalers often hunted along the central coast in the late 1700's
and early 1800's, feeding a voracious east coast market for oil, baleen and
meat. Portuguese whalers from the Azores, originally brought to Monterey
Bay as crew on the deep-water ships, settled in Monterey Bay by the 1850's (Lydon 1984).
The Portuguese worked in shore-whaling operations begun by Yankee whaler
John Davenport which targeted humpbacks and gray whales (though other species
were also captured). As the price of whale oil decreased due to the production
of kerosene in the 1880's, shore whaling died out (Gordon 1996).
A brief resurgence in whaling occurred along the California coast
in the 1900's, including a short-lived Norwegian-style and -owned modern whaling operation between 1919-1926 in Moss Landing (Gordon 1996, S. Lydon pers. comm).
In the 1850's, ethnic Chinese settled in Monterey to harvest kelp and to
fish for abalone, squid and shark. These products were dried and shipped
to San Francisco and China. This industry helped feed California's burgeoning
Gold Rush population (Lydon 1985, Gordon 1996). By 1900 abalone were so
scarce that the commercial harvest was banned, and the Chinese turned to
other fisheries, especially as market demand from San Francisco increased.
The construction of the San Francisco/Monterey railway in the 1860's allowed
for rapid transport of fresh fish (Terrell 1995).
Genovese Italian immigrants established fishing settlements around Monterey
Bay in the 1870's, providing a variety of fresh fish to the San Francisco
markets via railroad. Sicilian fishermen followed in 1906,
and soon focused on the sardine fishery (Lydon 1984). The
sardine fishery peaked during the 1930s and early 1940s, collapsed in the late 1940's , and has not as yet recovered to its former size.
Several other ethnic groups have harvested MBNMS natural resources during this
century, including Japanese hard-hat abalone divers (1900-1941), Vietnamese
gillnet fishermen (1979- present), and offshore foreign (Russian, Polish and others) fishing fleets (Lydon 1984, 1985; Yamada 1995; Lydon and Loesch in prep; R. Starr pers. comm). All have adapted to
become part of the multicultural population which continues to utilize the
resources of this biologically rich region.
A wealth of shipwrecks in the MBNMS are a result of the significant maritime
exploration and trade which has occurred here, coupled with a coastline
dotted with shallow, rocky headlands (e.g. Point Lobos, Point Pinos) and
largely exposed to prevailing winds and storms. More than one hundred wrecks
have been documented in this region, and there are undoubtedly more which
are not recorded (Minerals Management Service 1990, Terrell 1995).
End of Early Uses of Resources section