Using primary and secondary historical data, descriptive time-series data, and site observations, this study unpacks the developmental history of one of the United States' oldest, largest, and still working fisheries. This study uses narrative analysis to explore how processes of commodification and the institutional workings of capitalist food regimes drove specific developmental outcomes. Internal comparison across periods enables an analysis of why the fishery declined in recent decades. The case also reveals important dynamics of the capitalist world food system and demonstrates how intersectional considerations, particularly the intersection of race and class dynamics, can bolster the “tragedy of the commodity” theoretical framework. The study thus tests and expands on that framework by including the considerations of cross-cutting inequalities and the world food system. Overall, this study demonstrates how the demands of generalized commodity production, in conjunction with the institutional parameters of a world capitalist food system, link processes of development across terrestrial and aquatic food systems. Furthermore, the internal comparison elucidates the socio-structural factors that drove the severe decline of the 170-year-old Atlantic menhaden fishery.

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