Report of the Commissioner of Sea and Shore Fisheries of the State of Maine for 1897-1898.
Report of the Commissioner of Sea and Shore Fisheries of the State of Maine for 1897-1898.
Letter To Governor 12/31/98 * Report Summary * Herring * Lobster * Menhaden * Clams & Scallops * Smelts * Groundfishery * Mackerel * Alewives * Shad * Our Inspection Laws * Reciprocity * Wardens & their Work * About this digitized report
In submitting this, my first report as Commissioner of Sea and Shore Fisheries, I shall not go into a historical review of the fisheries, although abundant material might be found, but shall confine myself strictly to a practical statement of the condition of the same in its several branches—including those important industries connected therewith and dependent thereon,—basing my report upon information in the possession of the department, and making also such recommendations, as my experience in the active prosecution of the general fishing business for many years, and my brief service in this department may suggest, and what I consider my duty requires.
While the law enjoins me to report at this time for the full term of two years, my connection with the department and its responsibilities only date from the first day of March of the present year, the former commissioner, Mr. O. B. Whitten, having held the position for the first fifteen months of the biennial term just closed and to be covered by this report.
Therefore, for the full year 1897, and for the first quarter of the present year, I have compiled my report from the files and returns transmitted to me by my predecessor in office.
Without in the slightest degree intending to reflect upon the gentlemen whom I had the honor to succeed in this department, but in what I deem justice to myself, I consider it necessary to say that the information and data in the possession of this office upon my assumption of its duties, upon which entirely depended this report for the first fifteen months of the present biennial term, was neither full nor complete.
This fact will account for some of the unavoidable omissions noticed in the tabulations, and which may be ascribed to neglect to make and return information which existed, or a failure to care for and file such data, after its return to the office.
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Still other omissions appear and can be accounted for from the lack of facts and information to return, and want of statistics. This will be noticed in some of the special tables, and this reference to them is thought an important and necessary explanation to make in order that the tables may be better understood.
The series of special tables in the following pages, which show in detail in each of the important fisheries by counties, species, and otherwise, the many items of interest and value to the investigator, need some explanation. I have made values of fish in every branch for which I have reported (as near as is possible) for the fish as they are landed by the fishermen. In making up these tables, each fishery is credited necessarily with the number and value of the several kinds of apparatus used in the capture of the fish, and also in the preparation of the catch or product for market, and also with the help engaged therein, in which that apparatus, etc., was used or engaged during any portion of the year.
Thus it may be seen that in a few instances such items of information are duplicated where the same is used in connection with more than one branch of the fisheries. This was absolutely unavoidable if each fishery was to be properly shown and explained, and while duplication to that extent, and this explanation, is necessary, in no case in the general tables of yield has catch or product been duplicated.
General table number 15 shows for the year 1898 in each fishery and species, and by counties, the yield in pounds and the value of each. The totals show the aggregate value and production in all branches in each county; the aggregate value and production of each fishery throughout the State; and the grand total quantity and value of all the fisheries. In order to show more clearly and at a glance the yield of the several special fisheries, it has been found necessary to reduce to the common unit of a pound, certain products that are not usually handled on such a basis in the trade, as per following explanation:
All barrels of fish reckoned 200 pounds each.
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Clams reckoned 12 pounds per gallon.
Lincoln county returns very much the largest value of any county, $787,182.
The total production of all the fisheries throughout the State is 257,373,792 pounds; and the total value of the same is $2,767,134.
Table 16 summarizes for 1898 by each fishery the appliances and apparatus used in taking the fish, with the number and value of the same; and together with the number, tonnage and value of the vessels engaged in the several branches of the fisheries during the year 1898 and will be of considerable value for purposes of reference and showing the total investment of the Maine fisheries.
Table 17 summarizes by counties and by fisheries the persons engaged in Maine fisheries and dependent industries in the year 1898, and shows a grand total of 16,317 persons so employed.
During the year 1898 four hundred and fifty-four vessels aggregating 8,275 tons and valued at $331,000, were engaged in the several branches of the fisheries. Ground fishing (including cod, cusk, hake, pollock, halibut, haddock,) mackerel, sword-fish, herring and shad, and thirty-two vessels and nine steamers, aggregating 877 tons and valued at $60,020, were exclusively engaged in the transportation of lobsters from the catchers to the markets.
The vessels mentioned above as engaged in the catching of fish, were not engaged exclusively in any one fishery, but the most of them were employed in two, and a few of them, in three different branches during the year of 1898. They have not therefore been tabulated in the special tables, as to do so would cause unnecessary duplication and would complicate and mystify, rather than explain, but they are properly added to the summary table number 16 already mentioned.
These vessels and steamers above mentioned as used exclusively in the lobster transportation are also included in table 16.
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In many respects this is the most important of all the fisheries of the State. The herring supplies many and various uses to the benefit and advantage of man, and the methods of capture are almost as varied, and although the quantity taken in our waters the present season is the largest of any food fish, and notwithstanding the fact that the catch has increased within a few years to a great extent, yet in the last season the fish have been more than usually abundant, and those taken in the immense quantities shown, do not in any degree deplete the observed schools and shoals of this very prolific and useful fish.
Referring to the table number I, it is seen that 697,613 barrels were sold fresh, valued at $409,818; that 17,346 barrels were sold salted, worth $52,120; and that the fishermen smoked and marketed no less than one million, eight hundred and seventy-six. thousand, six hundred boxes, returning them $268,120 and in addition to this 28,966 gallons of oil were marketed as the production of this fishery; and in the catching, preparation, and marketing of the herring, fourteen hundred and seventy men were employed at good wages.
The herring has been on our coast always in great quantities, but the small fish, at least, have not until recent years been caught to any extent, or used, except for bait, and that only by local fishermen, and for smoking in certain localities.
Eastport and Lubec were the pioneer towns in the business and have built up a large business which is of great benefit to those localities.
Vessels engaged in the fisheries have for some years, and until recently, procured bait from the coast of Maine, and in Nova Scotia, and at Newfoundland, making long, expensive, and oftentimes unprofitable voyages. Now very few vessels go to the Provinces for bait, for the supply of bait in a large degree is at home within our own State and in our own waters to supply the demand of our own and the Massachusetts fleet which comes to our shores, not only for bait but for the necessary ice for the preservation of the bait and also the catch, which is returned to market in frozen fresh state by many of the vessels.
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Thus the sale of ice in connection with the bait business is very large. At Boothbay Harbor, as only one point on our coast, more than 12,000 tons of ice has been supplied to vessels which came there during the past season, or since April first, for bait as well as ice.
This vessel bait and ice business is a very valuable adjunct to the herring fishery of our State, and is every season increasing materially, as the vessels are most always confident that bait can be procured, and know that ice can always be obtained from the large stores at our principal ports.
But the foregoing is by no means the extent of the herring in its many branches and connected industries, important as the figures mentioned may seem. The sardine packing business is directly connected with, and dependent upon, the yield of this fish and the success of this fishery; the small sized herring being taken and used for putting up and preserving fresh in this way. The sardine is a small herring and is packed for market very largely and exclusively in our State. No other state in the Union, I believe, is conducting the business, so that Maine has a monopoly.
The sardine packing business this last season, which ended December first, gave employment in our State to 5,839 persons, who received for their labor $811,775. These employees are of all ages and both sexes; boys and girls during vacation earning good wages in a most respectable and honorable employment.
The product of these canneries is enormous. During the recent packing season, the business was prosecuted in but three counties, as will be noticed by referring to table 3, Washington county having 50 factories; Hancock county 7 factories; and Lincoln county 5 factories. These 62 canneries put up 1,178,694 cases of a market value of $2,727,781, as well as by-products: oil, 28,956 gallons, value, $4,635; and fertilizer, 975 tons, produced value, $6,820. Tables number 3 and 4 give the statistics of general interest in the sardine business for the years 1898 and 1897 respectively, and comparisons can thus be readily etween the two years.
The herring fishery (and associated industries) is not only the largest and most important, but seems to be increasing in value and importance as the market for the product is extended. The proprietors of the canneries assure me that the season has been
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a very prosperous one and that next year a much larger business will be done with addition of new factories and increased and improved machinery and facilities, coupled with that experience so necessary to success. With the markets of Puerto Rico and Cuba open to us, and with the fish on our coast in the usual abundance, I can safely predict a very much increased business and output for the coming season.
At certain times the past season, very large bodies of herring have been discovered in certain waters of the State, in which the use of the purse and drag seine is forbidden by law, and the fish could not be taken. This is deemed by the fishermen a great hardship, as the great benefit of the catch of these protected fish was entirely lost to our people. I concur with the fishermen in the position they have taken, in so far that I think the law should be amended so as to include certain specific waters and as to the catching of herring by purse and drag seines therein, and at the proper time I will present to the proper committee my suggestions and recommendations as to the same.
Every effort should be made to hold and encourage the herring fishery, taking special note of its many and valuable branches, industries, and adjuncts. It is worth the utmost care, fostering, and protection of our legislators, and no unnecessary or onerous restrictions or regulations should be placed or kept thereon.
I shall have some recommendations to present in connection with the sardine packing, as to those regulations originally promulgated for the protection of the public from unscrupulous packers of improperly prepared, or carelessly preserved, fish.
Following will be found varied information of interest in connection with the herring fishery, comprised in table number I for the year 1898, and table number 2 for the year 1897.
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TABLE NO. 1.
SEA AND SHORE FISHERIES 12
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TABLE NO. 3. SHOWING IN DETAIL STATISTICS OF THE SARDINE PACKING INDUSTRY IN THE STATE OF MAINE FOR THE YEAR 1898, BY COUNTIES.
TABLE No. 4.SHOWING IN DETAIL STATISTICS OF THE SARDINE PACKING INDUSTRY IN THE STATE OF MAINE FOR THE YEAR 1897, BY COUNTIES
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Every county on our coast is represented in this industry, Cumberland county reporting in 1898 the largest number of men engaged--674—and Waldo county reporting the smallest number engaged--20 men—while in the entire State, three thousand, one hundred and three men (3,103) pursued this business during the present year, and up to December first received as the reward for their labor, a total of nine hundred and thirty-seven thousand, two hundred and thirty-nine dollars ($937,239). To earn this money, which averages $302 to each man engaged, they handled and marketed no less than 8,178,332 lobsters, showing an average of 2,958 lobsters to each man. The average price received for each lobster in 1898 was therefore about thirteen cents.
Taking the total catch and value of the two years 1897 and 1898 it will be seen that there has been an increased catch and yield in favor of 1898 of 404,000 lobsters and $108,803. While this would indicate perhaps a more prosperous year, on account of increased production and value, notice must be taken of the fact that the men employed in 1897 were 2,436, and in 1899 were 3,103, an increase of 667 persons dependent upon the business, and that the average catch to each man in 1897 was 3,072 lobsters, and the return to each man $336.
Thus while the quantity of catch and value of returns increased the last year, the fishermen did not earn as much on an average as they did the year before, at the same time the average price paid the fishermen for their lobsters was eleven cents in 1897, as compared with thirteen cents received by them in 1898, as above mentioned. Apparently the demand for the lobster is increasing more rapidly than the supply, and the out of the State markets are governed materially, I have no doubt, by the deliveries of fish from other sections. Prices will fluctuate and cannot be regulated, except by the demand and marketable supply. There must be, necessarily, in the products of hand and brain, and lobster fishery, seasons and occasions of high prices, and seasons and occasions of low prices.
One thing is certainly apparent, that with the yield averaging about as at present, the price cannot decrease very much and return a living to the fishermen.
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The lobster pounds are coming to be an important factor in the business. Complaint is made in some quarters by the consumers and market dealers, that prices are kept up through the pounds accumulating large numbers in storage and holding them for higher prices. I have not considered this storing and keeping of the lobsters has been exceedingly profitable to the pound owners on account of the great expenses of keeping and feeding, and the large percentage of mortality caused by confinement, lack of freedom and exercise, and the better opportunity for the exercise of their naturally ferocious disposition and cannibalistic habits while confined in close quarters.
I can say one thing in favor of the storage pounds in our State, which is this: I have had my attention called to the increased production (in the immediate vicinity of these pounds) of small lobsters during the past few years, showing us that while in these pounds the fry from the female lobster (which naturally comes to the surface and floats for a few days in its first stages) passes through the spaces between the slats at the outlet of the pound, and out into the vicinity of the pound, later on sinking to the bottom, and these little creatures may be found in large numbers under and about the rocks near the shore, protecting themselves from their enemies until such time as they have "shed" and feel able to protect themselves.
Artificial scientific propagation of the lobster is carried on by the United States Fishery Commission at its hatchery stations at Wood's Hole and Gloucester, Mass., to a large extent, and also the cod and other fish are being experimented with in the same way.
Upon request of the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, permission was granted the fishermen by my predecessor in office to take seed lobsters during the year 1897, for the purpose of securing the eggs for artificial propagation and experimental distribution. By the report of C. G. Corliss, Esq., Superintendent of the Gloucester, Mass., station of the United States Commission, it appears that the season extended from April 17th to July 10th, during which time 2,158 lobsters were received from Maine by the commission, and from these were taken 24,338,000 eggs which hatched out 21,445,000 fry or small lobsters. Of this number, 11,665,000 were distributed in Maine waters.
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waters. There is no information in possession of this department as to the disposition of the nine million small lobsters reported as hatched and not deposited in our waters.
For the year 1898, upon similar application of Commissioner Bowers of the United States Commission, permission was given by me to take seed lobsters to a certain number, on condition that the young lobsters hatched were all distributed along our Maine coast, and the deposit made at such points as I might designate in shoal water where the temperature was higher and where there were less natural enemies for the young lobster to encounter than in the deeper water off shore.
Captain Hahn of the United States Schooner Grampus who collected the lobsters—the western part of the State supplying the larger number—and distributed the young lobsters after hatching, is much interested in the work and has taken great care to return young lobsters, as well as the parent lobster taken away, to our waters. The captain entirely agreed with me that the young were much more likely to mature if left in shoal and warm water.
The following report exhibits the number of lobsters taken by the United States authorities; the eggs hatched and the fry produced therefrom; and also a particular statement of the date and place of deposit of the twenty-one million, five hundred thousand small lobsters set free in Maine this year, a chart of which is in the office of this department.
GLOUCESTER, MASS., STATION 1898
Number of seed lobsters received from Maine waters,
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Date of deposit. 1898 Point of deposit. No. of fry .
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As to the practical success of artificial propagation I am by no means satisfied. Many arguments are advanced in favor of the establishment of a hatchery to be supported by the State, but until I am thoroughly satisfied as to its success and practical utility, I cannot recommend such establishment.
My first objection is my doubt as to whether any of the small lobsters deposited in our waters after being artificially hatched will come to maturity. I have seen no evidence on our coast that a single lobster ever came to maturity that was artificially propagated. I am intending to start some experiments the coming summer with young lobsters, in connection with the lobster pound, in order to satisfy myself as to the practical feasibility of artificial propagation. I have still another reason, and that is the great cost and expense to the State of such an establishment.
There has been a disposition on the part of some fishermen, I have been informed, to nullify the law as to egg-bearing lobsters, by detaching their eggs, and selling the lobsters in defiance of the law. This practice is very fatal to the lobster fishery, as the eggs thrown away in this manner die, and become a total loss, thus it is readily seen, that in every case where the fishermen destroy the eggs from one lobster, they destroy from 10,000 to 30,000 young fish (that being the number of eggs produced by each lobster) according to age.
The practice of the United States authorities of buying of the fishermen, the seed lobsters under permit from this department, make unnecessary this vicious practice to that extent. I believe it would be much better for the State to purchase all the seed lobsters the United States Commission do not take and release them, than to submit to the awful destruction referred to above. The practice, if it exists, can only be stopped by great vigilance and constant watching on the part of the wardens.
The law as to the legal length of lobsters—ten and one-half inches—should remain as it is. I do not believe that making the limit less than ten and one-half inches would be any advantage. I do recommend a slight change in the present law as to the fines and the enforcement thereof. I think the law generally is working well, and when strictly observed is the best for the fishermen and the State, that can be at present devised. Any call for a
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change in the present law as to the legal length of lobsters will be based, in my opinion, upon the failure of the fishermen to respect and observe it. Other localities are finding similar difficulties with which this State has to contend.
I have had some correspondence with the Commissioner of Fisheries of New Hampshire, and he assures me that an effort will be made in that State to have the law as to length of lobsters made the same as in this State. Near the line of division between the states, some trouble arises on account of our fishermen, as it is claimed, taking lobsters from Maine waters and selling them in the adjoining state of New Hampshire, where the law allows them to be taken or sold less than ten and one-half inches in length.
Similar difficulties exist in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the proper remedies are to be soon applied there. I insert here an article from a Halifax, N. S., newspaper, of date October 14th, 1898, showing that the lobster question is receiving much attention in the adjoining provinces of the Dominion :
"Halifax, Oct. 14.—The government lobster commission opened its Halifax session to-day. The following members are present : Prof. E. E. Prince, Dominion Commissioner of Fisheries, Ottawa, chairman; Messrs. Wm. Whitman, Guysboro; Henry C. Levatte, Louisburg; C. B. and Moses Nickerson, Clark's Harbor, N. S.
"A large amount of important evidence will be presented as the sitting in Halifax has aroused unusual interest. The new lobster regulation designed to come into force on January 1, 1899, by which the taking of lobsters under ten and one-half inches in length is prohibited in the Bay of Fundy, west of Cape Sable, will demand chief attention, but a very important point, will also be discussed, namely, the total prohibition of the export of lobsters under ten and one-half inches, from the Maritime Provinces.
"The commissioners include in their inquiries the effect of past regulations and the nature of protection necessary in the future, as well as the alleged injuries to mackerel and other fisheries, and the desirability of lobster hatching. Next week the commissioners will take evidence in Lunenburg, Liverpool, Lockeport ====================================================================
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and Shelburne, and afterwards proceed to Guysboro and Cape Breton."
Ten lobster dealers in the city of Portland have handled 98% of all the lobsters which have been landed in that city during the year 1898, and there has been landed there by smacks from the fisheries about one-half million. These ten concerns have an invested working capital of $54,000 which will not appear in any table.
Table number 5 shows statistics in detail of the lobster fishery for the year 1898; and table number 6 gives the same information for the year 1897 for the purposes of comparison.
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Table 5. Table Showing in Detail Statistics of the Lobster Fishery of the State of Maine for Year 1898, by Counties.
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There were no pounds reported for this year
There was for years in some localities a strong prejudice existing against this fishery, and from time to time our legislature has enacted laws which were detrimental to the prosecution of this business. I think I can say that at the present time such prejudice does not exist among those who are familiar with the habits of the fish, its limited usefulness, and the unobjectionable manner in which the business is at present conducted.
The legislature of 1893 removed some of the restrictions which existed in our statutes as to this fishing, since which time, with a fair quantity of fish on the coast, the business has been quite prosperous.
In the early part of the year 1898, a company called the American Fisheries Company was formed, which took over all the assets of the several factories in the United States, north of the Chesapeake; so that now the concerns are all under one management, with ample capital for the prosecution of the business.
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All the factories in Maine are located in Lincoln county. The season of 1898 was short; but still, as the table will show, in the one hundred days that the business was prosecuted, the employees were paid the sum of $105,000.
The menhaden or porgy is not used for food in this section of the country, its only use being the production of oil, pomace and bait. The method of manufacture is very simple. The fish are cooked by steam and then the oil is extracted by bringing the mass under powerful hydraulic pressure. The residuum or pomace is of much value as a fertilizer, and was produced in this short season to the amount of 9,120 tons. During the past season, these fish have been seen in vast numbers inside of the lines fixed by the State law.
As was seen in the case of the herring, the menhaden fishermen consider it a hardship that they cannot catch these fish, that are not used for any other purpose, in any waters of the State. Some of our summer visitors while among us and in the vicinity of the factories, find some fault on account of the offensive odor; some because they actually smell it, and others because they have been taught to believe that they must smell it if within a mile of a factory.
Some fishermen also find fault because they believe the steamers serve to drive other fish away. Thus there are two sides to the question, and I trust that if the American Fisheries Company does not ask for more privileges, that the legislature will not be pressed to further restrict this industry by more stringent laws.
The menhaden is a migratory fish, and as the great schools come north in the summer, the fish increase very much in value; as when in the vicinity of Rhode Island for instance, they are very lean and produce a very small proportion of oil. A little later in the season when on the Maine coast-their richest feeding ground-the fish become very fat and yield double the amount of oil that they would if taken south of Cape Cod. Thus we see the reason that these factories are located on the Maine coast; the fish are twice as valuable here as they are elsewhere.
While a part of the capital invested in these industries is foreign, the business brings here and distributes a large amount of money each season in the purchase of supplies and in the employ-
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-ment of a great number of help; and the industry utilizes a fish that is available for no other purpose whatever.
If our laws in relation to this fishery had remained the same as they were previous to 1893, Maine would have been for the season of 1898, just $105,000 worse off than at the present time. While we have a Klondike such as the menhaden business furnishes, at our very doors, we should not allow ourselves to lose it by enacting laws that will serve to drive it from us. That the salt water, on our Maine coast especially, contains gold (in the shape of fish) the fishermen of Maine have proven, notwithstanding Jernegan failed to satisfy some other classes of that fact.
Table number 7 shows what has been done in the business for 1898, and the value of the same.
TABLE NO. 7.
TABLE GIVING DETAILED INFORMATION AS TO THE MENHADEN INDUSTRY IN
MAINE IN THE YEAR, 1898.
Total value of catch and apparatus $677,962
In digging and marketing clams there are a great many men employed, who receive a considerable amount of money for their product. Every county on our coast in the State furnishes opportunity for the prosecution of this fishery, and 550 men were thus engaged for a part of the year 1898 at least.
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Clams are sold fresh and shipped out of the State in large quantities, both in and out of the shell by the barrel, and by the gallon. Salt clams are also sold in large quantities for bait. They are also put up in cans and the product of this alone in 1898 was 40,933 cases. Clam juice is now also a marketable commodity in Maine, in the year 1898 to the number of two thousand and seven hundred and fifty cases.
The value of the apparatus for the conducting of this work by the fishermen is nominal, and the store is everywhere on the coast, always at hand and easily secured, at least a third of each twenty-four hours of the day.
The total quantity of clams marketed in 1898 would be the equivalent of one million, one hundred and nine thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six (1,109,936) bushels in the shell. Reference may be had to tables numbered 8 and 9 for statistics under this title.
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SEA AND SHORE FISHERIES 27.
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The catch of smelts for 1898 in which every county on the coast is represented, was 1,156,684 pounds, which returned to the fishermen eighty thousand, three hundred and fourteen dollars. As compared with the previous year there were 35,579 pounds more caught in 1898 than in 1897. Ten hundred and ninety-five persons were engaged in the taking of the above fish with weirs and seines, and by hook and line. There is usually a quick market for smelts, and recent prices, though fluctuating have ruled high. Large shipments are made to the Boston and New York markets, and December consignments have returned to the fishermen fifteen cents clear of expense to the pound.
Tables for both 1897 and 1898 exhibit comparative statistics. Some counties prosecute this fishery by use of seines; others by hook and line; others by weirs; and others by dipnets; therefore while these tables appear incomplete, they are with a very few exceptions, complete.
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TABLE No. 10. SHOWING DETAILED STATISTICS OF THE SMELT FISHERY IN MAINE. 1898, BY COUNTIES.
TABLE No. 11. SHOWING DETAILED STATISTICS OF THE SMELT FISHERY IN MAINE. 1898, BY
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The ground fishery comprises the catching of cod, hake, haddock, pollock, halibut and cusk. The Bank salt fishery has decreased rapidly during the past twenty-five years. Different opinions are given for the decline; my opinion is as follows: The withdrawal of the bounty which was paid by our government was the first blow to cripple the salt fishery business; later we came into competition with Canadian and French fishermen whose governments were encouraging them with a bounty to assist them in building and sending out vessels, and the fish when caught found a market in our country free of duty for a long term of years, during which time the Canadian government built a substantial fleet of fishing vessels, with which our fishermen have been obliged to compete ever since. Most of our vessels have been gradually withdrawn from the business, and the owners of those remaining in the business have been obliged to retire from the business, or have failed to make a success of it, until to-day only nine vessels are employed in the Bank and salt fishery. I believe these cannot be retained in the business much longer, there is so much risk in the failure of trips, the expense of fitting being very large. I believe this government should now pay a bounty to encourage the fisheries.
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While the Bank and other salt fisheries have declined greatly in the last quarter of a century, the kinds of fishing and the demand for the product yielded have increased, and the fishermen have from necessity turned their attention to the other and different branches, so that the aggregate yield, perhaps, of all branches, is equal at the present time to that of many years ago.
Many of the fishermen who formerly did a salt fish business now bring in their fish fresh, preserved on ice, from short trips, and I am glad to report that this business is on the increase, in vessels, men, boats, and yield, and the returns leave a profit to the owners. There is always a market for fresh fish at all seasons of the year, and a considerable part of the catch for the early part of 1898 of our Maine vessels was landed in Massachusetts, where ready markets and fair prices are found.
In the early part of 1898, large cod fish were caught in large numbers in the inshore grounds, and the bays and rivers of our coast. Many theories have been advanced to explain this, but nothing else more satisfactory than theory.
For statistics under this title you are referred to table 12.
TABLE No. 12. GIVING DETAILED INFORMATION AS TO THE GROUND FISHERY IN MAINE FOR THE YEAR 1898.
Number of men engaged in this fishery 1,291
Number of boats engaged in this fishery 819
Number of plants 89
Fish caught-pounds 32,952,619
Tongues and sounds-pounds 9,600
Hake sound sounds 37,700
Cod oil produced-gallons 49,190
Total value of catch and apparatus $726,138
Ground fishery, in this table, includes cod, hake, haddock, pollock, halibut, cusk, flounders and eels, usually called mixed fish.
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The seasons 1897 and 1898 have been very unsatisfactory to the mackerel fishermen, taking the whole fleet together. Early in the season of 1898, while the vessels were all in northern waters, there appeared large bodies of fish, and several good catches were made and bright hopes were entertained by those engaged in the business. The mackerel were, however, never seen on our coast in any considerable number until late in the season, when very small "tinkers" in great numbers appeared in almost every harbor, cove, and bay, from Kittery to Quoddy. Twenty years ago the fishermen would have predicted for our next season a great catch of mackerel on account of the immense body of small fish that appeared here near the end of the present season, but now with the great uncertainty in all fisheries, and the general unreliability of signs, especially in fisheries, 'tis not safe to expect any such luck in the season of 1899.
Mackerel, like other fish, have fins and tails, with which they go and come when and where they please.
For the season of 1898 only a few New England vessels have stocked enough to pay expenses, and many have fallen heavily in debt and have been since fitted for and entered upon other, and it is hoped, more certain and profitable fisheries.
See table 13 for statistics of the mackerel fishery.
Number of men engaged in the fishery 300
Number of boats 239
Number of nets and seines 718
Number of traps and pounds 22
Mackerel sold fresh, pounds 814,130
Mackerel sold salted, barrels 665
Mackerel put up in cans, cases—included in quantity and
Total value of apparatus and catch $82,855
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The yield of this fishery has been quite as much as in former seasons in most parts of the State. In those sections of the State where streams and fishways are carefully looked after by interested parties from year to year, the yield has been large, but in many cases where the State leaves the rivers, and streams, and fishways entirely to town supervision, they are much neglected, and therefore the fish do not in many cases reach their spawning grounds.
In the towns of Orland, East Machias, and Dennysville, I believe the river alewive fishery is not being looked after as it should be, and at these places in a few years the fishery will be entirely valueless and a thing of the past.
See table 14 for statistics.
TABLE No. 14. INFORMATION AS TO THE ALEWIVE FISHERY IN MAINE IN 1898.
Number men engaged in the fishery 185
Total value catch and apparatus $36,042
The shad fishery is confined to Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and Cumberland counties; none being caught in the other rivers where once they were abundant. The reason for this disappearance of river species seems to me to be, that as the fish are caught while on their way to, and while resting on, the spawning grounds, their number should naturally and logically decrease.
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Sea shad are caught in seines off our coast in large quantities. Fishermen of large experience say that this species are never found in our rivers, and there is doubt as to where and when they spawn.
The total catch of all species of shad in this State was 1,152,400 pounds, valued at $23,720.
Table number 15 shows the catch and value for each county. (Broken into two images to fit page)
SEA AND SHORE FISHERIES 35.
Total value of investment $2,363,374
SEA AND SHORE FISHERIES 36.
*In this table ground fishery includes cod, hake, pollock, tusk, halibut, haddock, flounders, eels.
OUR INSPECTION LAWS
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As a very important question, affecting vitally, I think, the fisheries of our State, is that which is proposed and urged by our provincial neighbors: limited reciprocity between the Canadian Provinces on the one hand, in the matter of fish privileges, and our new West Indian possessions, especially the island of Porto Rico; on the other hand, in the matter of fish markets.
The proposition of the merchants' association of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and other provincial cities, is this: They propose to give the fishermen of the United States the privilege of fishing within their well-known and well advertised "three mile limit" in return for the right to be granted by the United States to the provincial merchants, to export fish to the island of Porto Rico free of duty.
I do not believe that there is within this three mile limit, anything of value to the fishermen of Maine or New England. When I say that the privilege is not worth the buying, I voice the unanimous sentiment of the fishery interests of Maine and New England.
On the other hand, it is understood and agreed that the Porto Rican market is a good one, by all conversant with the West Indian trade. The proposition of the Provincials is altogether one-sided. Our friends do not offer an equivalent. They would give to the United States assumed privileges which would turn out of but little or no value, and what the fishermen do not want, for what we know to be (for some kinds of fish) a very good market indeed.
I believe that the advantage to the merchants in the purchase of supplies and stores of all kinds, for our vessels which would frequent Provincial ports if the waters were free to them, providing that fish was there to induce the vessels to take the long trip to make the trial, would more than equal in profit to the merchants, the advantage accruing to the vessels for the use of the inshore fishing grounds.
The fishing interests have been very much depressed for a number of years; no single industry has suffered more during our late hard times. If there is to be a change it would seem that it must be for the better, and with the opening of additional markets for fish in the West Indies, and the advantage of
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general good times, there is a hope for brighter things in the future of the fisheries of Maine. The confidence in the future as expressed among the fishermen is such, that already there is talk of a larger fleet of vessels with which to do the increased business that is expected to come to them.
To the honorable commissioners of the United States, to the Anglo-American commissioners, of which Congressman Nelson Dingley is a distinguished member, charged with the adjustment of the questions between the two governments, and to whom this proposition is addressed, our fishermen appeal with confidence, that no bargain such as is proposed, with the depleted and always over-valued fisheries claimed to be within the three mile limit as a consideration, will be sanctioned, whereby we shall lose the Puerto Rico and Cuban markets for our fish or have to compete there with free foreign fish.
Our legislators have at heart the interest of the fisheries as one of the most important industries in the State and I earnestly hope that this interest will be shown in some effective way, possibly in the form of a memorial or address, expressing in unmistakable language the opposition of the people of our State to open markets in Porto Rico and Cuba for foreign fish.
There are, in the State and on duty at the present time, twenty-three fish wardens who serve twelve months in the year, and nine sardine wardens who serve but six months in the year. The duties of these men are to look up and bring to justice violators, and to gather statistical information for this department. I have no occasion to find fault with those on duty now, and I believe they are doing what they are able to do for the benefit of the State. If the citizens of the State would assist these men in the performance of their duties, instead of sympathizing with the violators, it would be a much easier task that would fall to their lot. With a larger force of wardens employed, the nearer we might approach a strict observance of our laws on the coast; but with the present appropriation, we are employing as many as can be paid,
This report was copied from an original edition at the Bangor Public Library, then digitized and uploaded to the internet by Ron Huber, Penobscot Baywatch, Rockland, Maine, 11/28/07. Please contact him to point out errata, or for more information or comments.