The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Fisheries

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FISHERIES, a term which includes the taking of all kinds of water products as a business and thus applies to the pursuit of whales, seals, otters and other mammals; to the hunting of frogs, turtles and alligators; to the taking of oysters, clams, lobsters, crabs, shrimp and other shellfish; and to the gathering of corals, sponges and seaweeds, as well as to the capture of fish proper. Closely related to the fisheries is fish culture, by which the supply of water animals is maintained and increased; and the various shore industries having for their object the utilization or preservation of the products as brought in by the fishermen.

The countries whose fisheries are of greatest commercial importance, being worth upward of $5,000,000 yearly, are the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, Canada, Russia, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, in the order given. Countries which may be regarded as of second-rate importance in this respect, whose fisheries are worth between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000 annually, are Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Italy. No data are available for China and India, whose fisheries must be very extensive, and perhaps entitled to rank with those of the leading countries. An estimate based on official data and all other available information gives $350,000,000 as the approximate annual value of the commercial fisheries of the world. Water animals which are of great economic importance in both hemispheres are whales, seals, sea-herring, mackerel, tunny, cod, halibut, lobsters, shrimp, oysters and sponges. The most valuable of all fishery products are oysters; the most valuable of all fishes are sea-herring, salmon and cod.

United States.—The importance attained by the United States fisheries has been due to the abundance, variety, excellence and wide distribution of the products, augmented by cultivation and acclimatization. The abundance of food fishes had a marked influence on the original colonization of the country and was also an important factor in the subsequent development of various regions. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, some of the vessel fisheries had already become very extensive and sailor-fishermen, mostly from New England, manned our naval vessels and privateers and rendered valiant service.

For the years between the regular decennial fisheries census, returns are but fragmentary. For 1915 it is estimated that they exceed those of 1908 by about 2 per cent. According to the fisheries census, last compiled by the Census Bureau (for the calendar year 1908), the number of persons engaged in the fisheries of the United States in that year was 143,881, of whom 141,031 were sea fishermen and 2,850 shoresmen. The capital employed was $42,021,000, of which $13,806,000 was the value of the vessels; $7,269,000 of the open boats; $13,025,000 the value of apparatus and appliances; $5,342,000 the value of shore property; and $2,579,000 the amount of cash capital invested. The number of fishing vessels was 6,933 (aggregating 126,453 tons) and the number of open boats and vessels under 5 tons burden was 83,548. The equipment of the fisheries was 233,256 gill nets; 81,191 fyke and hoop nets; 16,104 pound nets, trap nets and weirs; 7,966 seines; and 17,787 other nets; lines valued at $476,000; dredges, tongs and rakes valued at $375,000. The total value of the catch was $54,031,000, representing an aggregate weight of 1,893,450,000 pounds — including the weight only of the edible parts of the oysters, clams, scallops, etc. Of the total catch 60 per cent was taken with nets and seines, 8 per cent with lines and baited hooks and 7 per cent with dredges and rakes. Of the whole, food fish amounted to 1,046,541,000 pounds, valued at $29,254,000; menhaden amounted to 394,776,000 pounds, valued at $893,000; oysters, clams, etc., amounted to 347,799,000 pounds, valued at $18,752,000; lobsters and crabs, 96,225,000 pounds, valued at $3,466,000; whale products, 4,028,000 pounds, valued at $497,000; and sponges, 622,000 pounds, valued at $545,000.

Americana 1920 Fisheries - Seining for Salmon.jpg

Seining for Salmon on the Columbia River

As to individual species, the oyster fishery yields the largest value—$15,713,000, or 29 per cent of the total value; salmon is second in value, yielding $3,347,000, or 6 per cent; cod is third, $2,914,000, or 5 per cent; then follow shad, $2,113,000 (4 per cent); lobster, $1,931,000 (4 per cent); clams, $1,896,000 (4 per cent); squeteague (weakfish), $1,776,000 (3 per cent); halibut, $1,562,000 (3 per cent); haddock, $1,308,000 (2 per cent); German carp, $1,135,000 (2 per cent).

In the order of weight the catches were: menhaden, 394,776,000 pounds; oysters allowing 7 pounds of meat to the bushel, 233,309,000 pounds; herring, 125,050,000 pounds; cod, 110,054,000 pounds; salmon, 90,417,000 pounds; alewives (river herring), 89,978,000 pounds; haddock, 59,987,000 pounds; crabs, 52,913,000 pounds; squeteague, 49,869,000 pounds; German carp, 42,763,000 pounds; lake herring, 41,118,000 pounds; halibut, 34,441,000 pounds; hake, 34,340,000 pounds; mullet, 33,703,000 pounds; pollock, 29,462,000 pounds; shad, 27,641,000; flounders, 23,346,000 pounds; shrimp and prawn, 19,080,000 pounds; catfish, 17,817,000 pounds; buffalo fish, 16,729,000 pounds; pike perch, 15,247,000 pounds; red snapper, 13,498,000 pounds; mackerel, 12,103,000 pounds; lake trout, 12,024,000 pounds; mussels, 8,543,000 pounds; scup, 8,414,000 pounds; suckers, 8,199,000 pounds; yellow perch, 7,898,000; whitefish, 7,708,000 pounds. The above named fishes constitute 97 per cent of the entire catch of the country.

Americana 1920 Fisheries - Fish Wheel.jpg

Fish Wheel at Cascades, Columbia River

The distribution of the several species of food fish, regarded commercially, is as follows:

Alewives are caught chiefly in Virginia and Maryland; black bass in Florida and Illinois; bluefish in New York and New Jersey; carp in Illinois and Ohio; catfish in Louisiana; cod in Massachusetts and Maine; eels in New York and Massachusetts; flounders in Massachusetts, California and New York; haddock in Massachusetts and Maine; halibut in Washington; herring in Maine; mackerel in Massachusetts; mullet in Florida; pike perch in Ohio; pollock in Massachusetts; salmon in Washington, Oregon and California; sardines in California; sea bass in New Jersey; shad in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and Florida; squeteague in New York and North Carolina; whitefish in Michigan; crabs in Virginia and Maryland; lobsters in Maine; oysters in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina, in the order named.

The Fisheries Bureau divides the country for supervisory and statistical purposes into five “Divisions”: these, with the several amounts of their catch, and percentages of the whole catch for the year 1908, are as follows: Atlantic Coast Division, 1,344,655,000 pounds; 71 per cent. Gulf of Mexico Division 117,723,000 pounds; 6 per cent. Pacific Coast Division, 176,150,000 pounds; 10 per cent. Mississippi River Division, 148,284,000 pounds; 8 per cent. Great Lakes Division, 106,632,000 pounds; 5 per cent.


Americana 1920 Fisheries - American Food Fishes.jpg

1.  Alewife. 2.  Red Snapper. 3.  Black Sea-bass.   4.  Steel-head.
5.  Spanish Mackerel.   6.  Rainbow Trout.   7.  Whitefish. 8.  Striped Bass.  
9.  Sunfish. 10.  Bluefish. 11.  Sauger. 12.  Fall-fish.

The relative importance of the fisheries in the several States may be gauged by the values of their individual catches (in 1908) as follows:

Massachusetts, $7,095,000; chiefly cod, haddock and mackerel, with herring, pollock and halibut of less importance.

Virginia, $4,716,000; chiefly oysters, with shad, menhaden, clams and crabs secondary.

New York, $4,594,000; chiefly oysters, with squeteague, bluefish, flounders and clams secondary.

Washington, $3,513,000; chiefly salmon and halibut, with oysters secondary.

Florida, $3,380,000; chiefly mullet and sponges, with red snapper, shad and oysters secondary.

Maryland, $3,306,000; chiefly oysters, with crabs, shad and alewives secondary.

Maine, $3,257,000; lobsters, with cod, herring, haddock and clams secondary.

New Jersey, $3,069,000; chiefly oysters, with squeteague, clams and shad secondary.

Connecticut, $2,982,000; chiefly oysters.

California, $1,970,000; chiefly salmon, with oysters secondary.

North Carolina, $1,776,000; chiefly shad and oysters.

Rhode Island, $1,752,000; chiefly oysters.

Louisiana, $1,569,000; chiefly oysters and shrimp.

Michigan, $1,473,000; chiefly lake trout and herring.

Illinois, $1,436,000; chiefly German carp.

Oregon, $1,356,000; chiefly salmon.

Wisconsin, $1,067,000; chiefly lake trout and herring.

Ohio, $840,000; chiefly lake herring and carp.

Georgia, $701,000; chiefly oysters.

Mississippi, $556,000; chiefly oysters.

Delaware, $541,000; chiefly oysters and menhaden.

Pennyslvania, $513,000; chiefly shad.

Texas, $446,000; chiefly oysters.

Alabama, $387,000; chiefly oysters.

South Carolina, $288,000; chiefly oysters.

Missouri, $271,000; chiefly German carp.

Indiana, $223,000; chiefly mussel products.

Iowa, $215,000; chiefly German carp.

Arkansas, $207,000: chiefly buffalo fish and catfish.

Minnesota, $192,000; chiefly lake herring.

Tennessee, $112,000; chiefly buffalo fish and catfish.

Kentucky, $110,000; chiefly catfish.

New Hampshire, $53,000; chiefly lobsters.

Kansas, $28,000; chiefly German carp.

Nebraska, $22,000; chiefly German carp.

South Dakota, $4,200; chiefly buffalo fish.

West Virginia, $2,000; chiefly carp and catfish.

Oklahoma, $300; chiefly drumfish.

With the object of restoring and maintaining the commercial fisheries of the country, and the stocking of its interior waters, the Bureau of Fisheries has 50 permanent hatcheries and 76 auxiliaries—subhatcheries and egg collecting stations. Nearly all the output of these establishments goes to the original sources from which the eggs were obtained. Besides the eggs, which are distributed mainly to State fishery commissions, young fish are widely distributed to all sections. These young fish are graded as “fry” up to the time the yolksac is absorbed and the fish begins to feed; “advanced fry” from the first classification up to the time they are one inch in length; “fingerlings,” from one inch in length up to one year old; “yearlings,” from one year old up to two years. In the fiscal year ended 30 June 1915, the number of eggs distributed was 536,260,143, of which 326,350,000 were pike perch; 98,940,000 whitefish; and 34,466,923 chinook salmon. The number of fry distributed was 3,694,281,699, of which 1,294,156,000 were flounders; 500,730,000 pollock; 405,400,000 whitefish; 282,820,000 pike perch; 260,133,000 cod; 195,267,000 yellow perch; 194,670,000 lobsters and 161,980,000 white perch. Of yearlings, fingerlings and adults, there were distributed 58,215,962. The total distribution of fish and eggs was 4,288,757,804, comprising 44 different species. The widest distribution was of brook trout: 5,700,263 fry and 6,965,167 fingerlings, yearlings and adults were sent to over 2,400 different localities.

A characteristic feature of the New England fisheries is the employment of a large fleet of fine, schooner-rigged vessels in the off-shore fisheries for cod, haddock, hake, halibut and mackerel. Cod is the principal fish so taken, part of the catch being made on the Grand Banks and other banks lying off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; and part on the very extensive and prolific banks adjacent to the New England shore, the most noted of which is Georges Bank. The most important of the New England boat and shore fisheries are those for sea-herring (caught chiefly in brush weirs), lobsters (caught in pots made of laths), soft-shell clams and oysters. In the catch of herring, soft-shell clams and lobsters, Maine surpasses all other States.

The oyster industry of the Middle Atlantic States gives to that region the importance which its fisheries have attained. The principal oyster grounds are in Long Island Sound, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay, a large part of the output now being taken from planted beds. An immense fleet of sailing vessels and boats is engaged in dredging and tonging oysters and running them to market. Other important salt-water products of this section are bluefish, menhaden, sea bass, squeteague, hard clams and crabs. The anadromous fishes, the shad, the alewives and the striped bass, support valuable fisheries. The South Atlantic region has no noteworthy vessel fisheries, but its pound-net, gill-net and seine fisheries for alewives, shad, sea mullet and squeteague are important, shad being the leading product. The most prominent products of the Gulf States are mullet, red snappers, squeteague, oysters, shrimp and sponges.

The Pacific States have very important vessel fisheries addressed to cod, halibut and whales, and very extensive shore fisheries for salmon, herring and oysters. The salmon fishery is the most valuable in the world, immense quantities of quinnat, blue-back, silver and other salmon being caught in the Sacramento and Columbia rivers, in Puget Sound and in Alaska. Much of the yield is canned. Statistics for the Alaska fisheries for 1914 show the total investment for that year at $37,038,632, of which 80 per cent was in the salmon fishery. There were 21,200 persons engaged, of whom 11,178 were white. The product was valued at $21,242,975. The pack of salmon for the season was 4,056,653 cases of 48 pounds each—a total of 294,719,344 pounds. The number of salmon caught was 54,651,915. The other fishery of importance in Alaska is the whale fishery. In 1914, 482 whales were captured by the two shore stations, and about 50 by the 4 whaling vessels in the Arctic. The total value of products was $317,349. From the 5 private salmon hatcheries in Alaska there were liberated in the year ended 30 June 1915, 79,619,500 fry of red varieties of salmon; and from the 2 government hatcheries, 51,163,100 fry. Besides this restocking of the Alaskan waters there are several streams used by salmon in spawning, which are closed by law against fishing. Waste of fish at the canneries is very severely dealt with by the government under the law of 1906.

The fisheries of the Great Lakes are the most important lake fisheries in the world, those in the United States waters producing over 100,000,000 pounds of excellent food fish annually. Lake Michigan has the largest catch, amounting to 41 per cent of the total. Lake Erie yields 34 per cent: Lake Huron, 13 per cent; Lake Superior, 9 per cent; Lake Ontario, 2 per cent. The principal fishes are whitefish, lake herring or cisco, lake trout, pike perch and yellow perch. The numerous interior waters of the country are well supplied with economic animals and support valuable fisheries. The most productive waters are the Mississippi River and tributaries. The species figuring most conspicuously in the catch are black bass, buffalo fish, carp, crappies, suckers, frogs and mussels, the shells of the last named being extensively used in making pearl buttons.

Canning and Preserving.—The 1914 census of manufactures reported 538 establishments in the United States in that year engaged in canning and otherwise preserving fish and oysters, with products amounting to $58,283,404 —an increase of 44.1 per cent since 1909. Canned fish amounted in value to $41,321,593. The largest item was canned salmon, $27,633,284; sardines were second, with $6,238,933; followed by oysters, $2,676,951; shrimp, $1,725,621; tuna, $1,638,675; clams, $670,363; all other canned fish, $737,766. Of smoked and dried fish there were prepared 28,713,806 pounds, valued at $2,759,341. The largest item was herring, 11,504,126 pounds, valued at $719,640. Salmon was second, 4,248,896 pounds, valued at $638,975. Finnan haddie was third, 4,095,693 pounds, valued at $327,877. Of salt and pickled fish, there were prepared 156,153,589 pounds, valued at $9,200,162. The largest item was cod, 83,502,295 pounds, valued at $5,661,770. Herring was second, 22,150,974 pounds, valued at $668,838.

United States Insular Possessions.—The fisheries of Hawaii give employment to about 3,600 persons, who employ 967 boats. The value of fishing property is $300,000. The catch comprises 7,250,000 pounds of fish besides other products, mostly eaten fresh and is valued at $700,000. The principal fishes taken are the akule, aku, and ulua. The Philippine Islands have valuable fishing resources which are but little developed. The leading fishery is that for pearls and pearl shells in the Sulu Archipelago; from time immemorial the pearls from this region have been famous. No statistics are available. The fisheries of Porto Rico are comparatively unimportant, although capable of development; at present the catch is only for local consumption and is eaten fresh.

Canada.—The fisheries of the Dominion of Canada are very extensive and closely resemble those of the United States. The aggregate yield according to official report, amounted in the year ended 31 March 1914, to $33,207,748, of which sea fisheries contributed $29,472,811. These figures include the value of canned products and hence exceed by several million dollars the actual value of the fisheries proper.

The number of men actually engaged in fishing was 71,776, and there were employed 1,992 vessels and 37,686 boats.

Among the provinces, British Columbia led with a catch valued at $13,891,398; Nova Scotia was second, with $8,297,626; then followed New Brunswick, $4,308,707; Ontario, $2,674,685; Quebec, $1,850,427, and Prince Edward Island, $1,280,447.

The catches of largest value were: salmon, $10,833,713; lobsters, $4,710,062; cod, $3,387,109; herring, $3,173,129; halibut, $2,036,400; mackerel, $1,280,319. In weight of catch, herring led with 248,421,900 pounds; salmon, 155,141,100 pounds; lobsters, 51,464,600 pounds; haddock, 40,563,300 pounds. See Canada—Fisheries.

Newfoundland.—In proportion to population, the fisheries of this island are more valuable than those of any other country. The hair-seal fisheries employ (1914) 20 steamers, aggregating 12,067 tons, and employ 3,959 men. Their catch was 233,719 seals, weighing 1,200,000 pounds. The “Banks” fisheries employ 105 vessels, of 7,790 tons, and 1,892 men, and their catch was about 140,000,000 pounds. The value of fishery products exported is about $8,000,000, and the value of products consumed locally was estimated at $1,000,000. The leading fish are cod and herring, the cod fishery being more valuable than in any other country.

Great Britain and Ireland.—The fisheries of the British Isles surpass those of any other country of Europe, and are about equal to those of the United States. Besides extensive coast fisheries, there are very important offshore vessel fisheries for cod, haddock, herring and flat-fishes; gill-nets being set for herring and beam trawls used for the other species. About 106,500 persons find employment in fishing, of which 39,500 are in England and Wales, 37,400 in Scotland and 28,000 in Ireland. The registered fishing vessels and boats numbered 25,000, of which 3,375 are steamers. In 1910 the value of the catch of Great Britain and Ireland was $58,702,675. Herring constituted the largest item in value, reaching $16,064,040; followed by haddock, $8,798,725; cod, &8,011,855; plaice, $5,198,490; hake, $3,154,805; halibut, $2,266,015; and sole, $2,065,395. In 1911 the weight of fish landed on the shores of the British Isles was nearly 3,000,000,000 pounds, valued at about $57,000,000.

Russia.—This country has vast fishery resources and the annual catch exceeds in value that of any other country of Europe except Great Britain. The ocean fisheries are insignificant, but those of the Caspian Sea and the fresh waters, especially Ural and Volga rivers, are very highly developed. The herring fisheries of the Caspian Sea, Kamchatka and Saghalen are famous, and millions of pounds are caught annually. The sturgeon fisheries are the most valuable in the world, the caviare product alone for 1911 amounting to 5,300,000 pounds. The roach is so abundant and cheap that it may be considered the national fish; between 200,000,000 and 300,000,000 pounds are taken annually in the Caspian Sea. Other important products are carp, catfish, bream, whitefish, yellow perch and lampreys. The total catch in 1910 was 1,582,228,000 pounds, valued at $49,985,000.

France.—Fisheries of great magnitude are prosecuted in the coast waters of France and by French fishermen in Newfoundland, Iceland and the North Sea. The number of vessel and boat fishermen is about 97,000 and of shore fishermen 62,000; and the value of the products taken was $21,240,000. In the cod fisheries of Newfoundland, Iceland and the North Sea, 44,600,000 kilograms of fish, valued at $3,800,000, were caught; and in the high-sea fisheries 56,300,000 kilograms of herring, mackerel and other fish, valued at $5,600,000, were taken. The principal coast fishery is that for sardines, large quantities of which are canned and sent to all parts of the world; the quantity taken was about 40,200,000 kilograms, worth $2,400,000. Other valuable products are tunny, lobsters, spiny lobsters, crayfish, oysters, mussels and seaweeds. The cultivation of oysters has reached great perfection in artificial enclosures, are marketed annually.

Norway.—In 1910 more than 120,000 people were employed in the Norwegian fisheries, with a fleet of 183 steamers, 2,407 motor vessels, 3,779 sailing vessels and 7,571 open boats. The principal products are cod, valued at about $6,000,000; herring, valued at $3,250,000; mackerel, $800,000; pollock, $700,000; and sprat $460,000. The cod fishery is carried on chiefly at the Lofoten Islands, where 35,000 fishermen are engaged. Other important fisheries are the lobster, whale, seal and shark. The total value of the fisheries was $13,151,080. A large part of the catch is exported to other European countries and the United States.

Other European Countries.—Germany has cod and herring fisheries, in the Baltic and North seas, and minor fresh-water fisheries. Upward of 32,000 persons are reported to be employed, and the catch in 1910 was valued at $8,905,140. The Netherlands have valuable herring fisheries, which yield about $1,478,000. Other valuable products are cod, anchovy and oysters. The total yearly production is valued at $8,500,000. The fisheries of Denmark are valued at about $4,000,000. The fishermen of Belgium catch chiefly herring and cod, the output being about $1,350,000 annually. Portugal has 4,000 vessels and boats, mostly engaged in the sardine and tunny fisheries; the products taken have a value of about $4,182,000. The fisheries of Spain are estimated to be worth $2,500,000, but no definite information regarding them is obtainable. Italy has nearly 100,000 fishermen engaged in the tunny, coral, sponge and general food-fish fisheries. The aggregate value of water products is estimated at $3,500,000 yearly. The Swedish fisheries are valued at about $3,850,000 annually. The principal species sought is the herring; the herring fishery of Bohuslän is famous, employing 7,500 men. Other important products are cod, mackerel, eels, salmon and lobsters. The sea fisheries of Austria-Hungary give employment to about 15,300 persons, and yield about $2,200,000 annually. Greece and Turkey have valuable sponge fisheries.

The total yield of the fisheries of Europe for the year 1910, as reported (May 1914) by the Permanent International Council for the Study of the Sea, was 5,670,221,200 pounds, of which herring constituted 26.48 per cent; cod, 18.5 per cent; haddock, 9 per cent; plaice, 6 per cent; mackerel, 3.09 per cent; sole, 2 per cent; halibut, 2 per cent; eels, 1 per cent.

The total value was about $126,000,000, of which England took $40,971,385; France, $23,525,005; Scotland, $15,853,140; Norway, $13,151,080; Germany, $8,905,140; Netherlands, $8,437,615; Denmark, $3,912745; Sweden, $3,849,255; Iceland (about), $2,000,000; Ireland, $1,878,150; Russia, $1,347,335; Belgium, $1,347,250.

Statistics kept for the North Sea fisheries, covering an area of 152,473 square miles, show that the average quantity of fish taken in 1910 per square mile was 16,115 pounds. The average total catch per day from North Sea waters was 3,360,000 pounds.

Japan.—The fisheries of Japan are in some respects the most important in the world, and in value rank next to those of the United States and Great Britain. In 1913, the fishing fleet of Japan comprised 133 steamers and 414,834 sailing craft and about 2,500,000 persons were employed in fishing and preparing fishery products. The total catch was valued at $47,532,924. All the coast waters abound in excellent food fishes, mollusks, crustaceans and other products, together with many objects used for ornamental, artistic and other purposes besides for food. The leading products are sardines (of which 500,000,000 pounds are annually caught), herring, bonito, cuttlefish and squid, tai, yellow tail, mackerel, tunny, salmon, cod, whales, coral and algae. The herring, salmon, cod and other fisheries of Hokkaido, the most northern of the main islands, are very extensive, yielding nearly 1,000,000,000 pounds. The aggregate output of the Japanese fisheries is probably not less than 6,000,000,000 pounds a year, with an estimated value of $30,000,000.

Bibliography.—Alflalo, P., ‘The Sea Fishing Industry in England and Wales’ (London 1904); ‘Great Fisheries of the World’ (London n.d.); Herbel, M. A., ‘Sea Fisheries; their Treasures and Toilers’ (London 1912); International Fisheries Congress IV, ‘Proceedings’ (Washington 1908); Krummel's ‘Handbuch der Oceanographie’ (1907); Somigli, C., ‘La Pesca Marittima Industrial’ (Rome 1912); Vallaux, C., ‘La Mer’ (Paris 1908); Wright, S., ‘The Romance of the World's Fisheries’ (London 1908).