The New International Encyclopædia/Fisheries

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FISHERIES. The capture of various kinds of fish for the purpose of trade has always been extensively carried on in maritime countries and in those which are watered by large rivers, and has been the means in many instances of adding greatly to their prosperity. The art has been brought only by degrees to its present perfection, but in nothing did primitive man exhibit greater ingenuity and skill than in the taking of fish, and they were effectively preserved, and formed a large element in savage sustenance and barter in all parts of the world. The importance of fisheries in the food-supplies of nations, inland as well as maritime, and as offering a remunerative return for labor, can scarcely be overestimated. One great peculiarity of this source of wealth is that the sea harvest is ripened without trouble or expense for the fisher, who only requires to provide the means of gathering it.

Means of Capture. Lines. The principal means of capturing fishes are nets and the hook and line. The hand-line is much used for ordinary fishing, but where this is carried on extensively at sea, a ‘set’ or ‘long’ line must be used. This is known in America as a trawl. These set-lines vary with the kind of fishing, but they are all built on the general plan of a long line, to which at interval shorter lines bearing the hooks are attached. The line is weighted at the ends or at intervals. It may he provided with floats at intermediate distances, so that the hooks near the weights catch bottom fishes and the others those at middle depths. These lines are set in varying lengths, but a well-equipped fishing schooner will operate several miles of trawl, carrying 10,000 to 15,000 hooks. The boats from which so extensive lines are operated are provided with winches to bring up the lines from the great depths.

Hand lines are such as are manipulated with the hand. They have one or several hooks, and are set, or sometimes are drawn or ‘trolled’ through the water from a boat. The black bass, bluefish, pickerel (qq.v.), and other predaceous species are taken by this method.

Nets and Weirs. The principal nets are the beam-trawl, the gill-net, and seine. In America the ‘long line’ is known as a trawl, but in England this term refers to a large, purse-shaped net attached to a front beam, which is weighted and dragged at varying depths near or along the bottom for bottom fishes, such as soles and flounders. This is one of the principal method of fishing in the British waters. Trawls are often of great size, 75 to 100 feet in length, and are used at great depths, requiring vessels of considerable strength. Gill-nets or drift nets are extensively used both in the seas and in inland waters, since they are suitable to any water of sufficient depth to float them properly. They are set or drifted across channels or across the course of migration of fishes. Schools of fishes, striking the net, will become entangled. This is one of the favorite methods for capturing species that move in schools at or near the surface, such as the herring, and which cannot be easily trapped or taken with the line. The seine is a long net of varying depth, weighted along the lower edge to keep this at the bottom, while the upper edge is provided with floats sufficiently strong to support the seine and keep it vertically stretched. It is usually intended to be dragged to the shore, or to some prearranged platform; but one form for use in the open sea, called a ‘purse-net,’ has a rope along the bottom by which that part may be gathered together, forming a deep bag, within which the fishes may be crowded into a small space near the surface, and then dipped out. Pound-nets and fyke nets are fixed traps. Pound-nets consist of a long wing, or ‘leader,’ supported on stakes, and forming a fence which runs from near shore out to varying distances, and terminates in a labyrinthine inclosure forming a trap. Fishes swimming against the wing and seeking to pass around it are led out to the trap, entering which they are imprisoned. The pound-net is simply a modern and improved form of the ancient weir (still in service in various parts of the world), which was composed of stakes and wattle or lines of planted brush instead of netting. Fyke-nets are long, cylindrical bags, supported at intervals by hoops. The entrance is by a funnel leading into one or more compartments, separated by similar funnel-shaped partitions, through which the fish will not return. This net may be supplied with wings, like the ordinary pound-net or weir, leading the fish into the funnel-opening. Fykes are set at the bottom, and may be used at considerable depths. For information as to towing ‘intermediate’ deep-sea nets and dredges, see Deep-Sea Exploration.

Preparation and Preservation of Fish. A matter of great importance to the fishery industry is the proper preparation of the raw product for the market. The markets are generally distant from the point of capture; moreover, the season during which any species can be taken in paying quantities is usually limited. This necessity has given rise to numerous methods of preservation, all of which are modifications of freezing, drying, smoking, salting, or canning.

Freezing. For transportation of fresh fish and for their preservation the freezing method is generally adopted. For transportation they are usually simply packed in ice. To preserve them for long periods in the fresh condition they are frozen into blocks of various sizes. The fish are packed into a pan of the desired shape and size, and then subjected to very low temperatures, either through the ice-and-salt method or by the ammonia method. Frozen into blocks, they are stored until ready for the market. Such frozen fish usually lose some of their good flavor and firmness, due to evaporation during storage. On the Atlantic Coast the bluefish, halibut, squeteague, sturgeon, mackerel, flatfish, cod, haddock, Spanish mackerel, eels, etc., are thus preserved. On the Pacific Coast the salmon, sturgeon, and halibut are principally frozen. On the Great Lakes the lake trout, lake herring, wall-eyed pike, black bass, perch, sturgeon, etc., are frozen. The comparatively recent perfection of the methods of refrigeration has greatly increased the consumption of fresh fish, and has enabled consumers to enjoy many species fresh at a season in which formerly they could be had only in a smoked or salted condition. The extensive inland trade in the United States, and the liability of stored products to rapid decay, has given rise to an elaborate system of refrigerator railroad cars for their imperishable transportation.

In Drying, fish are usually first subjected to a salt cure, but under some circumstances may be directly dried. The process varies with different species, climates, and nations, but in general is as follows: The fish are cleaned and split. They are then salted, either with dry salt, allowing the pickle which forms to run off, or in brine-vats, where they remain until ready for market. They are then subjected to the drying process in the sun, much care being essential to prevent too strong sunlight acting upon them. For markets in the tropics it is essential that most of the water be extracted, but for sale in the United States the fish are much less thoroughly dried.

For Pickling, brine is almost exclusively employed in the United States. The fish are cleaned, split, and packed in salt. Brine is then added. The principal fishes pickled are the mackerel and the herring.

Smoking Fish is an old and common practice. Smoking is a powerful preservative, and adds a desirable flavor to the flesh. The fish are usually slightly cured with salt, first, then smoked for a varying length of time—two to ten days. Oily species, such as the herring, haddock, halibut, salmon, etc., are those most generally smoked.

In Canning the flesh is subjected to high temperatures (boiled), placed in cans, and hermetically sealed, after which the cans are subjected to water heated to a high temperature and under pressure. Fish may be (1) plain boiled or steamed; (2) preserved in oil; or (3) prepared in vinegar sauces, and spices. Among the more important fishery products canned are the salmon, sardine, crabs, and oysters.

Special Fisheries. The Sturgeon. Sturgeons are the objects of rather extensive fisheries in both Europe and America; in China they are also important. In Europe the Russians lead in the sturgeon fishery. In the United States the industry is of comparatively recent origin, but is already rapidly declining because of the exhaustion of the supply through indiscriminate fishing. In the United States sturgeon are taken principally by the gill-net and set lines, though many are also taken in pound-nets and seines. The flesh is almost exclusively prepared by smoking, and in both Europe and North America the roe is prepared into caviar. The swim-bladder is used for isinglass; oil is obtained, and the refuse is used as a fertilizer. The annual yield of smoked sturgeon in the United States for 1897 was about 4,000,000 pounds, with a value of $720,000. In 1898 the yield of caviar from the sturgeon in the United States was about 2800 kegs, containing from 125 to 160 pounds each, valued at about $225,000. The first value, annually, to the fisherman is about $300,000. In Russia the value of caviar obtained amounts to nearly $1,500,000 annually, which is mainly marketed in Southwestern Europe.

Herring. Under the head of herring fisheries may be considered all the clupeiform fishes, such as shad, herring, alewife, sardine, and menhaden.

The true herring, or sea herring (Clupen harengus), is undoubtedly the most important food-fish in existence, although in the United States its importance is much less than that of many other species. The total annual catch for the world has been estimated at about 1,500,000,000 pounds, the greater part of which is taken in Norway. The annual catch in the New England States is about 55,000,000 pounds, with a first value to the fisherman of $350,000. The herring are principally taken with seines, gill-nets, and weirs. They appear in the markets in three principal forms, namely, fresh, pickled, and smoked. In the United States there are annually frozen about 25,000,000 herring, with a market value of about $300,000. About one-third of these are used as bait for cod; the remainder are consumed as fresh food. They thus afford an excellent fresh-fish food at seasons when other fresh fish are difficult to get. The quantity of herring prepared in pickle is greater than that of all other species combined. Over 3,000,000 barrels is the annual product for the world, of which only 30,000 barrels are now prepared in the United States, a quantity much exceeded in former years. They appear in the markets in two principal forms—‘round’ and ‘split.’ In the former they are salted without, the removal of gills, heart, and viscera, while in the latter they are eviscerated. The annual production in the United States of smoked herring in various forms is valued at about $285,000. They are prepared for the markets as ‘hard’ or ‘red’ herring and ‘bloater’ herring, the latter being a form and term used mainly in England, and originating chiefly at Yarmouth. The former differ from the latter in being subjected to the smoke at a lower temperature and for three or four weeks, while the latter are smoked at a comparatively high temperature, and only for two and a half to six days. The bloaters do not have the keeping qualities of the hard herring. In Maine young herring are extensively canned as sardines. In spite of the great increase in the herring fisheries and the enormous quantities annually taken, the abundance of the species has not perceptibly diminished.

The Shad (Alosa sapidissima) is the object of the most extensive fisheries in the United States, where it is the most important food-fish excepting the cod and the salmon. The fisheries are located along the entire Atlantic Coast streams; and the fish has been introduced into the Sacramento River, and has spread along the entire Pacific Coast northward to Alaska. Shad are taken during their entrance into the fresh-water streams for the purpose of spawning, and are captured by seines, gill-nets, and pound-nets in great quantities. The annual yield for recent years has averaged about 50,000,000 in the United States, with a first value of $1,600,000. Host of the shad are consumed fresh, being iced for shipment. A few are brine-salted, and some are smoked. The eggs of shad are to some extent made into caviar, and offer the best substitute for the sturgeon-roe.

The Alewife (Pomolobus pseudoharengus) is the most abundant food-fish in the east coast rivers of the United States, and next to the shad is the most important of the anadromous fishes of the Eastern States. Alewife fisheries are to be found in every Atlantic State. The catch in 1896 was 62,066,622 pounds, with a value of $459,598. They are principally caught in seines and pound-nets during their migrations up the streams for spawning purposes; many are also taken with gill-nets, fykes, and even with dip-nets. A nearly related species, the glut-herring (Pomolobus æstvalis), is of less importance, and more common in the Southern States. Alewives are used fresh for food, as bait for line fisheries, and are extensively brine-salted and smoked. The wholesale value of the smoked product in 1898 was about $100,000, and of the salted about the same.

The Menhaden is the object of an important fishery in the United States. This fish (Brevoortia tyrannus) occurs along the entire east coast of the United States, and is more abundant south, but is of no special value as food except for other fishes. It is canned, and salted to a limited extent, and some are eaten fresh. Their principal value lies in the oil extracted from them, and in their use as fertilizers. They are uncertain in their movements, but in favorable years over fifty vessels may be employed in the catch. The annual product is about 3,000,000 gallons of oil and 1,000,000 tons of scrap (used in the composition of fertilizers), with an aggregate value of about $2,500,000.

The Sardine fisheries are pursued in three principal regions, namely, the Mediterranean coasts, the coast of the Bay of Biscay, and the coast of Maine; but sardines are prepared in other places, such as Brazil and Mexico. The European sardine or pilchard (Clupea pilchardus) is the common form there. In the United States nearly related species are used, also the young of the sea herring, and to some extent young menhaden. This industry is of comparatively recent origin in the United States, dating from 1875. The annual product, since about 1890 has averaged about $2,000,000 for the United States. The European amounts are much greater, France, Spain. Portugal, and Italy being heavy producers. The importations into the United States have aggregated nearly $30,000,000 for the past 40 years, most of which came from France. In the markets sardines appear in the canned form, put up in olive and other kinds of oils. This industry has reached its highest development in Brittany

Another group of important fisheries is that concerned with the several salmonoid fishes. Among these are to be included the salmon, whitefishes, and smelt.

The Salmon are undoubtedly the most important group of fishes entering the rivers of North America, and a considerable number of salmon are taken in Northern Europe and Eastern Asia. The catch of the British Islands in 1889 amounted to about $3,250,000. In North America the most important fisheries are on the Pacific Coast, where the combined annual yield of the United States, Alaska, and British Columbia is about 125,000,000 pounds, with a value of $8,200,000. The most important species is the Chinook or quinnat salmon (see Salmon); the next in importance is the abundant blue-back salmon, followed by the silver salmon, steelhead, etc. They are taken during their ascent up the streams by the usual appliances, together with the unique fishing wheel. Salmon are marketed as fresh, smoked, and canned. The canning of salmon has become one of the great industries of the world. The world's annual output exceeds $10,000,000, over 95 per cent. of which is prepared on the American continent. The total output on the west coast of North America amounted in 1892 to $6,549,000, and in 1895 to $10,081,997. The export trade, at first mainly with South America and Australia, now also includes Great Britain, which consumes annually about 500,000 cases. Smoked salmon are among the choicest of fishery products. In the United States smoking is mainly carried on in the East, but the fish come from the British Provinces. Nearly all the Atlantic salmon are smoked. The output amounts annually to about $750,000, representing about 2,800,000 pounds.

The Whitefish (Coregonus clupeiformis) and the ciscos or lake herring (Argyrosomus Artedi) are highly important salmonoids. Species of these two genera are found in the lakes of Northern Asia, Europe, and North America, and all are valued as food. The whitefishes are among the most important fresh-water fishes of the world. The catch of lake herring and whitefish in the United States and Canada for the year 1893 aggregated over 70,000,000 pounds, with a value of about $2,500,000. Of this sum about 47,000,000 pounds were taken in the United States, with a value of nearly $1,000,000, of which 36,000,000 pounds were lake herring. Most of these are taken in gill-nets, but many also in pound-nets, trap-nets, and seines. Whitefish and herring are extensively frozen in the Great Lakes region, and are thus served fresh to the markets. Large quantities were formerly brine-salted, but this industry has almost wholly disappeared since the frozen-fish industry has developed. Whitefish were formerly extensively smoked, but the scarcity of this species has resulted in the substitution of the lake herring, of which there are annually prepared about 2,000,000 pounds in the more important cities along the Great Lakes.

The Lake Trout (Cristivomer namaycush) is next to the whitefish in importance in the Great Lakes fisheries. The disposition of these is much like that of the whitefish, and they are taken by gill-nets, pound-nets, hook and line, and in winter through the ice by spearing.

The Smelt (Osmerus), although the smallest of the salmonoids, is of great importance. The annual catch in the United States is about 1,700,000 pounds, with a value of $125,000. The eh in the Canadian fisheries aggregated nearly $300,000 in the year 1889. They are largely taken by seines. Smelt are canned to some extent, but the great bulk of them are marketed fresh, being extensively preserved in cold storage.

The Mackerel is one of the most valuable food-fishes in the Atlantic, and great fisheries for it are carried on in Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Canada, and the United States. Lines, purse-seines, and gill-nets are the principal apparatus used. The most important of the several species, the common mackerel (Scomber scombrus), is found on both sides of the Atlantic and appears near shore in enormous schools. Trustworthy estimates by fishermen have placed the quantity of fish in some of the larger schools at 1,000,000 barrels. They appear in the spring, coming shoreward earlier in the more southern latitudes, and in autumn they return to the deeper waters. The European catch is usually limited enough to be mostly marketed fresh, but in the United States and Canada large quantities are cured. In North America most of the mackerel fisheries are on the east coast. For the ten years ending in 1886 the annual catch in the United States was over 300,000 barrels, with a value of about $2,450,000. The catch during the succeeding ten years averaged about 48,000 barrels, no year exceeding 89,000 barrels. The catch in Canada for the year 1893 was valued at $1,096,000. The quantity taken in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Norway in 1895 amounted to 399,361 barrels. Of these 46,500 barrels were salted. In 1898 the European product of salted mackerel was 50,000 barrels. The Canadian product of pickled mackerel in 1893 amounted to 67,912 barrels, worth $904,832. In the United States the proportion of salted mackerel to the total catch was in former years above 80 per cent., but in recent years it has been less than 50 per cent. The increasing demand for fresh mackerel is in part responsible for this decrease.

The Spanish mackerel, one of the choicest food-fishes, is taken in considerable quantities along its entire range on the east coast of the United States, but principally south. The yearly catch amounts to about 1,700,000 pounds, with a value of $130,000. It is taken in seines, gill-nets, pound nets, and lines.

The tunny or horse-mackerel, which may reach a weight of 1000 to 1500 pounds, is a mackerel of most excellent flavor, and is the object of extensive fisheries in Southern Europe.

Cod Fishery. One of the world's greatest fisheries is that relating to the several species of the cod family (Gadidæ). These are common in the northern regions of both oceans. The more important species are the common cod, haddock, pollack, and hake. The countries principally engaged in the cod fisheries are Newfoundland, Canada, the United States, France, Great Britain, and Norway and Sweden, with a total annual product worth about $20,000,000. In the United States the number of vessels of not less than five tons burden which are engaged either wholly or largely in cod fisheries is not less than 600, with a total tonnage of 25,000 tons, representing a capital of over $3,000,000. Besides these there are many smaller vessels. The number of men engaged is over 7000. The common cod (Gadus callarias) is the most important, and is found on both sides of the Atlantic. It is taken with hand lines and trawl lines from rather deep waters—20 to 70 fathoms. The annual catch for the United States has in recent years averaged about $3,000,000, first value. The catch in 1893 for Canada amounted to $4,028,448. The haddock is extensively taken in both Europe and America. The product of Canada amounted to $466,319 for the year 1893. In the United States the annual yield is about 50,000,000 pounds, with a value of about $1,115,000. The pollack is found on the east coast of North America north of New Jersey. The annual catch in the United States amounts to about $100,000, the Canadian product amounting to about one-half this sum.

The various species of cod are marketed fresh, dried, pickled, and smoked. Very small quantities are pickled in the United States, and almost the only species smoked is the haddock. The principal form in which they are cured is by salting and drying. The world's annual product of dried codfish aggregates 600,000,000 pounds, representing 2,500,000,000 pounds of the uncured fish. The chief markets are France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Brazil. The bulk of this trade is carried on by Norway, Newfoundland, and Canada, and it has been steadily increasing in these countries, while in the United States the reverse is the case. Our exports of dried cod in 1804 amounted to $2,400,000. while the average annual export for the ten years prior to 1894 was 16,260,000 pounds, worth $737,084. The total amount of dried codfish prepared in the United States annually is about 80,000,000 pounds. Haddock are extensively smoked, appearing on the market as ‘finnan haddie.’ The United States product of smoked haddock is valued at about $200,000 annually. The secondary products of the cod are of considerable importance. These are oil, isinglass from the air-bladders, glue, etc.

Halibut, etc. Nearly related to the Gadidæ, and like them of great importance, are the flatfishes (Pleuronectidæ). The fisheries are extensive in both Europe and America. Flatfishes are bottom fishes, and many of them are found in deep waters. The principal means of capture, therefore, are the hook and line, haul seines, pound-nets, and the beam-trawl. The latter method is almost exclusively used by the North European countries. The most important and one of the most toothsome is the large halibut, found in all northern seas. It may attain a weight of 400 pounds, though the commoner weight is less than half this. The great fishing grounds for the Atlantic trade of the United States are Grand Bank, Western Bank, Iceland, and Greenland. They are iced, and upon arrival are further prepared for sale either fresh or smoked. The most of the halibut are cured by smoking. The annual product, larger in former years than now, averages about 1,600,000 pounds, with a value of about $160,000. The Canadian catch of halibut in 1893 amounted to 215,000 pounds, with a value of $59,800. Two other species of considerable size are found in the American markets: the Greenland halibut, found in the Antic parts of the Atlantic but not very common, and the Monterey halibut, common along the coast of California. In European waters the sole (Solea vulgaris) is the common flatfish taken for the markets.

Lesser Fisheries. In addition to the foregoing more important families of fishes there are many others whose species arc not so generally important, and which are not the object of so extensive special fisheries.

The most, important member of the minnow family in America and Europe is the carp. In Europe it is extensively reared in artificial ponds, and in the United States upon introduction it becomes notoriously abundant. Its flesh is not highly esteemed in the United States, though extensively taken for the markets, where it frequently appears under a variety of names.

The suckers (Catostomidæ) are much eaten in the Mississippi Valley. The most important of these are the buffalo-fishes, the catch of which in 1896, exclusive of the Great Lakes, was 17,583,544 pounds, with a value of $418,949. Other suckers brought this sum up to $500,000.

Of greater commercial value than the suckers are the catfishes (Siluridæ). The catch in the Mississippi Valley amounted to 14,726,812 pounds in 1896, valued at $532,972.

The fresh-water sheepshead (Aplodinotus grunniens) yielded 5,246,000 pounds in 1896, with a value of $141,000. Along the east coast the sheepshead is generally regarded as one of the choicest food-fishes. The squeteague, or weakfish, and the spotted weakfish are extensively taken along the east coast of the United States.

The sea-basses (Serranidæ) include many important species, used as food in different regions of their world-wide distribution. In the United States the striped bass (Roccus lineatus) and the white perch (Morone Americana) are among the important species. The groupers are abundantly found in the markets, especially in the Southern United States and in Brazil. These are not infrequently found of great size in the markets, but are of more practicable value as objects of sport.

The wrasses (Labridæ) are numerous in species, comprising kinds much used as food. The commoner species on the east coast of the United States are the cunner and the tautog. The annual commercial catch of the latter amounts to about 1,500,000 pounds, with a value of $60,000.

Various species of pickerel (Luciidæ) are of some importance in the Northern United States and Europe. The most familiar one is the common pike or pickerel, abundant in northern regions. The Canadian maskinonge (q.v.) reaches a weight of 100 pounds or more.

The large and small-mouthed black bass and other sunfishes. such as the rock-bass, crappie, etc., are taken in considerable quantities for the markets in the United States, and the first named has been introduced into other countries where they are now marketed. The market value of the black bass to the fishermen in the United States is about $130,000, representing 2,000,000 pounds of fish. The annual catch of crappie is less than half this amount, or 850,000 pounds.

The mullets are commonly found in the markets of both North and South America.

Bibliography. Goode, Fishery Industries of the United States (Washington, 1884}; U. S. Fish Commission Annual Reports (Washington, 1871 et seq. and U. S. Fish Commission Bulletins (Washington, 1882 et seq.); Inspectors of Fisheries for England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, Annual Reports (London, 1897 et seq.); Minister of Fisheries of Canada, Report (Ottawa, 1868 et seq.); Statistiques des pêches maritimes (Paris, 1881 et seq.) treats of the fisheries of France; Stevenson, “Preservation of Fishery Products for Food,” in the United States Fish Commission's Bulletin for 1898 (Washington, 1899), contains a thorough account of the methods of preserving aquatic products in the United States and also of other countries, their commercial value, etc.; Simmonds, Harvest of the Sea (London, 1865); id., Commercial Products of the Sea (London, 1883); id., The Sea Fisheries of Great Britain (London, 1883).