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World War I
It was during World War I that the government recognized the value of the canned sardine as cheap nutritious food for the troops. In 1918 a record output of 1,400,000 cases of sardines was shipped. New canneries began opening to keep up with the demand. In 1921 a total of 17 sardine reduction plants began opening up and was an important part of the industry that turned it into big business. The sardine reduction plants ground up whole fish and processed it to produce feed for chickens, fish meal, used in paints, glycerin for explosives and in salad oils. The sardine industry was worth $22,000,000 by 1945 and employed 5000 Montereyans.

Ocean View Avenue, Monterey
In 1945 John Steinbeck immortalized the 1 mile stretch that was Ocean View Avenue in Monterey with his published book "Cannery Row." The notoriety of the book focused so much attention to the street that in 1953 the city of Monterey formerly changed the street name to "Cannery Row." It is a fitting name to this historic street.

The Decline
The decline of the Monterey sardine industry was caused by a combination of over fishing and from the very efficient sardine reduction plants that were mostly automated and used any size fish, in contrast canned sardines had a size minimum of 6-8 inches. Regulation of the fishing industry was weak at that time. In 1945 the total tonnage was 235,000 tons plummeting to 15,000 tons in 1948. The last of the sardines were canned in 1964 with not more than 10,000 tons shipped. The canners attempted to can squid hoping the sardines would return but the sardines never recovered from the over fishing.

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In the early days Sardines were called Pilchards
In the last days of Cannery Row Sardine Industry the Canners turned to canning Squid in the hopes that the Sardine catch would recover.

Cannery Row, circa 1950s

Today Cannery Row is a tourist stop with a mix of new retail shops and converted canning buildings.