By DON CUDDY
An oral history project designed to document the experience of Portuguese-speaking fishermen has obtained funding from NOAA’s Preserve America Initiative and is ready to get under way this week.
“We have compiled a list of more than 20 fishermen we are interested in speaking with,” said Dr. Gloria de Sa, a professor of sociology at UMass Dartmouth and faculty director of the Ferreira-Mendes archives there. “We hope that around 15 of them will agree to be interviewed.”
The study is being coordinated by de Sa and Dr. Patricia Pinto da Silva, a social scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile,” de Sa said. “This is a population that hasn’t been studied yet because of the language barrier. It’s important to do it now because a lot of them are aging.”
The Portuguese community and the fishing industry have been hugely influential in shaping both the culture and economy of New Bedford, she said, but their interrelationship has not been documented.
Interviews will be taped over the summer, with no time constraint on their duration.
David Martins, a Portuguese speaker, from the university’s School for Marine Science and Technology will conduct the sessions. Martins is a familiar figure on the waterfront from his frequent collaborative research trips aboard Portuguese-owned fishing vessels.
“It’s important for us to act now and document the history of Portuguese fishermen from our area, in their own words, before the information is forgotten or, worse, lost,” Martins said.
The interviews will examine the fishermen’s experience prior to coming to New Bedford. Many fished on the Grand Banks as part of the traditional Portuguese cod fleet, de Sa said. “Then we’ll look at the immigrant experience here and how they got started fishing out of New Bedford.”
All material collected through the project will be made available to researchers and the public from the UMass archive and also from NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries oral history database.
March 06, 2012