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Zeesboote, deep sea fishing and global change

The fragment of a Zeesboat does not only look like a wreck: The coastal fishing boat became a museum object due to an accident - and forms a contrast to industrial deep-sea fishing.

Zees- or Zeesenboote is the name of the wooden boats, usually ten metres long and with sails, which were used in fishing in the shallow coastal waters of Western Pomerania until the middle of the 20th century. The word "Zeese" originally referred to the nets used for this purpose before it became common for this type of boat. Even today many Zeesboote can be seen in the Baltic Sea - in restored condition as sports sailing boats. What visitors* can take a closer look at in the DSM, on the other hand, is the stern fragment of a Zeesboat that was used in weir fishing off Rügen until the early 1990s. Several reasons make this fragment a significant object for our exhibition. One of them is the history of the boat itself: The Zeesboat with the identification SAP 001 not only served in coastal fishing for an unusually long time, it was also involved in a tragic accident. In a collision with a coaster, the owner of the boat from Schaprode on Rügen died.
The severely damaged boat first came into the possession of a Stralsund boatyard. If considerations for a complete restoration of the historic vessel were to have been made there, they were not put into practice. In 1994, the Shipbuilding and Shipping Museum in Rostock took over the stern of the vessel in order to show the gradual structural and technical modifications made to traditional fishing boats.


0471 482 07 0


From average to exhibit
The stern section of the Zeesboote SAP 001 refers to a maritime accident and at the same time to an astonishingly long-lived form of traditional Baltic Sea…



Motor instead of sail
The open port side of the Zeesboat allows a view of a retrofitted diesel engine. It is an example of how even old coastal fishing boats have been gradually…



industrial deep-sea fishing
The stern catcher MAINZ of the fishing company "Nordsee" was launched in 1973. The performance of modern deep-sea trawlers made it possible to exploit…


Un-timely insights into the history of coastal fishing

Only a short time later, the historic boat part was transferred to the DSM to serve the same purpose in the exhibition there as in Rostock. The open port side of the hull allows a view of a two-cylinder diesel engine, which was retrofitted and replaced the sails, which were usually mounted on two masts, as propulsion. SAP 001 was thus only to a limited extent an anachronistic phenomenon on the coast of Western Pomerania. On the contrary, this boat proves that even in times of industrial deep-sea fishing, even traditional fishing vessels were still used to exploit the biological resources of the sea by technical retrofitting.
The wheelhouse, which was also retrofitted, also refers to the efforts to constantly adapt the vessel to changing conditions and needs. What the boat fragment can no longer reveal "itself" must be told by the museum in addition: Zeesboote had a fish crate, an installation flushed by seawater, in which the catch could be kept fresh until it was landed in the harbour. To a certain extent, as an example of the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous, the Zeesboat in the DSM thus stands in contrast to objects from industrial deep-sea fishing. On modern catch factory ships, the catch is processed and deep-frozen while still on board, a filleting machine on board a deep-sea trawler and models of several generations of industrial fishing vessels will be on display in the future exhibition. Interviews with contemporary witnesses as well as historical photographs and film footage will, however, also reveal the multifaceted role of the people behind the machines.
Thus, the objects on display can be placed not only in political and social contexts, but also in social and cultural ones.

New technical capabilities drive overfishing and global change

With the powerful stern trawlers that dominated the fishing fleets of fishing nations from the mid-20th century onward, the amount of biomass taken from the seas increased dramatically: the total annual catch rose four and a half times worldwide from the end of World War II to about 90 million metric tons by the turn of the millennium. While on zeesboats a bag-shaped net was stretched along the starboard side with the help of two poles and picked up fish by the fisherman letting the boat drift with the current for some time, stern trawlers with bottom or floating trawls can take several hundred tons of fish out of the sea at once. Against this background, the exhibition addresses the use of marine resources by humans from the late 19th century to the present and understands it as a momentous human intervention in the marine environment. The processes of industrialization and mechanization of marine use problematized here play an important role as factors of global change in the discussion about the Anthropocene. At stake is nothing less than the question of whether anthropogenic environmental influences have already irreversibly altered the state of planet Earth. The DSM would like to encourage its visitors to reflect: on the relevance of marine resources in their own everyday lives and in society, on the importance of the oceans for supplying the world's population with food and energy, on the willingness and one's own possibilities to protect the oceans.

Further literature

Starkey, David J. und Heidbrink, Ingo (Hg.)
A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, vol. 2: From the 1850s to the Early Twenty-First Century(Deutsche Maritime Studien, Bd. 19)
Bremen 2012

Roberts, Callum
The Unnatural History of the Sea
Washington DC 2007

Winkler, Hermann
Zeesboote. Segler durch die Zeiten
Rostock 2007



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Opening hours

Cog hall: daily from 10 am to 6 pm

Ships: daily 10 am to 5:45 pm

how to reach us

Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum
Hans-Scharoun-Platz 1
D-27568 Bremerhaven


T. +49 471 482 07 0

Contact person

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