Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Fisheries. The regular pursuit of fish for food or as a commercial commodity evolved with the growth of society from an individual act to satisfy an individual want to a complex collective business, from fishing to a fishery. The process is easily traceable among living nations. Fishing has naturally had an important place among the industries of maritime countries. In some cases - Holland and Scotland, for instance - it has figured prominently in the national history; in some others - notably Newfoundland and the Behring Sea - it has caused serious international disputes.

Value of Sea Fisheries. To measure the value of inland fisheries, except in a few cases, is impossible; but the Board of Trade is responsible for the following official estimate of the most important sea fisheries, the figures representing the total value at first hand: - United Kingdom, excluding Scotch and Irish salmon (1896), £7,435,199; France (1894). 113,000,000 fr.; Canada (1895), $20,183,841; Norway (1893), 23,616,945 kroner. For U.S. and Holland we have no official estimate; the fisheries of the former probably equal oneown in value, while the Dutch range after the Norwegian. The value of our own fisheries in the wholesale markets is probably quite fifteen millions sterling. The most important single fisheries of other nations are as follows: Canada - cod, pickled herring and mackerel, and preserved salmon and lobster; France - "prime" fresh fish, cod, oyster, herring, sardine; Norway - cod, herring, mackerel; Holland - cod and herring. The American shad, Dutch oyster, and Italian sardine are also familiar and valuable. The French fisheries employ 146,000 men, the Canadian 64,000, and the Nor- . wegian at least 112,000. The Arctic whale fishery has gradually declined owing to the scarcity of fish and the increasing use of other oils and gas.

British Inland Fisheries. These being mainly used for sport only call for brief mention. The salmon (q.v.) is, however, commercially important, the annual value of the market consignments being about £200,000. Scotland sends 25,000 one-cwt. boxes, Ireland 10,000, and England 2,750, to Billingsgate annually. Pollution of rivers has done much mischief. The chief British salmon streams are the Tay (which alone gives an annual rental of nearly £17,000), the Spey, Tweed, and Esk, the Shannon, the Severn, and the Tyne. t- The British Sea Fisheries are pursued mainly according to five methods. Of these trawling has become the most important. The trawl-net is a long bag, depending from a beam from 15 to 50 feet long and raised 3 or 4 feet from the ground at each end. It is dragged along the sea-bottom for several hours at a time; and when hauled in the lower or "cod" end is unlaced and the catch discharged. The trawl can only be used on soft, flat bottoms; it takes bottom fish, that is, all the flat food fish: sole, plaice, turbot, halibut, brill, flounder, skate, etc. Beam-trawling has rapidly increased during the last decade, especially at the ports nearest to the great North Sea "banks," Hull and Grimsby, Shields, Aberdeen, and Leith. Steam trawlers are gradually supplanting the old sailing vessels; and fast steam "carriers" attend the big fleets of the fishing companies and take their catches to market. The operation of "boarding" the boxes of fish from the smack to the carrier is constantly one of the dangerous parts of the fisherman's vocation. Oysters (q.v.) and shrimps are taken with smaller forms of the trawl-net.

In drift-net fishing the fish - surface fish, especially herring, mackerel, pilchard, sprat, smelt, and whitebait - enmesh themselves in the net, which, like a curtain, drifts perpendicularly with the tide a few feet below the surface. A fleet or train of herring nets extends 1? miles, and one of mackerel nets often over 'two miles. Herring fishing takes place at night-time, and usually within 30 miles of shore, the catches being landed daily. The chief season is from August to October; the spring fishery is less important. Yarmouth and Lowestoft are the chief English centres. Mackerel is caught almost exclusively on the south and west coasts from May to autumn.

The seine net, of which there are several varieties, is made to encircle the fish, not to enmesh them; it is leaded so as to float perpendicularly, being shot in a circle if worked from a boat, or in a semicircle if worked from shore. It is used largely on the Cornish coast for mackerel, pilchard, herring, and sprat.

Line-fishing with hook and bait is mainly used for cod, haddock, ling, and halibut. A full train of "long" lines measures over six miles, and carries nearly 5,000 hooks, mussels, whelks, etc., being used as bait. "Hand" lines are much shorter.

Cod-smacks are built with a "well" in which the fish are kept alive till landed, when they are transferred to large floating chests to await market exigencies. Large steam vessels now go long voyages, especially to Iceland and the Faroes from Grimsby and Aberdeen.

I'ixed nets and engines include stow-, trim-, and kettle-nets, weirs, trammels, and crab and lobster pots.

The Fishing Fleets. Over 27,000 fishing-boats were registered in the United Kingdom in 1896, the regular crews numbering over 120,000. This, of course, represents only a small part of the whole population employed. England has 8,400 boats (mostly of large size) and 33,000 hands; Scotland 14,000 boats with 45,500 hands (the smallest number since 1875); and Ireland 6,000 boats (very few of the first class) with 22,000 hands. The chief English centres are Grimsby (which boasts itself the metropolis of the fishing world) with over

800 boats and 5,000 regular fishermen, Hull with 550 boats (500 of them "first-class") and 2,800 hands, Yarmouth with 680 vessels, and Lowestoft with about 400. The most valuable single fisheries from English and Welsh ports (the sums being the annual value at the landing-place in 1891) are : haddock, £884,000; plaice, £670,000; herring, £503,000; soles, £517,000. The total value of sea fish landed on the English and Welsh coasts in 1891 was £4,500,000. "Prime" fish is getting scarcer and dearer.

In Scotland almost all the fisheries ports are on the east coast. Banff and Peterhead have each about 1,100 boats, Inverness 1,600, and Wick, Stornoway, Kirkcaldy, and Greenock large fleets. Aberdeen is developing a large beam-trawling business. Of £1,829,000 worth of sea-fish landed in Scotland in 1891 the herring contributed £918,000. The haddock fishery is rapidly growing. Herring-curing engrosses in the season the energies of whole communities. It has been so often described as to be familiar. The Government Brand, established in 1809, has since 1858 contributed substantially to harbour works, etc. It is not compulsory, but is of obvious value as a certificate of quality in the Continental markets, whither 98 per cent. of the branded barrels are sent. The total Scotch cure has multiplied fifteenfold since 1809, and doubled in the last twenty years; it now amounts to about 1,350,000 barrels annually. Besides the regular fishermen, over 52,000 persons are intermittently employed in connection with the Scotch fisheries, chiefly in the summer herring season.

The leading centres in Ireland are Dublin with 146 first-class boats, Galway with a thousand small boats, Skibbereen, Westport, Sligo, Londonderry, and Cork. The total value of fish landed in 1891 was only about £308,000, and of this sum mackerel contributed nearly half. Only half the boats engaged in the Irish mackerel fishery are Irish; there are many French visitors. Kinsale, Castletownbere, Baltimore (where there is an admirable fishing school), and Valentia are the principal landing-places. Part of the mackerel catch goes direct to the English markets, and part is salted and barrelled for America.

Administrative Aspects. The economic importance and the scientific interest of the fisheries have both been more widely appreciated in recent years. The example of the United States and several Continental Governments has not been altogether lost. We have, however, still quite a number of scattered authorities acting in a disjointed and ineffective way; and we are not yet through the pre-scientific period of inquiry by Royal Commission and Parliamentary Committee. Things were hardly bettered by the transfer of English fisheries business, in 1886, from the Home Office to a new, but small and ill-equipped, department of the Board of Trade. For the protection of freshwater fisheries the various English waters have been partitioned into districts - now fifty-one in number - each with its Board of Conservators to enforce close seasons, etc. In 1891 these Boards issued nearly 10,000 salmon and 45,000 trout licences. As regards the English and Welsh Sea Fisheries, the Harbour and Marine Departments of the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, and the Foreign Office all have certain functions. A primary distinction must here be noted between national and international - i.e. territorial and extra-territorial - waters; the former extend 3 miles from the land, beyond which limit all fishing is free save as it may be regulated by International Convention. The most important of these Conventions are that of 1882, providing for the policeing of the North Sea, and that signed at the Hague, in 1887, for the prohibition of the drink traffic among fishing boats. Under the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act of 1888 a chain of local committees has been gradually formed round the English and Welsh coasts; and these have power to restrict or prohibit particular methods of fishing in territorial waters, and to protect and develop shell fisheries. The latter object is also provided for under the Oyster, Crab, and Lobster Act of 1877, etc.

Scotland has long enjoyed a more sensible administration. In 1882 the old "Board of White Fishery "was supplanted by the new Fishery Board, which at once adopted a larger programme.

Surveys of fishing grounds, careful and sustained scientific investigations, and experiments in "pisciculture" (q.v.) have been set afoot. The other duties of the Board - beside the working of the herring brand - have meantime increased. Under the Act of 1885 it may regulate or prohibit inshore fishing; it manages the numbering, etc., of boats, collection of statistics, settlement of disputes, and granting of loans to fishermen, and advances for harbour works and telegraph extension. All the powers of the Board of Trade respecting shell fisheries have been given over to it. It has its own officers in twenty-six districts. Proposals have several times been before Parliament for the reorganisation of the Board on a representative basis, the creation of district committees, and the development of shell-fisheries through their agency. Professor Ewart and other members of the Board have found time to help forward the movement for the technical education of fishermen. The Scotch salmon and freshwater fisheries are administered by the Fishery Board and district boards acting. mainly under the Acts of 1862 and 1868, the inadequacy of which is a subject of complaint. (See Mr. Archibald Young's report to the Board in 1890.) The right of salmon fishing is the property of the Crown, being granted or leased by the Commisr sioners of Woods and Forests; it is "emphatically an heritable estate," and is commonly subject to lease. Scotch rights thus differ from English, which are held by the Crown only in trust for the people, and are really public. The Tweed and , Solway Fisheries are under special legislation; and this fact, and the differences between English and Scots law, have given rise to endless litigation. (See Stewart's Law of Fishing, and Report issued in 1890 of Commission on Crown Rights of Salmon Fishing in Scotland.) The Irish fisheries have suffered at the hands of English governors. In 1819 a Fishery Board was established to extend to Ireland the system of bounties which England and Scotland had already enjoyed, and the enormous impetus given to the industry lasted long after its cessation in 1830. No compensating grants were established, as in Scotland, and the famine of 1847-48 commenced the decay which has steadily continued down to the last decade. The Fishery Board was re-established in 1869, and loans and grants have been regularly made out of the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund (1874) and.the Sea Fisheries Fund (1883). About £800,000 had been spent up to 1888 on fishery harbours; but much of this had certainly been wasted. The freshwater fisheries are administered by Boards of Conservators under > the nominal control, often defied, of the Fishery Board. Fishing in territorial waters is hedged about by many restrictions. The richness of some of the Irish fishing grounds is beyond question; but better railway service between coast and markets, better boats, instruction in net- and line-making and fish-curing, a" more vigorous initiative in public oyster farming, a thorough survey of the western waters, and an all-round strengthening of the Fishery Board, are sadly needed.

The Fishmongers' Company - which is one of the oldest of the metropolitan guilds - occupies a sort of semi-official position. Its main public duties are now the inspection of London fish-markets, and condemnation of "unsound" fish, the prosecution of offenders under the Sea Fisheries Acts, and the suppression of the trade in "unseasonable" salmon. It also helped to launch the highly-successful International Fisheries Exhibition of 1885, the last of a series in which Arcachon (nearly twenty years before), the Hague, Berlin, Norwich, and Edinburgh were pioneers. The volumes issued by the Exhibition executive together with the annual bluebooks of the various fisheries departments would alone make a goodly fisheries library. One of the results of the Exhibition was the formation of the Marine Biological Association, which has a marine "laboratory" at Plymouth. The National Sea Fisheries Protection Association, the Royal Dublin Society, the National Federation of Fishermen, and the Missions to Deep Sea B'ishermen deserve mention.

The Exhaustion of Fisheries. The improvement of railway communication and market facilities, the introduction of steam vessels, and the multiplication of fleets, together with the gradual failure of inshore fisheries and the alleged strain upon, the much-frequented "banks," have served to thoroughly alarm the older fishing communities, and the "immature fish question" is everywhere anxiously debated. An International Conference, at which Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, and Great Britain were represented, was held in London in 1890, and it was resolved that scientific inquiries should be carried on in each country preparatory to another and official conference. Meanwhile the British Government was asked to prohibit the sale of soles or plaice less than 10 in., lemon soles less than 11 in., and turbot and brill less than 12 in. in length. Of the general fact of a useless and probably ultimately disastrous slaughter there is ho doubt; and, apart from immature fish, it seems certain that continuous fishing in limited areas will prevent the natural reproduction of the less prolific species. The beam trawler is the chief offender, for his catches particularly are of the large uncommon and valuable kinds. Of course, to stop the sale of fish under a certain size will not completely stop their capture.

On the latter point little definite can be said pending further scientific researches, such as the Scotch Board, the Marine Biological Association, and foreign observers are carrying on. The relation between size and maturity is almost unknown at present; and a net which will let the young of large fish escape and yet catch the mature of smaller species is yet to be devised. To kill a nearly mature fish is worse than killing many very small ones, it should be remembered. Three suggestions can be made: (1) that the trawl should be raised more often, so that small fish may be returned to the sea before dead; (2) that known fish "nurseries" should be protected; and (3) that shrimp trawling and certain other modes of fishing in territorial waters (where, however, the valuable food-fishes rarely spawn) should be restricted or prohibited. It is possible that to some extent the food and habitat of bottom-fishes are injured by beam-trawling. It has, however, been established that it does not destroy the spawn, for Sars, Mcintosh, and Raffaele have shown that the eggs of all these valuable fish float.

On these and other problems concerning fish-life, food, reproduction, migration, and artificial propagation, valuable papers will be found in the annual reports of the Scotch Fishery Board.