PART 2 OF
NOTES ON AN INVESTIGATION OF THE GREAT FISHING BANKS OF THE WESTERN ATLANTIC
Summary: 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.
The current during the night evidently ran in a southwesterly direction, as is usually the case here, and it was found on the morning of the 5th that the ship had drifted considerably from her position on the previous evening. During the day it was impossible to obtain observations, owing to the dense fog, and the only thing that could be done to determine the ship's position was to "feel our way" with the lead around the southeast prong of the bank. This was slow and unsatisfactory work, for this part of Banquereau is not correctly laid down on the charts.
Several dredgings were made on the 5th, but the bottom in this region is so rough that the only apparatus which could be used was the ship's dredge or the tangles, and it was even thought unsafe to leave the dredge on the bottom longer than 5 to 10 minutes. The catch was exceedingly meager, generally consisting chiefly of coarse gravel, pebbles, or sand, with very little life of any kind. The dredgings upto about 1:30 pm were made in depths varying from 116 to 265 fathoms. In the afternoon the ship steamed on to the shallower part of the bank, and dredgings were made in depths varying from 33 to 39 fathoms. Practically the same result was obtained in these depths as in the deeper water off the edge of the bank, the contents of the dredge being rather uninteresting.
At station 2489 (latitude 44° 43', longitude 57° 22' 45"), in 33 fathoms of water, we made the last dredging for the day, and among other things brought up in the dredge were a few small bank-clams (Glycimeris) and a large flounder. Hand-lines were put out baited with fresh capelin, and fishing was carried on for an hour or more, during which time 33 cod and 5 or 6 flounders were taken. The cod were mostly of small size, and their stomachs contained several young bank-clams, and in one a specimen of lant was found.
At station 2491, soundings were made on Misaine Bank early on the 6th, in 68 fathoms . The dredge was put out, but it brought up little else besides stones. Three hand-lines were also tried, and in about 10 minutes' fishing we caught 3 cod and 1 flounder.
At station 2493 (latitude 45° 22', longitude 58° 43' 45"), in 42 fathoms, we found fish abundant, 10 or 12 cod of small size being taken in a few minutes, of which 2 "pairs" were pulled up. The dredge was put out and brought up a few shells and starfish, while crabs and sea-urchins were abundant. Another haul was made with the dredge at station 2493 (latitude 45° 19', longitude 58° 51' 15"), in 45 fathoms. Considerable material was obtained here, consisting mostly of stones, shells, starfish, spiny crabs, sea-urchins, and sponges. Many barnacles were found here on the stones, shells, &c. Eight hand-lines were put out, and 2 codfish were taken in 10 minutes' fishing.
At station 2494 (latitude 45 14' 30", longitude 59° 06' 45"), in 50 fathoms of water; 5 cod were taken on the lines. The tangles were put out at this station and brought up many spiny sea-urchins, and and also 1 or 2 basket starfish (Astrophyton).
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At station 2495 (latitude 45° 10', longitude 59 ° 23' 45"), in 44 fathoms, the fishing-lines were put out for a few minutes and 1 cod and 1 sand-dab were caught. A haul was made with the tangles, and spiny sea-urchins were found abundant, and some crabs and 1 Astrophyton were also taken on them.
At station 2496 (latitude 45° 07' 30", longitude 59° 27' 45"), in 44 fathoms, 5 cod were caught on the hand-lines in a few minutes' fishing, being essentially the same in quality and size as those commonly caught on Banquereau. Here the tangles brought up an abundance of sea-urchins, as before, several small crabs, starfish, two sea-lemons, several dead shells of the bank-clam, and bryozoa. This was the last haul made on Misaine Bank.
This bank, which is of considerable extent, has never been considered of any importance as a fishing ground, and so far as we are aware is not resorted to by American vessels. It was, therefore, deemed highly important to make an investigation of it, so that its value to the fisher men might be determined. The trials for fish that were made, demonstrated the fact that they probably occur all over Misaine Bank in as great abundance as on Banquereau, and are practically the same kind of cod as to size, the majority of them being too small to class as large fish in American markets. In view of the abundance of fish on this bank, it would seem probable that the fishermen have never investigated it, and probably are not aware of its value as a fishing ground.
In the latter part of the day, after the researches on Misaine Bank had been completed, the ship headed for the western part of Banquereau, and occasional dredgings were made in the deep water between the banks, in depths varying from 57 to 130 fathoms. The bottom between these banks is, apparently, composed of mud mixed with stones, pebbles, and occasionally gravel. The beam-trawl was used in these localities, and in some of the hauls a considerable quantity of material was taken, comprising spiny sea-urchins, 4 Lycodes, 1 pole flounder, 1 sand-dab, large quantities and many varieties of shells, many shrimp, starfish, brittle-stars, &c.
The ship left Banquereau about 3 a. m. on the 7th, and steamed across to the Middle Ground, which was reached about 7.30 a. m. Dredgings were then begun and continued at intervals throughout the day. The general result of the hauls on Middle Ground and on the northwest prong of the Western Bank, which we crossed later in the day, indicated for the most part an abundance of life on the bottom, much of it of a character suitable for food for the cod and other ground-feeding species.
At station 2500 the trawl brought up the following: One craig pole flounder, 2 species of ferruginous flounder, 3 or 4 young skates (Raia, radiata), many starfish (chiefly Asterias Vulgaris), large quantities of shells (the most noticeable of which were bank-clams), sea-scallops
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(Pecten islandicus), Neptunea decemcostata, Mactra ovalis, and Buccinum undatum. There were also great numbers of spiny sea-urchins, a few specimens of sea-corn (Buccinum eggs), and sea-strawberries or soft coral.
At station 2501 (latitude 44° 27', longitude 60° 20' 15"), in 26 fathoms of water, several hand-lines were put out, and 3 cod, 1 haddock, and several sand-dabs were taken. The cod were gorged with food. From one that weighed only 10 pounds I took 12 lant (Ammodytes americanus), 1 spiny crab, and the fin of another cod. Another fish, which weighed 7 pounds, had 8 lant and a small stone in its stomach. A third cod, of about 5 pounds' weight, had 4 crabs in its stomach but no fish. The ovaries and spermaries of these fish were undeveloped.
In the trawl at this station there was an abundance of sand-dollars, common starfish Asterias vulgaris), twelve large sand-dabs or ferruginous flounders 1 sculpin (Cottus), a few skate eggs, many live and dead shells, among which were a few specimens of Natica heros. There were also several hermit-crabs. Two torpedoes were exploded at the bottom near this station, but with no decisive result.
At station 2503 the trawl was torn on rough bottom. It nevertheless contained many basket starfish (Astrophyton), some sponges, large starfish, a few brittle-stars (ophiurans), some spiny sea-urchins, hermit-crabs, small skates (Raia), sculpins (Cottus), and various kinds of shells, among which were Pecten islandicus, Buccinum, and Neptunea. .A few shrimp were also taken.
The bottom on the northwest prong was found to be rather rocky.
At station 2503 (latitude 44° 22' 30", longitude 61° 00' 15"), in 47 fathoms, the beam-trawl was torn to pieces, so that nothing was caught. in it. Medium-sized codfish appeared to be abundant, and in a few minutes' fishing with hand-lines 22 specimens were taken, 5 of which were large fish. One of these cod had ovaries well advanced, but the generative organs of the others were undeveloped. The stomachs of the fish were generally full of various kinds of material. One had a partially digested herring and squid in its stomach, besides several crabs more or less decomposed.
It is evident that crustacea, particularly spiny crabs, are most generally eaten by the cod in this region, so far as can' be judged from the contents of their stomachs. But some fish had worms, others brittle-stars, shells, &c. mixed in their stomachs with crabs or fish, while others had apparently nothing but fish. In one we found 5 worms and 4 crabs, while another had 4 spiny crabs, 1 hermit-crab, and 3 brittle-stars in its stomach.
At station 2504 the dredge came up filled with mud but containing very little animal life, only a few worms and small shells; while at station 3505 the trawl contained several small skates, 3 craig flounders, many large sea-anemones of 2 species, fragile sea-urchins (Schizaster fragilis), starfish, worms, and small shells.
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On July 8, dredging operations were resumed at a little after 4 a. m,, and four dredgings were made during the day, while the vessel was heading for Halifax.
At station 2506 the catch was principally fish, as follows: Seventeen Norway haddock (Sebastes marinus), 5 pole flounders, l small skate, 1 goosefish (Lophius piscatorius. There were also many sponges of several varieties, 3 species of sea-anemones, large numbers of " lamp-shells" Terebratulina 3 or 4 species of starfish, many large shrimp, and a very few sea-urchins.
At station 2507 the dredge was filled with stones, many of them as large as the mouth of the bag would admit. The amount of animal life taken was small, comprising 3 species of holothurians 2 or 3 specimens >f starfish, and a few worms.
In the afternoon the Albatross reached Halifax, where she remained until July 11, during which time I busied myself in obtaining details concerning various types of boats and vessels employed in the Nova Scotia fisheries.
Four hauls were made during July 11, 2 with the ship's dredge and 2 with the large beam-trawl. All of these dredgings were made on soft bottom, between Halifax and La Have Bank, in depths varying from 68 to 134 fathoms.
The first attempt to dredge, however (at station 2510), resulted in the loss of the dredge and 79 fathoms of wire dredge-rope.
At station 2511 the dredge was nearly filled with mud and stones, among which was very little animal life. A few shells, holothurians and starfish were taken.
At station 2512 the dredge was filled with soft sticky mud, in which were 2 sea-pens (Pennatula aculeata.), 1 holothurian, and a few ascidians.
Aa station 2513 (latitude 43° 34' , longitude 63° 56' 30") the most interesting haul, so far as fish are concerned, was made with the large beam-trawl , in 134 fathoms, on a bottom of gray ooze. Among other things the trawl contained 10 Norway haddock, 4 common hake (Phycis chuss)(SPELLING?), many large shrimp, and 2 young pole flounders. Since the latter species will probably some time become of value commercially, their occurrence here is of interest, for it shows a wide distribution of this fish in depth as well as in area. The haul comprised also several specimens of Baird's grenadiers (Macrurus bairdii), many brittle-stars, 3 or 4 species of sea-anemones, starfish Archaster sea-pens (Pennatula), some large specimens of Dentalium and quantities of large Terebratulina.
At station 2514 the following material was taken: One Baird's grenadier, 3 species of sea-anemones, large numbers of fragile sea-urchins Schizaster fragilis), large shrimp, and various species of starfish and sponges also some stones.
At 11 p. m, the ship stopped on La Have Bank. Mr. Nye put an electric light over the side and soon there were numbers of bill-fish darting about it, and squid were seen also. Several of the bill-fish were
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caught, but it was found impracticable to capture any of the squid, as they would not bite a jig and could not be taken by other means. Work was begun early in the morning of July 12, and a line of dredgings and trials for cod, with hand-lines, was run across La Have Bank, beginning on its eastern side and extending to the southeast part of Brown's Bank. These operations were carried on in depths ranging from 47 to 104 fathoms. In all the dredgings except the last, which was made in 104 fathoms, the ship's dredge was used, it not being possible to use the beam-trawl, owing to the rocky character of the bottom.
The difficulties of dredging on such bottom are very great, as was evident by the loss of a dredge on the second attempt for the day (at station 2516), while in most instances the dredge came up more or less nearly filled with stones, pebbles, and coarse gravel, and the amount of animal life was generally very small.
At station 2517 (latitude 43° 10', longitude 64° 18'), in 55 fathoms, bottom of yellow sand and black specks, 4 hand-lines were put out, baited with capelin, and 12 cod were caught, these averaging about two-thirds large fish (i. e., over 30 inches in length). The bait we used was very soft and would scarcely stay on the hooks until they reached the bottom. Fish were fairly abundant, and with fresh squid bait could probably have been caught in large numbers. Nearly all the cod taken at this station had squid (Ommastrephes illecebrosus) in their stomachs, in a more or less digested condition, and they had also been feeding on bank-clams (Glycimeris). The animal life brought up by the dredge at this station comprised 2 species of sea-urchins (the sand-dollar and spiny sea-urchins), 2 species of starfish, 2 spider-crabs, 1 sea-anemone, several sea-spiders (Pycnogonum), and various kinds of dead shells.
At station 2518 the dredge was filled with stones of various sizes up to 6 or 8 inches in diameter. To these were attached some small sponges. In the dredge were also a few ascidians, a starfish, and some shells.
A little after meridian a 10-pound torpedo was exploded on the bottom at hydrographic station 821, in 47 fathoms, rocky bottom (latitude 43° 01' north, longitude 64° 45' 30" west), but no results were obtained. After the explosion of the torpedo 3 hand-lines were put out for from 20 to 30 minutes, and 4 cod and 1 haddock were caught.
At station 2520 the dredge was filled with coarse gravel and stones, among which the most noticeable forms of life were some shells (Dentalium and Leda), large numbers of worm-tubes of sand and gravel, containing live worms (Nothria). There were 2 young sculpins and a few shrimps, sponges, ascidians, and barnacles. At station 2521 the dredge was partially filled with clean coarse gravel, with a few small stones. It contained almost no living animals, a single starfish and a few dead shells being the only objects of interest.
The last dredging for the day was made with the small beam-trawl on the southeast slope of Brown's Bank, in 104 fathoms, sandy and
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gravelly bottom, at station 2523 (latitude 42° 20', longitude 65° 07' 30").
The trawl was dragged over the bottom only a few minutes, because of the supposed rough nature of the ground. But, nevertheless, the net was cut through and probably much of the material taken in the appa ratus escaped before the trawl was hove up. Of the material saved, shrimp of two or more species were abundant. There were also young Norway haddock or rose-fish (Sebastes marinus), a few sculpins, and several other varieties of small fish, some of them apparently immature.
Among the invertebrates the most noticeable were several species of starfish, some large deep-sea barnacles, sea-anemones, sea-spiders, and some young spiny sea-urchins. The fauna of this region is of special interest, since in this locality and its immediate vicinity, in somewhat deeper water, the halibut fishery has been pursued with considerable success, while a few miles northwest, in from 55 to 65 fathoms, many good fares of cod have been obtained.
On the 13th, researches were carried on in deep water, in the so-called "gully " between Brown's Bank and the northeast extremity of George's Bank. This locality has become somewhat celebrated as a deep-water halibut ground upon which gorgonian corals of extraordinary size and in considerable abundance have been found by the fishermen, these corals being often hauled up on the lines with which they become en tangled Attempts were made by means of the dories and with grapnels to secure some of this coral, but without much success, two specimens of the great tree-coral Primnoa reseda being obtained.
During the forenoon several hauls were made with the ship's dredge, depths varying from 73 to 131 fathoms, but only a small amount of marine life was obtained. The rough character of the ground precluded the possibility of using the beam-trawl, otherwise it is probable that a larger quantity and a much greater variety might have been secured.
At station 2523 the dredge was filled with stones, coarse gravel, and pebbles Among these were a few holothurians of two species, lampshells (Terebratulina), sea-anemones, worm-tubes, sponges, shrimp, small starfish brittle-stars, sea-urchins, and 2 or 3 small sprays or branches of gorgonian coral. At station 3334 the dredge contained stones and pebbles with a very small amount of life, as follows: A few sponges, shrimp lamp-shells, small starfish, holothurians, and ascidians.
At station 2525 the dredge was filled with coarse gravel and stones, while sponges and shells were more numerous than in the preceding haul. Ascidians were plentiful, but there was very little crustacean life.
At station 2526 the dredge was filled with coarse gravel and stones, while containing very few living animals, as follows: Small sea-anemones small. holothurians, various kinds of small shells, a few brittle-stars and 2 or 3 shrimp.
At station 2528 (latitude 41° 47' north, longitude 65° 37' 30" west) a haul was made with a large beam-trawl in 677 fathoms on a bottom of brown mud, where a large amount of material was taken, which so
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closely resembled the fauna so often brought up on the halibut lines from the deep-water fishing areas, that it seems desirable that mention should be made of it, although, strictly speaking, this haul was made beyond the limits frequented by fishing vessels. Among the material brought up were many blue hake (Haloporphyrus viola), grenadiers (Macrurus), 3 pole flounders (Glyptocephalus cynoglossus), a number of other species of fish not identified, a large amount of the little bush-coral (Acanella normani ), specimens of gold-banded coral (Keratoisis ornata), 2 or 3 species of sea-anemones, soft sea-urchins, and several species of shells.
It is worthy of note that swordfish and finback whales were seen in unusual abundance on July 13. During the first part of the day as many as 20 swordfish were seen in from 6 to 8 hours; frequently 2 or 3 were in sight at the same time. As many as 20 whales were seen at one time during the morning, and a still greater number were seen in the afternoon.
At station 2528 they were very numerous, apparently feeding on small crustacea, probably from 40 to 50 whales being in sight at one time. They were all finbacks, so far as I could tell. Their movements were sluggish, as they "played" back and forth in the tide rips, with their mouths open, the upper jaw just at the surface, scooping in "feed." They were joined by a school of porpoises (probably Delphinus delphis) which drove in among the whales, their movements indicating: that they were feeding, but of this we could not be sure.
The electric light was put over the ship's side soon after dark and Mr. Nye succeeded in catching several specimens of young squid and some small fish of the genus Scopelus.
The researches on the fishing banks terminated on the 13th, and the ship arrived at Wood's Holl on July 16, thus ending the cruise.
GLOUCESTER, MASS., November 27, 1886.