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18,833 15,921 18,479
The special sean fisheries for mackerel are along the Chesil Beach near Portland, and on the Sussex coast, at and near Brighton; but they do not call for particular notice.
Stow-net Fishery. This fishery appears to be entirely fishery. confined to the Solent, inside the Isle of Wight, the estuary of the Thames, and the Wash, between the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coasts. It is specially for the capture of Sprats. sprats, although many young herrings are sometimes caught, and it is worked most extensively at the entrance of the Thames. The stow-net is a gigantic funnel-shaped bag having a nearly square mouth, 30 feet from the upper to the lower side, and 21 feet wide. It tapers for a length of about 90 feet to a diameter of 5 or 6 feet, and further diminishes to about half that size for another 90 feet to the en 1 of the net. The whole net is therefore about 180 feet or 60 yards long. The upper and lower sides of the square mouth are kept extended by two wooden spars called "balks," and the lower one is weighted so as to open the mouth of the net in a perpendicular direction when it is at work. The size of the meshes varies from an inch and three-eighths near the mouth to half an inch towards the end, where, however, it is again slightly enlarged to allow for the greater pressure of the water at that part. The mode of working the net is very simple. Oyster smacks are commonly used in this fishery, although shrimping boats are also employed in it in the Thames. The smack takes up a position at the first of the tide where there are signs of fish, or in such parts of the estuary as are frequented by the sprats during that part of the season; she then anchors, and at the same moment the net is put overboard and so handled that it at once takes its proper position, which is under the vessel. It is kept there by a very simple arrangement. Four ropes leading, one from each end of the two balks, and therefore from the four corners of the mouth of the net, are united at some little distance in front, forming a double bridle, and a single mooring rope leads from this point of union to the vessel's anchor; so that the same anchor holds both the vessel and the net.
it is made fast. The open mouth of the net is thus kept suspended below the vessel, and the long mass of netting streams away astern with the tide. The strain of this immense bag-net by the force of the tide is often very great, but if the vessel drags her anchor, the net being made fast to the same mooring, both keep their relative positions. Here they remain for several hours till the tide slackens, the vessel's sails being all taken in, and only one hand being left on deck to keep watch. The way in which the fish are caught hardly requires explanation. The sprats, swimming in immense shoals, are carried by the tide into the open mouth of the net and then on to the small end, where they are collected in enormous numbers; from this there is no escape, as the crowd is constantly increasing, aud they cannot stem the strong tide setting into the net. The first thing to be done in taking in the net is to close the mouth, and this is effected by means of a chain leading from the bow of the vessel through an iron loop in the middle of the upper balk down to the centre of the lower one, and by heaving in this chain the two balks are brought together and ultimately hoisted out of the water under the vessel's bowsprit. The net is then brought alongside and overhauled till the end is reached, and this is hoisted on board. The rope by which it is closed having been cast off, the sprats are then measured into the hold of the vessel by about three bushels at a time, until the net has been emptied. The quantity of sprats taken in this manner by many scores of fishing craft during the season, which lasts from November to February, is in some years simply enormous; the markets at Billingsgate and elsewhere are inundated with them, and at last they can only be disposed of at a nominal price for manure; and in this way many hundreds of tons are annually got rid of. The stow-boats do not generally take their fish on shore, but market boats come off to them and buy the fish out of the vessel's hold, and carry it away The mode of working is the same in the Solent and the Wash as that we have described in the Thames, and large quantities of sprats are landed by the Southampton boats.
be remembered that, though the fishery season lasts several months, it is only at intervals that the nets are put into the water, and the tide may be unfavourable when the fish are heading towards the bay. It is quite clear that, as the sean fisheries of 1871 and 1873 were the most successful on record, there has been no gradual diminution of pilchards from over-fishing.
1A fishery for pilchards has recently been established along the coast of Galicia, and Spanish pilchards, cured in the same manner as the Cornish fish, are making their way in the Italian markets.
2 Previous season's fish.
Whitebait," or young herrings, as they should properly Whitebe called, are caught in the Thames by a net which is bait. practically nothing else but a very small stow-net, and it is worked in essentially the same manner.
Line Fisheries.-Hand-lining and long-lining are worked Line more or less all round the British Islands, and various fisheries. kinds of fish, such as cod, haddock, whiting, coalfish, pollack, bream, and conger are taken regularly on the English coast, some being more abundant in one part and some in another. The cod fishery in the North Sea, North however, is the one specially deserving notice; it has been Sea cod fishery. carried on in a systematic manner, and on rather a large scale for a great number of years. Welled smacks were in use at Harwich as early as 1712, and in them the cod were brought alive into port just as they are at the present day. The idea of keeping the fish alive appears to have been taken from the Dutch fishermen, and in the interval between 1712 and 1715 three vessels fitted for that purpose were built, but very inferior to those afterwards constructed. In the year 1720 the number had increased to 12, and in 1735 to 30. Of that number Mr Nathaniel Saunders, the progenitor of several generations of fishfactors and salesmen at Billingsgate, had six, and with four of these, which were very superior to the other two, he visited the coast of Scotland in the course of his fishing expeditions, and was at that time the chief medium for conveying goods to and from the north of Scotland. In 1766
3 The net is kept at any desired distance from the bottom by means of two ropes, one from each end of the upper balk to the corresponding side of the smack, where
3 Our notice of the early history of the cod fishery as carried on from Harwich is taken from a statement prepared by Mr Groom of Harwich, and given to the Royal Sea Fisheries Commissioners in 1864.
a Mr Orlibar, a fishing smack owner at Harwich, made the first attempt to fish for cod with long lines on the Dogger Bank; and although he was at first very unsuccessful, he persevered, and was so fortunate that in 1774 the number of smacks had increased to 62, of which 40 went regularly to the Dogger to fish with long lines. In 1788 there were 78 smacks, and in 1798 the number had increased to 96. About this time a few attempts were made at Gravesend, Greenwich, and Barking to construct smacks of a similar description, and the Harwich fishery gradually declined. Afterwards the three places on the Thames increased their connexion with this fishery, and Barking especially became an important station, not only for cod-boats, but also for trawlers. Many cod vessels were likewise owned at Gravesend and Greenwich, and these two towns for many years had stores of live cod in chests floating in the river. Great changes have, however, taken place in recent times; the Thames water became so impure that the cod could not be kept alive in it for many days, and ultimately the storing of the fish there was altogether given up. The Harwich river was still used for that purpose, and is so now, although there are but few cod-boats belonging to the place; but the opening of the railways on the east coast gradually brought Grimsby into notice, and its position in relation to the fishing grounds was found so convenient that it gradually became, and there is every reason to believe it will remain, the headquarters of the North Sea cod fishery.
The special feature in this fishery which distinguishes it from all other line fishing on the coast of the United Kingdom is the systematic use of welled vessels, in which the cod are kept alive until they are brought into port. These welled smacks are built for the purpose, the well not being a tank fitted into any suitable vessel, but a part of the original construction of the hull. Two strong water-tight bulkheads are built entirely across the vessel from keelson to deck, enclosing a large space just in the centre of the smack. This is the "well"; and a constant supply and circulation of the water from the sea is kept up within it through large auger holes bored in the bottom of the vessel, in that part of it between the bulkheads. The vessel is in fact built in three compartments, and the water has access to the central one through the holes made at the bottom of it. The entrance to the well is on deck through a hatchway, the four sides of which are carried down for about three feet to what is called the well-deck, above the level of the water-line, extending all round the hatchway to the bulkheads and sides of the vessel. The object of this lower deck is to keep the level of the water within certain limits when the vessel is rolling about or pressed down under sail. The cost of these welled smacks is about £300 more than that of the ordinary "dry-bottomed " vessels of the same size. The working expenses of a cod smack are also much heavier than in a trawler. Each of these line boats carries from nine to eleven hands, of whom as many as six or seven are apprentices of various ages; and the system of payment by shares, so general with the trawlers, is here only adopted in the case of the captain, who gets 9 per cent. of the proceeds of the voyage, the mate receiving 24s. per week, the men 22s., and the apprentices from £5 to £12 a year, according to their length of service. Provisions are found by the owner, entirely or nearly so. Both hand lines and long lines are used in this fishery, depending on season and locality. A complete set of long lines consists of about fifteen dozen, or 180 lines, 40 fathoms in length, each supporting 26 hooks on smaller short lines called snoods," which are fastened to the main line a fathom and a half apart. A "string" of lines of this description is 7200 fathoms long, or nearly eight miles, and has 4680 hooks. Whelks or "buckies "" are always used for bait where they can be procured in sufficient
quantities, and in the regular long-line season each smack takes about 40 wash1 of whelks with her for the voyage, and about half that quantity as the season draws to a close in March. The whelks are preserved alive in net bags, aud are kept in the vessel's well till wanted, when the shells are broken and the tough fleshy animals extracted. Baiting the large number of hooks used gives plenty of employment to the large crew of the smack. The lines are shot at sunrise or earlier if the weather is fine and there is light enough to see what is being done. The smack is put under easy sail, and kept as much as possible with the wind free, so long as a course can be sailed across the tide, which is important, as then, as the line is paid out, the snoods drift clear of it. The lines are neatly coiled, and with the baited hooks are laid in trays all ready for running, each tray containing from 12 to 16 pieces of line, and as the vessel sails slowly along, the whole length of line is gradually put overboard. A small anchor at every 40 fathoms keeps the line steady on the ground, and its position at the two ends and at every intermediate mile is marked by a conical buoy or "dan," with a staff passed through it and carrying a small flag. When after a few hours the tide has nearly come to an end, the smack, which meanwhile has been hove to in the neighbourhood of the last buoy, gets the end of the line on board and works in short tacks along its course, the line being hauled in, and the fish taken off the hooks as she proceeds. When the wind is very light a boat is used for hauling in the line, and the fish are kept alive in the stern of the boat, which is partitioned off so as to form a watertight division. In any case the strong and lively fish are transferred as soon as possible to the ship's well, and dead fish, or those which do not appear likely to live in the well, are stowed away in ice. The season for long-lining is during winter, and the fishery is carried on both on the Dogger Bank and on wellknown ground off the coast of Norfolk. In April this fishery comes to an end, and a few of the smacks go away hand-lining to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, salting the fish they catch there, and usually landing it at Shetland. In July hand-line fishing for cod begins in the home waters, and is continued till October, the commencement of the long-line fishery of which we have just spoken. The July fishery is at a distance of from 10 to 30 miles from the coast, as the approach of the herrings to the land at that time causes a great gathering of cod in their neighbourhood. The smack is hove to when hand-lining, and each man works with a single line furnished with from two to six hooks. On the return of the vessel to Grimsby after a few days, the fish are taken out of the well by means of long handled landing nets, and are put into wooden chests which are kept floating in the fish-dock. These chests are 7 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 2 feet deep, and are constructed so that there is a free circulation of the water through them. The water in the dock at Grimsby being quiet, the chests are made with the ends square; but at Harwich, another storing place for live cod, the chests are moored in the tideway, and have the ends boat-shaped, so as to offer less resistance to the stream. There are about 400 of these chests in use at Grimsby during the height of the cod season, and as many as from 15,000 to 20,000 live cod in them at a time. There is a great advantage in thus storing these fish, as they can always be sent quite fresh to market, and only as many forwarded as there is a demand for. Killing the cod for market is a strange scene, and it goes on daily during the season. Each chest will hold from 40 to 100 cod according to their size, and when the fish are wanted, a chest is hauled alongside a hulk kept in the dock for the
1 A wash is a stamped measure capable of holding twenty-one quarts and a pint of water.
purpose, and hoisted up just clear of the water; the top is | nets are now universally used, and the manner of
working them is precisely the same as we have already
SCOTCH FISHERIES.-The important fisheries on the coast FISHER- of Scotland are drift-fishing for herrings, and line-fishing for cod, haddock, ling, and some other kinds. Besides these there is in particular localities sean or "trawl" fishing for herrings, and for sprats or "garvies." Herring Herring Fishery. We will first speak of this special fishery. fishery, which from its profitable character, extensive range, and the employment it gives to vast numbers of the coast population, both afloat and on shore, ranks as one of the most important fisheries of the United Kingdom, as it is also one of the great harvests of Scotland.
The herring season on the Scotch coast does not commence everywhere at exactly the same time, although the principal fishing is always during the summer months, the winter fishings being local and rather uncertain. The earliest herrings are taken on the west coast, and are generally first met with outside a line between the Butt of Lewis and Cape Wrath during April. In May the herrings come into the Minch and work their way southwards; but they sometimes enter the Minch at the south end of the islands, and in 1870 in particular, there was a large fishery near South Uist and Barra, but mostly on the Atlantic side, some miles south-west of Barra Head. It is rarely, however, that herrings are taken on the western side of the outer Hebrides, and the great fishery may be said to lie between those islands and the mainland. The fish remain in these waters in greater or less abundance till nearly the end of September, but May and June are the most productive months of the season, and during that period a great number of boats from the east coast go to the western side to take part in this early fishery. As July approaches the order of proceeding is reversed: the time is near for commencing the great fishery on the east coast, and one by one the boats which had come from that side return to their own waters, and many others from the western districts accompany them. The eastern fishery begins about the middle of July, and continues until about the end of September, commencing at the north and extending gradually southwards as the season advances. Many changes in the importance of particular districts as centres of this fishery have taken place in the course of years. For a long time Wick was the leading fishing and curing station on the east coast, sending out 1000 boats daily during the best of the season; but recently the fisheries from Peterhead and Fraserburgh have been unusually successful, and they have taken the principal position on the east coast for the extent of their curing operations. Drift-fishing is the method by which most of the Scotch herrings are taken, the use of seans or "trawls" being practically confined to a few localities on the west coast so far as regards the herrings, although they are employed on the eastern side for the capture of garvies. Cotton
Nets and boats used.
1 As evidence of the advantage of using large-decked boats, the following extract from the fishery officer's report from Eyemouth is quoted by the Hon. B. F. Primrose, the energetic and obliging secretary to the Board of Fisheries, in his Annual Report for 1876:
for open boats, the change from undecked to decked fishing |
The fluctuations in the herring fishing are very remarkations in able, but they are not more so on the coast of Scotland herring than on that of Norway and elsewhere. Indeed, Norway fishery. and Sweden afford instances unparalleled in Britain of the disappearance of herrings from particular districts, and their return in the most unexpected manner after a long course of years (see p. 267). On the coast of Scotland, the changes which take place in the fishery consist in an increase or decrease at particular districts rather than a total disappearance from any one of them. The most marked failure in recent years is in the Firth of Forth, where the summer fishing has now been given up, only a small winter fishing being carried on. At Wick, also, for a great number of years the most important station on the east coast, the herring fishing has been more or less diminishing, whilst at the same time Fraserburgh, only about 70 miles distant from it, has gradually assumed an unexampled importance. It is true that in 1876 there was an immense falling off in the quantity of fish landed at the latter port, but it was a bad year at almost every station on the east and west coasts, and the almost general decrease arose not from any apparent scarcity of fish, but from the boats being frequently kept in harbour by a continuance of very bad weather during the fishing season, or being unable from the same cause to work their nets when they reached their regular grounds. There is some reason for believing the alleged scarcity of herrings near the land is not so great as has been supposed. Successful fishing many miles out at sea has attracted large numbers of boats from the home waters, and the catches inshore have been consequently much diminished; still the general opinion appears to be well founded that the fish have not entered the firths and lochs in the last few years to the same extent as they used to do. That the fisheries, taken as a whole, have been gradually increasing is shown by the carefully prepared statistics of the Board of "The crews who had large-decked boats, and perseveringly followed out the fishing were successful; while those crews about Berwick and Spittal who were not so well prepared did little good. Many of the Eyemouth and Coldingham boats made from £200 to £300 for the season, several from £400 to £500, and a few from £500 to £700 each. The Berwick and Spittal crews, on the other hand, who fished with open boats and inferior netting, made only from £60 to £120." Evidence to the same effect is given from Anstruther, and similar records have appeared in former reports.
Fisheries; and it is desirable to point out that the great in-
development of the milt or roe. Yet both these herrings
The important system of curing herrings in the wet state, or, as it is properly called, as "white herrings," is more completely worked on the east coast than on the west. The whole process of curing is carried on under the supervision of the Board of British White Herring Fishery, which was established by the Act, 48 Geo. III. c. 110 (1808), and, with some slight changes in its organization and additions to its duties, has continued its labours to the present time. Its particular duties are to inspect the curing, and to see that the proper regulations are duly carried out; to place the Government brand on the barrels when desired, according to the quality of the cure; to see that the regulations for registering the fishing boats are duly attended to; to maintain order on the fishing grounds; to lay out to the best advantage a special grant of money for improving or building fishery harbours; and to prepare accurate statistics of the fisheries. Many years ago curing according to this system was done at some of the English ports, hence the word British in the title of the board; but for some little time past "white herrings" have practically only been prepared in Scotland, and the now ordinary name of "Fishery Board, Scotland," fairly expresses the geographical limits within which its duties are performed at the present day. The general out-door work of the board is performed by a body of men who are well known by the title of fishery officers; and it is essential that they should have been brought up as coopers, an important part of their duties being to see that barrels of a proper size and make are used for the packing of the cured herrings, and that they are securely headed and driven before they are sent abroad. The various duties these officers have to perform, and the careful training they have had in them, have resulted in the board gradually obtaining a staff of men by whose intelligence and experience a vast store of information about everything connected with the working of the Scotch fisheries has been collected. Each man is placed in charge of a district of the coast, and the detailed reports they make to the secretary form the basis of the valuable and instructive reports of the Commissioners of the Fishery Board annually presented to Parliament.
The operation of curing the herrings begins as soon as they are landed, and the busy scene which is presented at the large curing stations when this work is going on is well described in the article "Fisheries" in the last edition of the present work:
"All along the inner harbour, and in almost every street and quay, of the town of Wick, as well as within many large inclosed yards and covered buildings, there are numerous square boxes as big as ordinary-sized rooms, the containing sides, however, being only two or three feet high. Into these huge troughs the herrings are carried from the boats as soon as possible after they arrive. There they are all tumbled in helter-skelter, in a long-continued stream of fish, until the boats are emptied or the troughs are filled. Then come troops of sturdy females of various ages and complexions, each armed with knife in hand, who range themselves around the fishery chambers; the process of gutting immediately commences, and is carried on with such ceaseless and untiring activity that the unaccustomed eye can scarcely follow the quickness of their manipulations. One woman will eviscerate about two dozen of herrings in a minute; and when nearly 2000 of them are working at that rate, with but brief intermission from early morning till the close of day, the amount of disembowelment may be more easily imagined than described. This important process is effected in the following manner. The practitioner takes a herring in her left hand, its back lying in her palm, and inserts the point of her knife into the near side of the neck, bearing well down upon the backbone, and making the weapon protrude a little through the other side. She then gives the knife a turn, and pulling it cutwards and upwards, with an opposing pressure of the thumb, she draws forth in the first place the gills, stomach, and intestinal canal, and tosses them into an adjoining barrel. She then inserts the knife a second time, and by a peculiar twitch removes what is called the crown gut or cocal appendages and liver. There are thus two actions performed, each of which seems to occupy about a second of time. This is the ordinary Scotch practice. The Dutch method is somewhat different. They leave in the crown gut, and so with them a single pull suffices to remove whatever is to be taken away. This latter method is partially followed in this country, as being best adapted for the Continental market, where it is believed that the crown gut has a powerful influence in improving the flavour of the fish, and where the appearance of the herring is held to be injured if it is removed. These fair gutters usually work together in little companies of two or three, so that while one is filling a measure with her gutted fish, another carries them off to be roused, as it is called, that is, cast into vats or barrels, then sprinkled with salt, then more herrings and more salt, and next a brawny arm plunged among them far above the elbow, thus mingling them together, and so on till the space is
1 When the fish are brought on shore from the fishing boats, the quantity is ascertained by a "cran" measure, which should hold 45 gallons of ungutted herrings; each cran of such fish is expected to furnish enough good cured and gutted herrings to fill a "barrel" having a capacity of 374 gallons,-the difference between the two measures being usually accounted for by the broken fish unsuitable for curing, and the less space occupied by the gutted fish.
filled. They may lie a longer or shorter time in this state, according
The cured herrings are separated into four classes:-"Full," or Classes fish having large milt or roe-in fact, those which are nearly or quite and ready to spawn; Maties," 3 or fat fish, in which the milt or roe is brands quite undeveloped; "Spent," or shotten, those which have recently spawned, and consequently are in very poor condition, having neither the fat of the maties nor the roe of the full fish; and " Mixed," consisting of fish of all kinds, or unassorted. For these four classes the Board of Fisheries gives distinct brands, denoting the quality and description of fish in each barrel; but the crown full brand, given only to "full" fish properly cured, is the one in special request. It denotes the finest production of the system of the British white herring cure. Branding is quite optional on the part of the curer; but in any case this method of curing can only be carried on under inspection, and barrels of a particular size must be used for packing the fish in. It is one of the anomalies of the system, however, that although it is absolutely forbidden to use barrels of other than a certain specified size, there is not the slightest restriction as to the quality or condition of the fish to be packed in them, so long as the Government brand is not desired for them. Any refuse fish may be cured and packed, but the barrel must be of a certain size. The advantages or disadvantages of the branding system have been often discussed, and it has been frequently condemned as opposed to the general policy of making the sale of an article dependent on its merits alone; it has been contended that the Government is not justified in giving a certificate of the quality of cured herrings more than of any other manufactured article, and in no other case would such a guarantee be given. To this it is replied that there is a demand for "white herrings" in numerous and distant European markets; that without the Government brand a barrel of herrings would in some places rarely be sold unless the contents were first examined; and that the disturbance and exposure of the fish would lessen their value when they were ultimately unpacked at the end possibly of a distant journey. They may pass through many hands before they finally reach the consumer, and each person would be anxious to satisfy himself of their quality. There is no doubt that the brand facilitates the sale under such circumstances, but at the same time it cannot be disputed that thousands of barrels are sold on the Continent every year with no other guarantee than that of the curer's name. Up to the year 1859 no charge was made for branding; but since then a fee of fourpence per barrel has been paid, and the proceeds practically count against the expense of the board. It was believed in some quarters that the alleged value of the brand was really not so great as to make the curers willing to pay for it,
2 Directions for taking and curing Herrings, and for the curing of Cod, Ling, Tusk, and Hake, by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart., Edinburgh, 1846. 3 "Maties
is a corruption of the Dutch maatjes, the term applied to herrings in which the roe is small or undeveloped. Its signification, however, is doubtful, and the nearest approach we can find to the word is maatje (kleine maat), a small measure, which it seemed might possibly refer to the small size of the undeveloped milt or roe, as compared with the bulky proportions of those organs in the full fish. But our inquiries on the subject from authorities, both in England and the Netherlands, have failed to elicit any definite explanation. The Dutch separate their herrings into three classes, as we do, according to the condition of the reproductive organs, viz:-"Voll," full of roe; "Maatjes," with the roe undeveloped; and "Ylen," empty or shotten. Maatjes are generally fat fish, but herrings are in that condition only when the roe is very small. As the breeding season advances, the fat is gradually absorbed, and the fish become voll; and when the spawn, then fully matured, is deposited, the herrings are called ylen, or empty.