previous next

Fisheries, the.

The interruption of the fisheries formed one of the elements of the Revolutionary War and promised to be a marked consideration in any treaty of peace with Great Britain. Public law on the subject had not been settled. By the treaty of Utrecht France had agreed not to fish within 30 leagues of the coast of Nova Scotia; and by that of Paris not to fish within 15 leagues of Cape Breton. Vergennes, in a letter to Luzerne, the French minister at Philadelphia, had said: “The fishing on the high seas is as free as the sea itself, but the coast fisheries belong, of right, to the proprietors of the coast; therefore, the fisheries on the coasts of Newfoundland, of Nova Scotia, and of Canada belong exclusively to the English, and the Americans have no pretension whatever to share in them.” But the Americans had almost alone enjoyed these fisheries, and deemed that they had gained a right to them by exclusive and

Plan of action at Fisher's Hill.

immemorial usage. New England, at the beginning of the war, had, by act of Parliament, been debarred from fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, and they claimed that, in any treaty of peace, these fisheries ought to be considered as a perpetual joint property. Indeed, New England had planned, and furnished the forces for, the first reduction of Cape Breton, and had rendered conspicuous assistance in the acquisition of Nova Scotia and Canada by the English. The Congress, on March 23, [378] 1779, in committee of the whole, agreed that the right to fish on the coasts of Nova Scotia, the banks of Newfoundland, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the straits of Labrador and Belle Isle, should in no case be given up. In the final treaty of peace (1783) the fishery question was satisfactorily settled.

In the summer of 1845 some ill-feeling was engendered between the United States and Great Britain concerning the fisheries on the coasts of British America in the East. American fishermen were charged with a violation of the treaty of 1818 with Great Britain, which stipulated that they should not cast their lines or nets in the bays of the British provinces, except at the distance of 3 miles or more from shore. Now the British Government claimed the right to draw a line from headland to headland of these bays, and to exclude the Americans from the waters within that line. It had been the common practice, without interference, before, for American fishermen to catch cod within large bays, where they could easily carry on their vocation at a greater distance than 3 miles from the shore; now this new interpretation would exclude them from all bays. The British government sent an armed naval force to sustain this claim, and American vessels were threatened with seizure if they did not comply. The government of the United States, regarding the assumption as illegal, sent two war steamers, Princeton and Fulton, to the coast of Nova Scotia to protect the rights of American fishermen. For a time war between the two governments seemed inevitable, but the dispute was amicably settled by mutual concessions in October, 1853. See Alaska; Anglo-American commission; Bering sea question; Halifax fishing award.

The fisheries industries of the United States in 1900 were chiefly carried on in three sections known as the New England, the Pacific coast, and the Great Lakes fisheries. The United States government for several years has been liberally promoting the fishery industry, and several of the States, having large capital invested therein, have been rendering independent assistance, both the national and State governments maintaining large hatcheries. The report of the commissioner of fish and fisheries for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1900, but principally covering the calendar year 1899, shows that the national government distributed 1,164,336,754 fish, an increase, principally of shad, cod, flat-fish, white-fish, and lake trout, of about 100,000,000 over the previous year. The stocking of suitable streams with various species of trout was continued, special attention being paid to the distribution of brook, rainbow, and black-spotted trout. The amount of capital invested in the fisheries of the New England States was $19,637,036. There were 35,445 persons employed in the industry and 1,427 vessels, valued with their equipment at $4,224,339. The total product, chiefly in cod, cusk, haddock, and pollock, aggregated 393,355,570 lbs., valued at $9,672,702. The oyster fisheries of Rhode Island and Connecticut yielded catches valued at $1,910,684. The lobster fisheries yielded $1,276,900. On the Great Lakes 3,728 persons and 104 vessels were engaged, representing an investment of $2,719,600, and in the calendar year 1899 the catches amounted to 58,393,000 lbs., valued at $1,150,890. About 15,000,000 lake-trout eggs were collected on the spawning grounds of Lake Michigan, and more than 12,000,000 on those of Lake Superior, and at the Lake Erie station more than 337,838,000 white-fish eggs were hatched and the fry liberated, a gain of 2,000,000 over the previous year. For the Pacific coast fisheries more than 10,000,000 sockeye and blueback salmon fry were hatched and planted in Baker Lake, Washington, and in Skagit River. During the calendar year 1900 the yield of salmon was 2,843,132 cases, valued at $2,348,142. The American fur-seal herd in the waters of Alaska continued to decrease in numbers through the maintenance of pelagic sealing.

Fishing Bounties. In 1792 an act of Congress re-established the old system of bounties to which the American fisherman had been accustomed under the British government. All vessels employed for the term of four months, at least, in each year, on the Newfoundland banks, and other cod-fisheries, were entitled to a bounty varying from $1 to $2.50 per ton, according to their size, three-eighths to go to the owners and five-eighths to the [379] fishermen. The national benefit of the fisheries as a nursery for seamen in case of war was urged as the chief argument in favor of the bounties. That benefit was very conspicuous when the war with Great Britain occurred in 1812-15.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Gravier Vergennes (1)
Anne Caesar De La Luzerne (1)
Utrecht France (1)
Americans (1)
British America (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1900 AD (2)
1899 AD (2)
June 30th, 1900 AD (1)
October, 1853 AD (1)
1845 AD (1)
1818 AD (1)
1815 AD (1)
1812 AD (1)
1792 AD (1)
1783 AD (1)
1779 AD (1)
March 23rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: