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Georgia Southern anthropology professor helps preserve oral history of commercial fishing in Georgia

Georgia Southern Anthropology Professor Jennifer Sweeney Tookes, along with University of Georgia (UGA) Associate Director of Marine Extension Bryan Fluech, will help to preserve the oral history and culture of commercial fishing in Georgia for current and future generations by presenting research at three outreach events on Jan. 31 in Statesboro, Feb. 1 in Darien and Feb. 2 in Brunswick.

Commercial fishers in coastal Georgia shared their fishing experiences, stories of life on the water, opinions on the state of the industry, and predictions for the future of commercial fishing in Georgia as part of a 2018 anthropology research project on the state and fate of the fishing industry titled “Fishing Traditions and Fishing Futures: Oral Histories of Commercial Fishing in Georgia.”

Jennifer Sweeney Tookes, Ph.D.

Using these interviews as a foundation for qualitative data analysis, the project teaches audiences about the rich history of commercial fishing on Georgia’s coast, provides educational outreach to communities in Statesboro, Darien and Brunswick, and trains the next generation of social science researchers who may interact with fishing communities.

Led by Sweeney Tookes and Fluech, Georgia Southern anthropology students completed the oral history project last March in collaboration with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant (MAREX/GASG). The students’ research included taking photographs of the fishermen, scanning their personal photographs and uploading the audio recordings to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Voices from the Fisheries oral history repository.

Capturing the life stories and experiences of Georgia’s commercial fishermen is especially important since many local communities have depended on the coastal environment for their economic and cultural base for generations. This knowledge can provide an invaluable historic and current database that can be useful to science as well as local community history.

For decades, commercial fishing has been an integral part of coastal Georgia’s culture and heritage. The state’s elaborate network of salt marshes and productive coastal and marine waters have supported a number of fisheries during this time. The most prominent have been shrimping and trapping of blue crabs, but fishermen have harvested a number of finfish and shellfish species as well.

The outreach events will be in Statesboro on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, in Darien on Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. at the Ida Hilton Public Library and in Brunswick on Feb. 2 at 10:30 a.m. at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Brunswick station. The Statesboro event will be sponsored by the Georgia Southern Museum.

When not traveling for educational outreach events with Sweeney Tookes and Fluech, the exhibit will be housed on display at MAREX/GASG’s Brunswick Facility.

For more information, contact Sweeney Tookes at or 912-478-6587.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving nearly 26,500 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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