The Chinese Fishing Village


According to A. G. Madden (1898), the boat equipment associated with the facility was comprised of one small rowboat and one small sailboat, with the sailboat being too small for any effective trawling or dredging, except in near shore shallow water. As far as the requirements of most of the student and researcher needs, the ability to collect in deeper water was not necessary as the flora and fauna that were accessible from shore provided plenty of material, besides that which was accessible from shallow water using a small boat. (1) As for the gathering of fishes, there was located just a half mile east of the laboratory, a village full of Chinese fishermen who did much of the collecting. (2) With that, our first mention of Chinese fishermen, we now turn our attention to understanding and appreciating this fishing village that lay on the border of the city limits of Monterey and Pacific Grove.


One of the earliest descriptions of Pacific Grove’s Chinese fishing village was provided in the report prepared by David Starr Jordan as a part of his survey of the fisheries of the Pacific Coast in 1880 for the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. In this report Jordan writes the following words describing this fishing village:

"The colony at Punta Alones, which is a mile and a half west of Monterey, settled there in 1864 and consists of 25 fishermen. This is a somewhat larger colony than the one at Pescadero. Some of the women here go fishing with the men. Others stay at home and dress the fish, which operation is aided by a heavy hatchet like knife. One of the Chinamen at Punta Alones is an American citizen and speaks English well. Others have been hotel cooks. This colony compares favorably with any other on the coast. They ship daily to San Francisco, in fine weather, from 200 to 800 pounds of fish. The members of this colony, as well as those at Pescadero, dry and ship to China an unknown quantity of abalone meat and sell the shells. At certain seasons they also dry many tons of different devil-fish, squids, etc." (3)

In a news article published in the journal Science in 1892, titled The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory, David Starr Jordan described the first summer of courses, the ongoing research activities and commented on the Portuguese and the Chinese fishermen who collected specimens for research purposes:

"As I write, a grampus 12 feet in length is brought in a dray-wagon by a Portuguese fisherman from Monterey, while a constant stream of objects of interest comes in from the Chinese fishing camp at Point Alones." (4)

Besides comments provided by Jordan, several publications about Hopkins Seaside Laboratory mention the Chinese fishing village and the fishermen who helped collect objects of interest. (5), (6), (7)

A 1902 publication describing the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory mentioned the Chinese fishing community and a particular individual who collected animals. MacFarland writes:

"In one of these coves, fifteen minutes walk along the shore from the laboratory, is located the picturesque and odoriferous Chinese fishing village which has proven the means of securing much of value from the waters of the bay... However, their regular fishing is so profitable—especially during the salmon season—that it often requires an infinite deal of patience and perseverance to get anything from them at all. It was through the most intelligent of these fishermen, Ah Tuck Lee, that Dr. G. C. Price secured the first embryos of Polistotrema (Bdellostoma) stoutii, [hagfish embryos] followed later by Dean, Ayers and Doflein." (8)

Below: Photograph of George Clinton Price who participated in sixteen of the twenty-three years regular sessions of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. In the position of Instructor in the summers of 1893, 1894, 1895; in the position of Instructor in Charge during the summers of 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1914 and 1915 and Occupying an Investigators Room during the summer of 1910.

With the above paragraph we are introduced to two subjects that present the context for the paragraphs to come, First, a Chinese fisherman by the name of Tuck Lee, (full name: Quock Tuck Lee) and second, the quest by the investigative scientist conducting research at the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory for what turn out to be, even to this day, extremely elusive hagfish embryos. This quest to obtain for research purposes, these highly elusive hagfish embryos, was directed by the comparative embryologists of the time who wished to broaden their understanding of early vertebrate evolution. Let us first become familiar with what is known of the history of Quock family, which includes Tuck Lee and how this family of Chinese immigrants came to reside along the central coast of California.


(1) Madden, A.G. (1898). The Marine Biological Laboratory at Pacific Grove. The Overland Monthly 27: 208 -215.

(2) Kellogg, V. L. (1899). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. The American Naturalist 33(392) 629-634.

(3) Jordan, D. S. (1887). The Sea Fishing Grounds of the Pacific Coast of the United States from the Straits of Fuca to Lower California. In Goode, G. B., ed. The Fisheries and Fishing Industries of the U. S. Section III. Washington. (1887). Pp.79-80. In U. S. 47th Congress, 1st Session Senate Misc. Doc. 124. Serial 2000.

(4) Jordan, David Starr. (1892). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Science. 20 (496) 76-77.

(5) Dean, Bashford. (1897). A Californian Marine Biological Station. Natural Science. 11 (65) 28-35.

(6) Madden, A.G. (1898). The Marine Biological Laboratory at Pacific Grove. The Overland Monthly 27: 208 -215.

(7) Kellogg, V. L. (1899). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. The American Naturalist 33 (392) 629-634.

(8) MacFarland, F. M. (1902). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Journal of Applied Microscopy and Laboratory Methods. 5 (7) 1869-1875.