National Fisherman is the nation’s preeminent publication in the commercial fishing industry, originally a consolidation of earlier, regional fisheries trade papers. In 2012, Diversified Communications of Portland, ME, donated the magazine’s entire pre-digital photographic archive to the Penobscot Marine Museum. The collection is being digitized and cataloged, then published to the web in our online database in groups of 5000 items.

After three years of digitally capturing and describing the comprehensive photo archives of National Fisherman magazine, we’ve come to the effective end of the project. We now have the privilege of offering a comprehensive visual timeline of American fisheries from the middle to the end of the 20th century, with all the grit, drama, resourcefulness, practical minutiae and sometimes epic feats that characterize the industry. We hope that collectively, these images will inform our viewers and fire the imagination.

This final rollout consists largely of 35mm negatives. Some of these images have been seen in earlier rollouts, but here we’re given a greater immersion in the work of the Nat Fish photographers. We’ve been painstaking in selecting the “best” of these frames to avoid losing your attention through needless repetition. While no new trends stood out from this final large group, it does the same work as our previous publications: it illustrates the panorama of American commercial fishing, from the processing floor to the computerized bridge to the fabrication shop to the engine room to the greasy deck.

Our team has undergone many changes in the past three years. Most recently, Dave Ruberti, Cathy Pollari, and PMM Admin Assistant Gabriella Cantelmo compiled critical data about each photo, making it possible for researchers and casual browsers to find and better understand the images. Just as importantly, Erin Tokarz and Georges Nashan completed the digitization work, mostly by means of our pro digital camera setup, which results in superior sharpness and detail and enables shorter processing time.

Thanks to all staff who contributed to bringing the collection to light, but thanks most especially to our volunteers for being interested in the project and generous with their time. This was a huge undertaking which we trust will continue to benefit the public for generations.

The National Fisherman photos are a visual record of every nuance of American commercial fishing during four decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s. The collection features images of fishing and working vessels of numerous types, under construction, at launch, at sea, and in peril. We get a thorough glimpse of the many human faces of the industry: boat builders, fish catchers, processors, and regulators. Since the magazine is a trade publication, there are countless photos of fishing and marine gear as it was newly hitting the market, as well as examples of common vessel construction techniques. We see documentation of successes or failures in the various fisheries, as well as scenes of regulation activity and enforcement.

In a letter to the Penobscot Marine Museum, John Bullard, the NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office administrator, observed that the magazine and its photo archives are of “…great national historical significance because it documents a critical period in the history of U.S. fishing. During these four decades, the commercial fishing industry saw significant growth and technological change…” These epic changes affected every facet of US fisheries, from vessel construction to fish finding equipment to legislation impacting the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen on both coasts.

Who owns the rights to the images and how do I get permission to use them?

The National Fisherman photographs were typically licensed to the magazine for one-time use. Although the Penobscot Marine Museum has Fair Use rights to the images, if you wish to publish, transmit, use electronic copies, or receive a paper copy of any of these photographs, you will need to

1. obtain written permission from the copyright holder and determine what, if any, fees apply to usage, and
2. provide PMM with a copy of the document granting permission.

We provide information regarding copyright owners if such information is available. If you are a copyright holder for images in our catalog and your name and contact information do not appear with the catalog record(s), or if you feel we have used your work without permission, please contact us:

Penobscot Marine Museum
5 Church St. PO Box 498
Searsport, ME 04974
(207) 548-2529
[email protected]

Institute of Museum and Library Services

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this online exhibit do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

National Maritime Heritage Program

This project has been financed (in part) with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. However, the contents and opinions contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior.

This program received Federal financial assistance for preservation of historic maritime resources and for increasing public awareness and appreciation for the maritime heritage of the United States. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability or age in its federally funded assisted programs. If you believe you have been discriminated again in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office of Equal Opportunity National Park Service 1849 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20240



Diversified Communications

The Penobscot Marine Museum is extremely grateful to Diversified Communications of Portland, Maine for entrusting us with the long-term preservation of the National Fisherman photographic archive.

Special Thanks

Many thanks to our volunteers Robyn Cornell, Mark Nicklawske, Amanda Strusz, Chris Olsson, and Ellen Holland, who have given hundreds of hours of their time to digitizing this collection; their contribution is endlessly valuable.

We also profusely thank our catalogers, Faith Garrold and Cathy Pollari, who have worked painstakingly to research, collate and record information about the photographs in our database.

We are pleased to invite the public to use and enjoy this resource.


Click on any category below to view more photos from the collection.


Boatbuilding & Repairs

Coast Guard

Disaster & Pollution



Gurry Bucket

Processing, Marketing & Sales

Fishing Vessels

Miscellaneous Vessels

Regional Watercraft

Work Vessels