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when compared with that of Northern Europe that variations in abundance, not being regarded as
national disasters would, except, perhaps, in the case of Newfoundland, scarcely have been placed
definitely upon record. Concerning the periodicity of the herring supply in Northern Europe
Professor llaird writes:

"Among the various problems of interest in Northern Europe there are few of more econom-
ical importance than that connected with the movements of the Herring, a fish which in some
years furnishes a supply of almost millions of barrels, and in others a few thousand are all that
can lie secured. While the cod always maintains its numbers and comes with unerring regularity
in winter to spawn in the Loffbden Islands, and is found in moderate numbers on the coast
throughout the rest of the year, the Herring appears and disappears without any, at present,
intelligible cause. This variation in abundance is by some ascribed to a total disappearance from
the coast, while others believe that it remains within a hundred miles of the Scandinavian shore,
far out in the deep water between the banks of the North Sea and the coast of Norway, but that,
owing to some peculiarity of temperature, currents, or possibly tainting of the water by the abun-
dance of the so-called gurry, or offal, from the herring and cod fisheries, it is kept away. Down to
a late period of the preceding century the Herring appeared in immense numbers with tolerable
regularity, then left the coast, and did not return till 1808 a lapse of twenty years. For sixty-
two years after that it presented itself with unfailing certainty, so much so that all fears of a
possible diminution were banished ; but since 1871 it has almost disappeared from the usual
fishing stations, a few thousand barrels being the maximum catch where a million or more was
the rule. This is what is known as the spring herring. The so-called 'great' Herring fishery has
since 1870 attained a considerable importance at a distance of from five hundred to seven hundred
miles from the spring herring locality. This diminution of the spring herring fishery of Scan-
dinavia was for a few years of considerable advantage to the American fishery interest."

The following memoranda, communicated in 1878 by Mr. Joshua Lindahl, will serve to show
the periodicity in the movements of the Herring in Europe:

"Before the sixteenth century no records were kept of the fisheries. As, however, both king
and church had some income from taxation aud tithe on the Herring, it has been possible to ascer-
tain that such fisheries have existed periodically ever since the beginning of the eleventh century.
Before that time the archipelago was hardly inhabited, and the fishing seems not to have been of
any importance but to the scanty population on the fiords, who had too primitive implements for
capturing large quantities of fish, and no means of preparing the article for a distant market. The
following is a list of the herring periods of which we have any knowledge:

"1. About the year 1020.

"2. In the latter part of the twelfth century.

"3. From about 1200 to about 1341, thus lasting more than eighty years.

"4. About the middle of the fifteenth century.

".j. From 1556 to 1590, thus lasting for thirty-five years; interval to next period, sixty-
nine years.


"6. From 1660 to 1680, thus lasting for twenty-one years; interval to next period, sixty-
six years.

"7. From 1747 to 1808, thus lasting for sixty-two years; interval to next period, sixty-
eight years.

"8. From November, 1877, to February, 1878.

"The most important period was the above No. 7, especially during the last twenty years of
the last century. It lias been calculated that in some- years during that time the annual quantity
of Herring fished in Bohuslan amounted to at least 1,500,000 barrels.

"During the six weeks January 1 to February J5, this present year, about 160,000 barrels of
fresh and salt Herring were shipped from the archipelago of Bohuslan to neighboring markets.
The fishermen and merchants are preparing largely for making big hauls when the Herring will
return in the fall, as is expected."

As early as the middle of the last century one of the periods of scarcity was foretold by Prof.
Hans Strom, of Norway, who observed that the Herrings during the period they visited the coast
of Sondmor (1736-1756) came later and later every year, and predicted, in accordance with an old
tradition and the experience had at Stat, that the Herring fisheries of Sondmor would come to an
end. This really took place in Bohuslau, where it had been observed already towards the middle
of the last great fishery period that the Herrings came to the coast later and later every year,
which led people to fear that, as in times of old, the Herrings might again gradually leave the
Swedish coast. Somewhat later (1782) Strom compared the Bohuslan fisheries with those of
Norway, and, basing his opinion on their evident similarity, predicted that the end of the Bohus-
lan fisheries was near at hand.

About ten years later Lybecker expresses himself more distinctly, as follows: "If with pro-
phetic eye we could see the future and predict the fate of the fisheries, we might say with a great
degree of probability that a change will take place soon. We know from history that when
Herrings or other fish of passage arrive near the coast later and later, and at the same time keep
farther and farther away from the coast, this means a change in the migrations of the Herrings,
aud may even point to their leaving the coast entirely. This has been the course of the Norwegian
herring fisheries, and even of the Swedish herring fisheries during their older periods, and in fact
with all those fisheries where fish of passage are the principal object, with the only exception of
the Scotch and English fisheries. ... If we take into consideration the roving nature of the
Herrings and the examples from olden times, it is highly probable that the Herrings will come
later every year, and finally leave our coast altogether."

It had frequently been maintained that too much fishing and fishing with destructive appa-
ratus were the proper causes of the growing tardiness of the arrival of the Herrings and might even
lead to the complete cessation of the fisheries; and people therefore made futile attempts to obviate
this danger by legislation. As the ominous predictions regarding the herring fisheries were, how-
ever, not immediately fulfilled, they were almost forgotten; but when the herring fisheries came to
an end in the year 1808, people imagined that the Herrings arriving later and later every year fully
proved the assertion that they had been driven away by the imprudent actions of the fishermen.
It was said that refuse thrown into the water, and noise, had prevented the Herrings from coming
near to the coast, and they had spawned in the open sea, and had then, in consequence of the
languor aud weakness following the spawning, been driven towards the coast by storms.

During the more recently closed Norwegian spring herring fisheries, it was, according to
Loberg, noticed, not without anxious forebodings, that the Herrings, which in the beginning of
the fishing period did not come near the coast till early in February, gradually came earlier and


earlier, so thai finally tin- khoiM (KMUMQOCd before Ni j w Years; Mini that this change was followed
by another, the Herrings coining later anil later, till the fisheries did not coninienee before Feb-
ruary. This peculiarity, however, was thought to be u consequence of the irregularity with which
tin- Herrings visited the same plaees on the coast. It was not till Axel Bowk began to investigate
the mutter that this whole question was treated from a more scientific standpoint. He showed
that the coming of the herrings to the coast at different times during the period was subject to
certain rules, and that this regularity in the movements of the Herrings was observed not ouly
during the Norwegian spring herring fisheries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but
also during those herring lisheries which were going on on the coast of Bohuslan during the
second half of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. This peculiar phenomenon lias therefore
become far more important than it was thought to be in former times; and it may well be said to
contain the key to the question of the periodicity of the great Scandinavian herring fisheries.
Boeck was not able to assign any cause for these entirely regular changes in the time of the
Herrings' visits to the coast. This has been attempted, however, by G. O. Sars and myself, and
an account of these attempts will be given below.

In a paper entitled "The Great Bohuslan Herring Fishery," 1 A. N. Ljuugman gives a very
interesting account of the periods of abundance of Herring in Sweden and of the herring fisheries
of that region from 1000 A. D. to the present date.

REPRODUCTION. There are several interesting series of observations upon the spawning
habit- of the Herring, the hatching of the egg, aud the development of the young; all of which
may be found in the later volumes of the Report of the United States Commissioner of Fisheries.

In his lecture on the Herring, Professor Huxley describes in a very concise and lucid way
their spawning habits. He remarks: "We have hitherto met with no case of full or spawning
Herrings being found, in any locality, during what may be termed the solstitial months, namely,
June and December; and it would appear that such Herrings are never (or very rarely) taken in
May, or the early part of July, in the latter part of November, or the early part of January. But
a spring spawning certainly occurs in the latter part of January, in February, in March, and in
April ; and an autumn spawning in the latter part of July, in August, September, October, and
even as late as November. Taking all parts of the British coast together, February aud March
are the great months for the spring spawning, and August and September for the autumn
spawning. It is not at all likely that the same fish spawn twice in the year; on the contrary, the
spring and the autumn shoals are probably perfectly distinct; and if the Herring, according to
the hypothesis advanced above, come to maturity in a year, the shoals of each spawning season
would be the fry of the twelvemonth before. However, no direct evidence can be adduced in
favor of this supposition, and it would be extremely diflicult to obtain such evidence.

"1 believe that these conclusions, confirmatory of those of previous careful observers, are fully
supported by all the evidence which has been collected; and the fact that this species of fish has
two spawning seasons, one in the hottest and one in the coldest month of the year, is very curious.

"Another singular circumstance with the spawning of the Herring is the great variety of the
conditions, apart from temperature, to which the fish adapts itself in performing this function. On
our own coast, Herrings spawn in water of from ten to twenty fathoms, and even at greater depths,
and in a sea of fall oceanic saltuess. Nevertheless, Herrings spawn just as freely not only in the
narrows of the Baltic, such as the Great Belt, in which the water is not half as salt as it is in the
North Sea and in the Atlantic, but even in such long inlets as the Schlei in Schleswig, the water

- ' _ _ ____ . . _ _ ______ _____

1 A translation of which ia published in United States Fiah Commission Report, part vi ; pp. 221-239.


of which is quite drinkable and is inhabited by fresh-water fish. Here the Herrings deposit their
eggs in two or three feet of water; and they are found, along with the eggs of fresh-water fish,
sticking in abundance to such fresh-water plants as Potnmogeton.

' Nature seems thus to offer us a hint as to the way in which a fish like the shad, which is so
closely allied to the Herring, has acquired the habit of ascending rivers to deposit its eggs in
purely fresh water.

"If a full female Herring is gently squeezed over a vessel of sea- water, the eggs will rapidly
pour out and sink to the bottom, to which they immediately adhere with so much tenacity that, in
half an hour, the vessel may be inverted without their dropping out. When spawning takes place
naturally, the eggs fall to the bottom aud attach themselves iu a similar fashion, but at this time
the assembled lish dart wildly about, and the water becomes cloudy with the shed fluid of the milt.
The eggs become thus fecundated as they fall, and the development of the young within the ova
sticking to the bottom commences at once.

"The first definite and conclusive evidence as to the manner in which herring-spawn is attached
and becomes developed that I know of was obtained by Professor Allman and Dr. Macbain in 1862,
in the Frith of Forth. By dredging in localities in which spent Herring were observed on the 1st
of March, Professor Allman brought up spawn iu abundance at a depth of fourteen to twenty-one
fathoms. It was deposited on the surface of the stone, shingle, and gravel, and on old shells and
coarse shell-sand, and even on the shells of small living crabs and other Crustacea, adhering tena-
ciously to whatever it had fallen on. No spawn was found in any other part of the Forth; but it
continued to be abundant on both the east and the west sides of the Isle of May up to the 13th of
March, at which time the incubation of the ovum was found to be completed in a great portion of
the spawn, and the embryos had become free. On the 25th scarcely a trace of spawn could be
detected, and nearly the \\ hole of the adult fish had left the Forth.

"Professor Allman draws attention to the fact that 'the deposit of spawn, as evidenced by the
appearance of spent Herrings, did not take place till about sixty-five days after the appearance of
the Herring in the Frith,' and arrives at the conclusion that 'the incubation probably continues
during a period of between twenty-five to thirty days,' adding, however, that the estimate must,
for the present, be regarded as only approximative. It was on this and other evidence that we
based our conclusion that the eggs of the Herring 'are hatched in at most from two to three weeks
after deposition.'

" Within the last few years a clear light has been thrown upon this question by the labors of
the West Baltic Fishery Commission, to which I have so often had occasion to refer. It has been
found that artificial fecundation is easily practiced, and that the young fish may be kept in
aquaria for as long as five months. Thus a great body of accurate information, some of it of a
very unexpected character, has been obtained respecting the development of the eggs and the
early condition of the young Herring.

"It turns out that, as is the case with other fishes, the period of incubation is closely depend-
ent upon warmth. When the water has a temperature of 53 F. the eggs of the Herring hatch
in from six to eight days, the average being seven days. And this is a very interesting fact when
we bear in mind the conclusion to which the inquiries of the Dutch meteorologists, and, more
lately, those of the Scottish Meteorological Society, appear to tend, namely, that the shoals prefer
water of about 55 F. At 50 F. the period of incubation is lengthened to eleven days; at 46
F. to fifteen days; at 38 F. it lasts forty days. As the Forth is usually tolerably cool in the
moiith of March, it is probable that Professor Allman's estimate comes very near the truth for the
particular case which he investigated.


"Tin- young, wlii-ii they emerge from tin- cgj,% arc from one lift h to one-third of an inch in
length, and so extremely unlike tin- adult Herring tliat they may properly be termed 'larviw.'
They have enormous eyes and an exceedingly slender body, \\ iili a >elk l>ag protruding from its
fore part. Tlie skeleton is in a very rudimentary condition; there are no ventral tins; and, in-ii.nl
of separate dorsal, caudal, and anal tins, there i.s one continuous fin, extending from the head
al< MI ^ the back, round the tail, and then forward to the yelk-bag. The intestine is a simple tube,
ciliated internally ; there is no air-bladder, and no branchiie are yet developed. The heart is a
mere contractile vessel, and the blood is a clear fluid without corpuscles. At first the larvae do
not feed, but merely grow at the expense of the yelk, which gradually diminishes.

"Within three or four days after hatching, the length has increased by about half the original
dimensions, the yelk has disappeared, the cartilaginous skeleton appears, and the heart becomes
divided into its chambers; but the young fish attains nearly double its first length before blood-
corpuscles are visible.

"By the time the larva is two-thirds of an inch long (a length which it attains one month
after hatching), the primitive median fin is separated into dorsal, caudal, and anal divisions, but
the ventral tins have not appeared. About this period the young animal begins to feed on small
crustacea; and it grows so rapidly that at two months it is one and a quarter inches long, and at
three months has attained a length of about two inches.

"Nearly up to this stage the elongated, scaleless little fish retains its larval proportions; but
in the latter part of the third mouth the body rapidly deepens, the scales begin to appear, and
the larva passes into the 'imago' state, that is, assumes the forms and proportions of the adult,
though it is not more than two inches long. After this, it goes on growing at the same rate
(eleven millimeters, or nearly half an inch) per month, so that at six months old it is as large as
a moderate-si/ed sprat .

"The well-known ' Whitebait' of the Thames consists, so far as I have seen, almost exclusively
of Utrrings under six months old, and as the average size of Whitebait increases from March
and April onward until they become suspiciously like sprats in the late summer, it may be con-
cluded that they are the progeny of Herrings which spawned early in the year in the neighborhood
of the estuary of the Thames, up which these dainty little fish have wandered. Whether it is the
general habit of young Herring, even of those which are spawned in deep water, to migrate into
the shallow parts of the sea, or even into completely fresh waters, when such are accessible, is

"In the 'Report on Trawling' (1863) we observe: 'It is extremely difficult to obtain any sat-
isfactory evidence as to the length of time which the Herring requires to pass from the embryonic
to the adult or full condition. Of the fishermen who gave any opinion on this subject, some con-
sidered that a Herring takes three, and others that it requires seven, years to attain the full or
spawning condition; others frankly admitted that they knew nothing about the matter; and it
was not difficult, by a little cross-examination, to satisfy ourselves that they were all really in this
condition, however strongly they might hold by their triennial or septennial theories. Mr. Yarrell
and Mr. Mitchill suppose with more reason that Herring attain to full size and maturity in about
eighteen months. It does not appear, however, that there is any good evidence against the sup-
posit ion that the Herring reaches its spawning condition in one year. There is much reason to
believe that the eggs are hatched in, at most, from two to three weeks after deposition, and that
in six to seven weeks more (that is, at most, ten weeks from the time of laying the eggs) the young
have attained three inches in length. Now, it has been ascertained that a young smolt may leave
a river and return to it again in a couple of months increased in bulk eight or ten fold, and as a
36 F


Herring lives on very much the same food as a smolt, it appears possible that it should increase
in the same rapid ratio. Under these circumstances nine months would be ample time for it to
enlarge from three to ten or eleven inches in length. It may be fairly argued, however, that it is
not very safe to reason analogically from the rate of growth of one species of fish to that of
another; and it may be well to leave the question whether the Herring attains its maturity in
twelve, fifteeu, or sixteen months open, in the tolerably firm assurance that the period last named
is the maximum.'

"On comparing these conclusions with the results of the careful observations of the Baltic
commissioners, it appears that we somewhat overestimated the rate of growth of the young
Herring, and that the view taken by Yarrell and Mitchill is more nearly correct. For, supposing
that the rate of growth after six months continues the same as before, a Herring twelve months
old will be nearly six inches long, and at eighteen months eight or nine inches. But full Herrings
may be met with little more than seven inches long, and they are very commonly found not more
than nine inches in length.

"Herrings which have attained maturity, and are distended by the greatly enlarged milt or
roe, are ready to shed the contents of these organs, or, as it is said, to spawn. In 1862 we found
a great diversity of opinion prevailed as to the time at which this operation takes place, and we
took a great deal of trouble to settle the question, with the result which is thus stated in our
report: 'We have obtained a very large body of valuable evidence on this subject, derived partly
from the examination of fishermen and of others conversant with the herring fishery; partly from
the inspection of the accurate records kept by the fishery officers at different stations, and partly
from other sources; and our clear conclusion from all this evidence is, that the Herring spawns at
two seasons of the year, in the spring and in the autumn.'

"The milt and roe are elongated organs attached beneath the air-bladder, which lie one on
each side of the abdominal cavity, and open behind the vent by an aperture common to the two.
The spermatic fluid of the male is developed in the milt and the eggs of the female in the roe.
These eggs, when fully formed, measure from one-sixteenth to one twenty-fifth of an inch in
diameter; and as, in the ripe female, the two roes or ovaries stretch from one end of the abdominal
cavity to the other, occupying all the space left by the other organs, and distending the cavity,
the number of eggs which they contain must be very great; probably ten thousand is an under-
estimate of the number of ripe eggs shed in spawning by a moderate sized female Herring. But I
think it is safer than the thirty thousand of some estimates, which appear to me to be made iu
lorgetfulness of the very simple anatomical considerations that the roe consists of an extensive
vascular framework as well as of eggs; and, moreover, that a vast number of the eggs which it
contains remain immature and are not shed at the time of spawning." 1

Professor Baird, in 1877, wrote as follows concerning the spawning habits of the Herring on
our own coast:

"In the Bay of Saint Lawrence they appear to spawn in the spring, especially in the vicinity
of the Magdalen Islands, the fishes there taken being ripe with eggs. At that time they come so
close to the land as to permit their capture in immense numbers in seines. It is also thought that
a so called school spawns in the spring iu the Bay of Fuudy, 1'rom the head to the mouth. Such
a spawning ground is believed to exist in the Bay of Saint Andrew's, and in certain portions of

'The oliscrvatiiiii.s of .Mr. Kuril at Eastport indicate that in his opinion none of the Herrings used in the sardine
lu'.tories are old enough to show any traces of developiug spawn, although there can be no doubt that they are not
less than a year old. The fish upon which his observations were made were taken in September, and must have boeii
hatched as early as the September of the preceding year.


Passamaqiioddy May. One principal spawning ground of the Herring in tin- May nf r'nndy, IK
near the southern head of (iraml Menan: and l>y a very wise provision of the New Brunswick
Government, a close lime was many years a^o enacted, extruding from (lie l."th of June to (lie l. r >th
of Septeinl>er, dining which the capture of tlit'.so fish was forbidden. They now resort to that
portion of the coast in considerable numbers, and the i|iiantit.v of eggs deposited is said to bo
something almost inconceivable.

The spawning season, too, appears to be later and later as we proceed westward from Maine.

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 95 of 146)