The United States Fish Commission was established by a joint Congressional resolution on February 9, 1871 (16 Stat. 593), as an independent agency to investigate the causes for the decrease of commercial fish and aquatic animals in U.S. coastal and inland waters, and to recommend remedies.

Under the leadership of first Spencer Baird, then Marshall McDonald, George Goode and finally George Bowers, the Commission collected and published catch reports from commercial fishing port agents around the US and Canada, carried out extensive investigations of the fishes and other life in the nation's rivers and in the waters off the US coasts, and, starting in 1881, published reports from naturalists and fish researchers around the world in the annual Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission. In 1884, the Commission also published the seminal work, Fisheries and Fisheries Industries of the United States, (see atlas of illustrations from that book here.)

Two ships were built for the Commission; the 157-foot schooner-rigged steamer/floating fish hatchery Fish Hawk, and the 234 foot long brigantine-rigged steamer Albatross.

In 1903, the Commission became part of the Department of Commerce & Labor, and was reorganized as the United States Bureau of Fisheries, predecessor to today's NOAA Fisheries.


Smithsonian Institution's guide to the United States Fish Commission

US Federal Archive: "General records of the US Fish Commission and the Bureau of Fisheries."

US Fish Commission summer headquarters in Gloucester, Mass described. Gloucester Fishermen's Own Book 1882.