Neptune's Table is about America's bountiful fisheries resources and the Americans who fish for them. It stands as homage to past generations who have fed the nation from these riches, and tribute to the countless individuals today who are determined to preserve them. It honors those who have struggled to make a living under grueling, dangerous conditions, and others who have lost their lives in that struggle. The book depicts the rise and sometimes the fall of businesses that harvest marine stocks. And it exposes the mystery and beauts known to those who gather up the great gifts off America's shores.
This is not the usual kind of document produced by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Charged with stewardship of the nation's living marine resources, the agency each year produces hundreds of reports, regulations, advisories, and other papers necessary to conserve and manage these stocks. There have been excellent historic accounts — most of them technical — about individual fisheries and the industry's development. And more recently, main people and organizations have written of the need to safeguard fish stocks and their environment.
Over the years, we have come to recognize that fish are not limitless and can be depleted. We also realize that healthy fisheries depend on healthy coastal habitat. Now we are seeing the rise of a conservation ethic and public willingness to take the steps necessary to restore populations and their habitat. Although commercial and recreational fisheries enterprises are annually worth billions of dollars to the nation's economy, this is a relatively small sector of our national economy.
On the other hand, the U.S. fishing industry employs hundreds of thousands of our citizens, produces the world's finest and most varied seafood, generates sportfishing opportunities, and adds immeasurably to America's quality of life. It falls to the National Marine Fisheries Service and coastal state, regional, and tribal fisheries management agencies to ensure these remarkable benefits continue for future generations of Americans.
Neptune's Table serves a distinct purpose from the other offerings ot this agency and its parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It provides the American public with a snapshot ot the nation's fisheries as we move into the next millennium, to tell them who fishes and how, what their problems are, and how they are solving them. This book reflects our belief that here, as in other areas of tradition, we can only know where we are going. We know where we have been.