The aquarium sits on the site of Hovden Cannery, built by Knut Hovden in 1916. At the height of the sardine-fishing boom in the 1940s, Cannery Row processed 250,000 tons of fish a year and was the center of a churning industry that kept 4,000 people employed.
At the cannery, fish were weighed, sorted, cut, cleaned and packed in cans for cooking. Once the sardines were put into cans, they had to be cooked. This was a two-step process. First they were pre-cooked in open cans. Then they were drained, sauced and sealed, and sent to huge pressure cookers, called "retorts".
Then, the fish disappeared. In five years, the catch fell by more than 90%. Most canneries closed and the Row became a ghost town. By canning squid, Hovden Cannery managed to stay open the longest, finally closing its doors in 1973. The aquarium makes use of some original Hovden buildings.
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