BULLETIN OF THE UNITED STATES FISH COMMISSION. Page 369
112. NOTES ON AN INVESTIGATION OF THE GREAT FISHING BANKS OF THE WESTERN ATLANTIC. (1)
BY J. W. COLLINS.
This report covers a trip of twenty-nine days, made in pursuance of instructions from the Commissioner to accompany the Albatross, as fishery expert, to the great fishing banks off the coast of North America.
On June 19, soundings were taken over the region of the two positions assigned to Hope Bank on the charts (about latitude 41° 25' north, longitude 63° 15' west), proving that there is no such bank, or even an upheaval of the ocean bed in this vicinity, as a depth of about 2,000 fathoms was uniformly found, under favorable conditions for sounding and determining the ship's exact position. This disproves the existence of what for several years has been a source of speculation to many New England fishermen, and has occasionally caused a loss of time to those that searched for it.(2)
The next objective point was the position of certain reported " dangers to navigation," laid down on the charts as "rocks awash," at varying distances to the southward of the southern extremity of the Grand Bank of Newfoundland. The whole of the 21st, and the following night and morning, were spent in searching for these "rocks," and the researches 'proved that no such " dangers" existed, as depths of about 3,000 fathoms were found where these "rocks" were marked on the charts.(3) The results of such searches are of considerable practical value to fishermen.
Early on the morning of June 23, we began dredging with the beam trawl in 523 fathoms, about 15 miles to the southward of the southern extremity of the Grand Bank, and dredgings were made at regular intervals between that position and the bank, while later in the day many dredgings were made on the bank itself. Perhaps the most important catch of the day, from the standpoint of a fisherman, was the haul made on the bank in 51 fathoms (latitude 43° 08' north, longitude 50° 40' west.)
Notes Page 369 (2) See Fish Commission Bulletin for 1885, p. 466. (3) This is what is referred to in Captain Tanner's Report (p. 28) as Watson's Rock. Bull. U. S. F. C. 1886-24
(2) See Fish Commission Bulletin for 1885, p. 466.
(3) This is what is referred to in Captain Tanner's Report (p. 28) as Watson's Rock. Bull. U. S. F. C. 1886-24
BULLETIN OF THE UNITED STATES FISH COMMISSION.
west). Here thirty-six specimens of the craig or pole flounder (Glyptocephalus cynoylossus) were taken in the beam-trawl, which was on the bottom only a few minutes. These fish were of large size and weighed106 pounds in the aggregate. The trawl also brought up a very large quantity of ophiurans. Off the southern edge of the Grand Bank, in depths varying from 100 to 300 fathoms, the trawl brought up large quantities of grenadiers (Macrurus), blue hake (Haloporphyrus viola), soft corals, and a smaller amount of other material.
Several dredgings were made during the early part of the 24th in the shallow water on the eastern edge of the Grand Bank.
At dredging station 2437 (4) the trawl brought up considerable quantities of bryozoa, which fishermen call "sea-moss"; where this occurs the ground is known as "mossy bottom:" Many flat sea-urchins, commonly called " sand dollars," were also taken, but there were no fish, excepting, one small flounder.
At station 2438, near by, most of the material taken consisted of sand-dollars. A rather small amount was brought up in the trawl, among which were broken shells, one skate (Raia radiata), one small fish, and a few shells.
At station 2439 the trawl brought up a large mass of holothurians, commonly called "sea-pumpkins," a few ascidians (Boltenia), known to the fishermen as "sea-lemons," and many small sponges and shells. Among the latter there were many live mussels, some of which were covered with sponges and barnacles. A small amount of bryozoa, sand-dollars, and a few spider-crabs were taken, also one small codfish.
The bulk of the material obtained at station 2440 consisted of dead shells, and, so far as could be judged, the bottom where the dredging was made would be what is termed " barren ground." A few small flounders and three haddock were also taken at this station.
The material brought up in the trawl during the forenoon of the 25th did not indicate for the most part a very good feeding ground for cod.
At station 2441 very little material was obtained, consisting of a very few shells and some spiny sea-urchins (Strongylocentrotus drobachiensis), sea-lemons (Boltenia), a few shrimp, two small skates (Raia radiata), and one young sculpin (Cottus).
At station 2442 the trawl brought up only about one-half bushel of material in all. This was mostly flat sea-urchins.
There were also one sea-lemon (Boltenia bolteni), one sea-peach (Halocyn-tlaia pyriformis), several sea-pumpkins (Pentacta. frondosa), sea-strawberry or soft coral (Alcyonium ?), and a few starfish, spiny crabs, and hermit-crabs. There were also some barnacles and several species of shells, chiefly Saxicava. mactrasipho Besides these there were a few shrimp.(5)
Notes; (4) For latitude and longitude and other details concerning these stations, see Tanner's Report before cited, p. 66 et seq.(5) I am indebted to Mr. Sanderson Smith for the identification of the shells, while Mr. J. E. Benedict, resident naturalist on the ship, rendered much aid in identifying many of the species of fish and invertebrates.
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At station 2443, we got two or three barrels of sea-urchins, one skate (Raia radiata,), one sand-dab (Limanda ferruginea), a considerable quantity of shells (chiefly varieties of sea-whelks or Bucccinum), and some hermit-crabs.
At station 2444 the trawl brought up about two barrels of sand-dollars, three very small fish of undetermined species, one bank-clam (Glycimeris), and a few hermit and spiny crabs.
At station 2445 many sea-lemons (Boltenia) and other varieties of ascidians were taken, also numbers of spiny sea-urchins, small spiny crabs, hermit-crabs, and a few living and as many dead scallops (Pecten islandicus). Comparatively few sand-dollars were obtained, a few worm-eaten stones of varying size, and a quantity of pebbles. There were several small fish of undetermined species and a few shrimp.
In this neighborhood but little material was obtained, however, which would be suitable as food for cod, and the inference is that the fish in that vicinity were attracted there principally in pursuit of smaller species (as lant or capelin) which they were feeding. upon.
As we proceeded farther north and reached from 46° 20' to 46° 28' north latitude, the character of the fauna, as .well as of the bottom, changed very materially, and there were not only indications of a greater abundance of food suitable for the cod, but we also had evidence that the fish were far more numerous than they were in the region near station 2443.
At station 2446 the trawl brought up many sea-lemons (Boltenia bolteni) and other varieties of ascidians, while flat sea-urchins were few in number. There were also numbers of shrimp, sea-peaches, spiny crabs, hermit-crabs, scallops, also Trophon clathratus, Saxicava Buccinum, a considerable quantity of pebbles, and a few worm-eaten stones.
A few miles northerly from this position fishing schooners were seen at anchor ahead of the ship and on both sides, and one or two vessels were tinder way shifting their position. Near these, considerable material was taken which indicated an abundance of animal life on the bottom suitable as food for cod.
At station 2447, which was about 3 miles west-southwest by compass from where "Ryder's Rock" is laid down on the charts, the trawl brought up a rather small amount of material, of which about one-half was sand-dollars, and of the remainder sea-lemons were most numerous.
At station 2448 (latitude 46° 28', longitude 49° 39' 30") we sounded and made a haul with the beam-trawl. This is the position where "Ryder's Rock" is laid down on the charts, and the investigations made here determined the fact that no such rock exists, since in this place a depth of 40 fathoms was obtained on a bottom of sand and gravel. Here, the following were obtained: One flounder (L. ferruginea), one skate (Raia radiata), about 1 1/2 bushels of sand-dollars, and a few crabs, scallops, &c.
After making this haul the ship steamed up near the schooner Keewatin of Lockport, Nova Scotia, and I went on board to obtain information
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concerning the fishery on the bank. This vessel was getting reasonably good fishing - a dory-load of cod on about 800 hooks of trawl. The captain told me that on his first "baiting"* he had mackerel for bait, which he procured at the Strait of Canso. While using this bait, he caught 225 tubs of codfish in six days, the position of his fishing being latitude 44° 55' north, longitude 51° 10' west. He thought that the average catch of the vessels from the United States and the British Provinces would be about 250 tubs (equal to about 400 quintals on their last baiting. As this would represent about two weeks' work on the bank, it may be considered very good fishing, and the indications, pointed to a good season's catch by the Grand Bank fleet, since, of course, each vessel usually has several baitings on a trip.
At station 2449 the trawl brought up about three-quarters of a bushel of various kinds of invertebrates, among which were sea-lemons and spiny sea-urchins. Besides these there were a few scallops (Pecten islandicus), shrimp, barnacles, and fish of the Cottus genus, also one sponge, some hydroids, hermit-crabs, small stones, &c.
At station 2450 sea-lemons and sea-urchins were numerous; shrimp were more abundant than elsewhere in any dredging made during the day; while there were considerable numbers of small fish, two or three starfish, a few hermit-crabs and shells, the latter being chiefly P. islandicus and Buccinum.
On the morning of the 26th we began dredging at daylight, about 30 miles northwest from the position where we ceased work on the previous. evening, this position being in the deep water (about 80 fathoms) northward of the Virgin Rocks, on soft, slimy mud, dredgings were made at intervals of G to 10 mites in the direction of Saint John's, Newfoundland, but the localities where these hauls were made were not on any fishing ground.
At five stations (2451 to 2455) a few shrimp, crabs, flounders, starfish, dead shells, one sand-dollar, one small octopus, and some specimens of the basket starfish (Astrophyton) were taken.
On the morning of July 2 the ship left Saint John's and headed for Green Bank, and dredging operations were soon begun, the rake or, scoop dredge being used. The bottom was generally rocky, and only a small amount of material was obtained, the greater part of it being wave washed stones. A few shells, sea-urchins, and hermit-crabs were taken.
A little before 6 o'clock on the morning of July 3, soundings were obtained in 59 fathoms (latitude 45° 47', longitude 54° 13' 30") on Green Bank, and fishing lines, baited with fresh capelin, were put out. The ship lay to for 15 or 20 minutes, but no fish were caught nor were there any indications of the presence of cod in the vicinity. After the lines were hauled in, a small dredge was put out and towed for a short time. It came up nearly filled with sand-dollars, with which werealso numbers of hermit-crabs, two small flounders, a few sea-urchins, °
* The word °baiting "is used in two senses: (1) the amount of bait taken by a vessel at one time; (2) the length of time a vessel is on the banks with a supply of bait. The second is the sense in which it is used here.
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and some dead shells. Previous to this a haul had been made with the Blake dredge some 6 or 7 miles in a northeasterly direction, just off the edge of Green Bank, but no fishing lines were put out. The haul at this last position (station 2460) consisted of a few crabs, shrimp, starfish, small stones, sea-urchins, and dead shells.
At station 2462 (latitude 45° 45' 30", longitude 54° 20' 30") eight hand-lines were put out, but not a single fish was caught. Failing to take any fish in a reasonable length of time, a dredging was made, with practically the same result as that obtained at the previous station. The most remarkable catch made by the dredge was pieces of 2 fresh taut (Ammonites americanus which had been in some manner intercepted by the dredge.
About 5 or 6 miles farther to the westward, at station 2463 (latitude 45° 44', longitude 4° 37'), the hand-lines were again baited and put out in a depth of 45 fathoms, the result being precisely the same as at the two previous stations. A haul was made at this position with the ship's dredge. Its contents indicated that considerable material existed on the bottom which might serve as food for the Gadidce, and it is somewhat remarkable that cod were not found in this region. Among other things the dredge brought up many hermit and spiny crabs, sea-urchins, starfish, and sea-anemones.
At station 2464 (latitude 45° 40', longitude 54° 41') another trial for fish was made with handlines in 41 fathoms, but none were taken. The dredge was put out, but caught on a rocky bottom and was so badly torn that very little material, save a few crabs and dead shells, was taken in it. At the two succeeding stations hauls were made with the ship 's dredge, but no fishing-lines were put out.
At station 2465 there were obtained several ophiurans, sand-dollars in abundance; a few hermit and spider crabs, and some stones.
At station 2466 (latitude 45° 29', longitude 55° 24'), in a depth of 67 fathoms, a considerable quantity of material was obtained in the dredge which indicated good feeding bottom for fish. Among these were a few small fish, hermit and spiny crabs, many brittlestars or ophiurans, spiny sea-urchins, sponges, sea-anemones, starfish, soft coral, bryozoa, hydroids, and large numbers of live mollusks, chiefly the Iceland scallop. This position was in what is termed the "gully" between. Green Bank and Saint Peter's Bank.
At station 2467, in 38 fathoms, on the southeastern side of Saint Peter's Bank (latitude 45° 23' north, longitude 55° 41' west), the dredge contained several holothurians, sand-dollars, spider and hermit crabs, spiny sea-urchins, and shells.
Eight hand-lines were put out at this position and 13 codfish were caught in about 20 minutes. These fish were of rather small size, about three-quarters of them not being large enough to cull as "large fish" in the American markets. These were mostly males, with their spermaries undeveloped. The ovaries of the femalefish were also very small. I opened their stomachs and took 13 whole,
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undigested bank-clams (Glycimeris) from them, besides a number of clams which were more or less digested, and several crabs and small fish.
At station 2468 (latitude 45° 11' 30", longitude 55° 51' 30"), a haul was made with the ship's dredge, in 42 fathoms, near the southwestern edge of the bank, and many dead shells of the bank-clam and other varieties were obtained, also soft corals, sand-dollars, sponges, starfish, ophiurans, holothurians, and some stones.
The forenoon of July 4 was spent in making dredgings across the deep plateau which extends from Saint Peter's Bank nearly across to Banquereau, and which has a depth varying from 200 to 225 fathoms.
It is probable that this plateau may, in the future, prove to be a valuable fishing ground for halibut, and already on some parts of it, within 15 or 20 miles of the edge of Saint Peter's Bank, good fares of halibut have been obtained. We found many varieties of marine life, and there was evidence of an abundance of food for halibut, though the bottom was generally muddy and unsuitable for the above-named species.
An exception to this was at station 2471 (latitude 44 34', longitude 56 41' 45"), in 218 fathoms. In this position the beam-trawl was torn on rocky bottom, and what material was obtained indicated a ground suitable for halibut.
Among other things, a few shrimp and other forms of crustacea were taken, besides seven species of shells, octopus, grenadiers, some sponges, many small brittle-stars, some small crinoids, bob-tailed squid, coral, and several stones.
In the two previous hauls during the morning, Norway haddock and pole flounders were taken, besides Baird's grenadiers, several Chester's hake, and various forms of corals, sea-pens (chiefly Pennatula borealis), sea-anemones, 1 octopus, some shells (mostly Buccinum undatum, Astarte, and Yoldia thraciformis), some specimens of the Fin mark sea-feather (Balticina finmarchica), and quantities of skate's eggs (some with living embryos). Also, there were taken cup-corals (Flabellurn), many fragile sea-urchins (Schizaster fragilis), several species of starfish (the most noticeable being Hippasteria phrygiana), sponges, bob-tailed squid (Rossia megaptera), 2 Lycodes, and 1 Scopelus.
At station 2472, and the four succeeding stations, tangles and grapnels were put over in depths ranging from 133 to 222 fathoms; but very little material was obtained. Among other things were a few starfish and sea-urchins, some small samples of deep-water coral (Primnoa reseda), and one large specimen of Macrurus bairdii.
During the evening Mr. Nye rigged the electric light over the ship's side, and this attracted many marine animals which we thought were young squid. There were probably as many as 50 or 75 of them darting about the light, but all efforts to catch any failed, since they would not bite at a jig, and were too quick to be taken in a dip-net.
As it was deemed advisable to make an investigation about the eastern part of Banquereau, the ship lay by the entire night, drifting. The
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