COPERAGE, (Flemish and Dutch kooper, a trader, dealer), or Cooperage, a system of traffic in spirituous liquors, tobacco and other articles amongst the fishermen in the North Sea. The practice began in the middle of the 19th century, when Flemish and Dutch koopers frequented the fishing fleets for the purpose of barter. Trading first in tobacco, they extended their operations, and soon became practically floating grog-shops.
The demoralizing nature of the traffic was brought to the public notice in 1881, and a convention was held at the Hague in 1882 to consider means of remedying the abuses. In 1887 Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands signed an agreement to prevent the sale or purchase of spirituous liquors among fishermen at sea. In Great Britain an act (the North Sea Fisheries Act 1888) was passed to carry into effect the terms of the convention. The act (now repealed and replaced by the North Sea Fisheries Act 1893, with which it is identical but for some slight verbal modifications) imposes a fine not exceeding £50 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months for supplying, exchanging or otherwise selling spirits. It imposes a like penalty for purchasing spirits by exchange or otherwise, and requires every British vessel dealing in provisions or other articles to have a licence and to carry a special mark. In 1882 Mr E. J. Mather started a mission to deep sea fishermen, which sends out mission ships and supplies the fishermen with good clothing, literature, tobacco, etc., at a fair price. This mission, now the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, is registered by the Board of Trade.
See E. J. Mather, Nor'ard of the Dogger (1888), and publications of the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)