Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/848

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826
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

And now let us examine more particularly the bearing which this elucidation of the habits of the mackerel in the eastern Atlantic has upon the waning mackerel fisheries of the eastern American seaboard. Unfortunately, we have not the same specific data which are furnished in the Annals of Kinsale to compare the earlier conditions. In fact, we have no authentic records of mackerel fishing with nets earlier than the first decade of this century; and, as says Mr. R. Edward Earll, in his exhaustive report, it was not until 1826 that the New England mackerel fisheries were prosecuted with any appreciable success. Prof. Brown Goode and Captain Collins, of Gloucester, have also added most important contributions to the history of the mackerel off this coast; and, as all these efforts are contained in the official reports of the United States Commissioners of Fish and Fisheries, I shall confine my own observations within the limits of the official records of their research. The mackerel fishery off the New England coast extends from the northern end of the Gulf of Maine to Cape Cod, and it has been ascertained that their spawning ground lies between the Shoals of Nantucket and the Bay of Fundy. A general fishing, however, is carried on from the shoals southward as far as the Chesapeake Bay. Mackerel were first fished for in these waters off the New England coast; and when, in 1870, the older appliances were discarded by the majority of the fishermen and the purse-seine adopted, enormous numbers were captured by the men who fished outside Gloucester. Discovering, however, that the fish could be captured earlier in the season farther south, the more enterprising among the fishermen tried the waters as far south as the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and succeeded admirably for several seasons. Then, in 1878, the men who remained on the New England ground, and who continued to use the old appliances—drag and gill nets—discovered that the supply of mackerel was becoming irregular and smaller, and, believing that this scarcity and irregularity of the fish were caused by the use of the purse-seine, they protested against the use of that style of net in precisely the same manner as did the Irish fishermen petition against the "long nets of the French" in 1675.

The protest of the Gloucester men had no effect; the Southern fishery was continued uninterruptedly for several seasons more, and finally the mackerel seemed to have disappeared from the coast in the same manner as they did from the Irish coast from 1883 to 1892 during the spring season; and in the same manner also they reappear off their New England spawning grounds in the late summer. I omitted to state that the season mackerel is caught in American waters in the same months that they are in seaon off the Irish coast, viz., March to June.