Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/379

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delicacy trembles to a case like this. What know we of Nature's infinite equipoise? Such organisms are their own excuse for being, and, if by any chance they serve at length the aesthetic sense of some creature intellectual, his is the good fortune; their destiny waxes not nor wanes.


By Prof. W. K. BROOKS,


SOME years since the writer was much impressed by an article by Prof. Huxley, in "The Popular Science Monthly," on the artificial propagation of food-fishes, in which he recognizes the value of the economic results which have followed the culture of the fishes of inland waters, but gives very emphatic expression to Ms belief that man's influence, either for good or for bad, upon the infinite wealth of the ocean, is so very slight as to be absolutely without significance. He argues that an oceanic species which is rich enough in individuals to resist all the enemies which prey upon it can be in no danger from man. If, he says, it is able to hold its own in the fierce struggle with the natural conditions of its existence, the loss of the few individuals, which are all that the human fishermen are able to capture, can not possibly lead to its extermination, nor even exert any noteworthy influence upon its abundance; nor can man, he argues, by artificially fertilizing a few million eggs, and by rearing a few million young fishes, cause any appreciable increase in the abundance of a species which includes countless millions of adult fishes, each of which has the power to leave behind it millions of descendants.

As compared with the natural reproductive power of the cod-fishes upon the Grand Banks, the efforts of man to artificially increase the supply sink into absolute insignificance, and Huxley's statement of the case seemed to me at the time to be convincing; but I have recently been able to investigate the subject for myself, and I am now satisfied that his opinions are not beyond question. As I am well aware that their influence has been far-reaching, and has much to do with current views, I take this opportunity to state my reasons for the change in my own opinion, as I wish to call attention to what I now consider a serious fallacy in his argument. If man's destructive influence were similar in kind to that of the other enemies of marine food-fishes, it would undoubtedly be quite true that the numbers destroyed by him are as nothing when compared with those which are destroyed in other ways; but the danger which comes from man's