- Last Updated: 10 October 2016 10 October 2016
The Town of Harwich is a resort and residential community located on the south side of the Cape peninsula, with an extensive shoreline on Nantucket Sound. It was settled around 1665, and incorporated in 1694. Its early economy included agriculture and maritime industries and its history has included boom and bust cycles from the earliest days of the community. When the whaling industry collapsed with the discovery of oil, the community's emphasis shifted to cod fishing.
By 1802, 15 to 20 ships were shore fishing and another four ships were cod fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador, and by 1851, there were 48 ships employing 577 men and bringing in thousands of tons of cod and mackerel. The eventual decline of the fishing industry in Harwich by the latter part of the 19th century was caused by increases in the size of ships which eventually outstripped the shallow port's ability to house them.
Today, the fishing power of the Harwich fishing fleet rivals its ancestors due in part to the maintenance of adequate harbor entrance channels and the development of the diesel engine. There are a total of 40 fast small groundfishing vessels (31'-48') plying the pelagic Atlantic for cod and haddock. In addition Harwich Port becomes the seasonal home to an additional 85+ boats chasing tuna from August through October. In the winter months, an additional 20 commercial vessels may use the Town docks under special permit. There are also 10 charter boats that take passengers for hire. In all this fishing effort currently employs more than 400 people.
Wychmere Harbor in Harwich Port is one of the jewels of Cape Cod.