THE FISHING INDUSTRY IN INTER-WAR POLAND. - Niepospolici
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THE FISHING INDUSTRY IN INTER-WAR POLAND.

The Baltic sea coastline, regained by Poland by the power of The Treaty of Versailles, might not have been long but allowed for the quick development of the Polish fishing industry. Fish were easy to preserve by smoking, salting, or drying, and, therefore, it was an extremely popular food even back in the Piast Dynasty era. Catholic rituals required fish to be eaten during all fasting days. Inland fishing (rivers, lakes) and ponds could not meet the growing market demand and consumes started seeking sea water fish. As the years went on and science revealed some of nature’s secrets about human physiology, medicine, diet – it turned out that fish is a nutritious, wholesome food with substantial health benefits. Moreover, the so-called fishmeal (dehydrated fish derivatives, minced) was gaining in popularity among chicken and pig farmers of the 20th century.

The task of developing of the Polish fishing industry lay mostly in the hands of Kashubian people. Prior to the Great War this ethnic group was much poorer and worse equipped (for fishing) than the Germans.  The regaining of independence and the symbolical marriage by General Haller of  the Polish Republic to the sea were a sign that the fate of Kashubians was about to improve. In 1920, when Poland was taking control of its coastline, it had approximately 70 cutters (50 of which were equipped with engines and 16 with sails). German minority which was residing in Poland owned 44 cutters, and in Hel village – 42. There were 936 registered fishermen, but the number can be easily increased by approximately another 150 unregistered. About 250 Fishermen were German of which 180 resided in Hel village, and the remain ones in Karwia, Dąbki, Puck, Gdynia, Orłowo, and Kolibki. In total there were approximately 800 vessels. A quarter of fishermen also had other occupations. In 1920 the Polish Marine Fisheries Alliance was established.  It was only in 1922 when the Alliance managed to spread its wings thanks to the establishment of the Polish Marine Fisheries Institute which, in turn, lead to the establishment of the Fisheries Co-op. Violent storms in the years 1923 and 1924 were the reason behind the drop in catch volumes. Beginning in Autumn 1923 they lasted throughout the entire 1924.

On December 2, 1928 a new body – the Sea Fisheries Laboratory – was established. In 1931 Polish fishermen ventured into further waters, beyond the Baltic, for the first time in history. The Polish Marine Fisheries Institute delegated five fishermen to Norway and another group – to Netherlands. The first Polish company for deep sea fishing was established under the name of The North Sea Mopol of which 51% consisted of Polish capital. The company owned eight vessels sailing under the Polish flag. At this time deep sea fishing was developing rapidly. In 1938 the first Polish vessel departed for the Barents Sea. A new Fishermen’s Alliance, Korab, was called into being. It received three new drifters ordered by the Polish government and build at the Gdansk shipyard. In 1936 the largest volume of fish was caught in comparison to the other years of the inter-war period.  That year 1800 fishermen were employed, Poland owned 14 drifters, 178 cutters, 35 motor boats, and 708 ore and sail boats. The catch volume for that year amounted to 22,336 tons. The number is inclusive of 5,060 tons of herring caught in the North Sea, and 3,196 tons of herring caught in the Baltic sea, as well as of 15,080 tons of sprat (of which 12,602 tons were caught in the first 4 months of that year). Volumes of cod increased by 1,120 tons. Deep sea fishing catch volumes increased by 800 tons. The Polish fishing industry was in the following state on the day the Second World War broke out: there were 1900 fishermen employed, of which 240 in deep sea fishing, 670 on cutter fishing, and over 1000 in boat fishing. There were approximately 190 foreigners working for the Polish fishing industry. Poland owned: 9 trawlers, 20 drifters, 171 cutters, and 700 boats of which 40 were equipped with an engine.

In 1920 Poland had no existing deep sea fleet and throughout the inter-war period it came into possession of 29 such vessels. This was all achieved over a period of 1 years, when the Ministry of Trade and Industry was tasked with the supervision over the fishing industry.  Independent Poland had no ports – Puck was too little to be any good for fishermen. The port in Hel village did exist, however it was in German hands. Towards the end of the inter-war period Poland had a fishery port in Gdynia which was properly equipped (cold room, ice factory, fishmeal factory, tinned fish factory, and modern smoking chamber). The number of active fishermen doubled, and there was still a great need for people qualified in this field. It should also be mentioned that in those short 18 years two more fishing ports were built in Jastarnia and Wladyslawowo. This success was made possible thanks to amazing people, such as: Antoni Hryniewiecki, the Chairman of the Polish Marine Fisheries Institute; doctor Lubecki – Chairman of the Fisheries Department at the Ministry; Professor Siedlecki – the biggest authority of the contemporary fishing industry; Professor Bogucki; Professor Demel; Professor Jakubowski; Doctor Kulmatycki; and more junior employees, future professors: Mulicki, Mańkowski, Cieglewicz, and Zięcik. Lastly, the hundreds of unnamed Kashubian people who from the day Poland returned to the maps of Europe, until the day it was brutally attacked in 1939, returned to their land in the inter-war period after serving in various armies of the occupiers, and built up the Polish fishing industry with their own hands. After the Second World War Poland was granted 500 kilometres of the Baltic coastline, and the brilliant Polish minds, once again, began to slowly rebuild what was yet again destroyed.