Generations of fishermen have worked the waters of the Point Judith Pond, the Rhode Island and Block Island Sounds and beyond at the edge of the continental shelf. With the construction of the Harbor of Refuge and the stabilization of the breachway, Galilee became the home port to a large, ocean-going fishing fleet.
Many of the fishing boats working out of Galilee are large, diesel-powered fishing trawlers. Some of these boats work the near-shore grounds in the Rhode Island and Long Island Sounds where they catch winter flounder, yellowtail flounder, whiting and hake. Larger trawlers make long trips to the edge of the continental shelf and to George's Bank where they catch haddock, yellowtail flounder and cod.
Many of these ships use the otter trawl - a large; funnel shaped net that is spread apart by the pressure of water pushing two otter boards apart. Weights along the lower edge hold the net to the bottom while floats along the upper edge keep the net open. As it is towed along, bottom fish such as cod, haddock flounder, red hake and whiting are swept into the net.
The Otter Trawl
Lobster boats from Galilee have traditionally set traps near-shore in the Rhode Island and Long Island Sounds. More recently, as pressure on the local lobster population has diminished supply, they have moved further offshore.
Rhode Island lobstermen set rectangular traps known as lobster pots. The pots are baited with dead fish to attract the lobsters and weighted so that they sink to the bottom. Once a lobster enters the pot, it is impossible for it to escape. A commercial lobsterman will set from twenty-five to seventy-five of these pots on a single line called a trawl. Buoys on the surface mark the location of the pot on the ocean floor. Lobstermen haul their pots every few days, keeping legal size lobsters and returning undersized or egg carrying females to the sea.
Each year, more than sixteen million pounds of fish and shellfish are brought through the breachway and unloaded at the Port of Galilee. In 1948, the fishermen of Galilee organized the Point Judith Fisherman's Cooperative in order to obtain better prices for their catch. The Cooperative provides processing plants, freezing plants, dock facilities as well as representatives who can deal effectively with state and federal agencies. Though the Co-op, fish are marketed throughout the East Coast from Maine to South Carolina. The Point Judith Fisherman's Cooperative has been one of the most successful in the country and has been a major influence in making Galilee a thriving fishing port.