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which is thoroughly conversant with the subject, as respects the Scotch fisheries, to which the branding system is practically limited, and far more conveniently situated than any Central Board in London.

"Having had the opportunity of inspecting the correspondence and proceedings of this Board, it would be unjust not to take this opportunity of adverting to the important services which the Commissioners, acting themselves gratuitously, and with a moderate establishment, have rendered to the public in assisting for a long period of years in the development of this branch of national industry, and of expressing my belief, that, in the present condition of the poorer classes in Scotland, the question

of the continuance of the Board of Fisheries is not merely to be regarded in reference to measures of economy,-that it is impossible to doubt the social and moral advantages which may and do result to this class of the population, from the attention bestowed upon their welfare by a body of eminent persons, distinguished by their rank, position, and knowledge, and who are constantly endeavouring to obtain and disseminate information useful to those employed in the fisheries, to encourage their enterprise, to stimulate their industry, and to promote their physical and moral

welfare."

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ture of fish, viewed simply as a trade, which tended to improve the moral, if not the intellectual character of men, and to bring them up for the most part a humane as well as hardy vier, so well acquainted with both race; and more recently, Baron Cuman and beast, and every other thing that dwells on this terraqueous globe, has recorded his opinion, that all nations possessed of any sea-coast where the herring occurs, have given great encouragement to its capture, wisely regarding that occupation as the most natural nursery for the bringing up of robust men, intrepid sailors, and skilful navigators, and so of the highest importance in the establishment of maritime greatness. Lacepede goes so far as to regard the herring as

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une de ces productions dont l'emploi décide de la destinée des empires." We know that during the palmiest days of the States-General, out of a population of 2,400,000 persons, 450,000 were either fishermen, or connected with the building and equipment of ships and boats pertaining to the fisheries; and so the Pensionary De Witt was not far wrong when he stated that every fifth man in Holland earned his subsistence by the sea, and that the herring fishery might be regarded as the right hand of the republic. Indeed, the Dutch nation, so wary, considerate, and persevering, have always admitted that their wealth and strength resulted from the sea; and hence the old saying still in use among them, that the "foundation of Amsterdam was laid on herring-bones."

Seeing, then, that we are surrounded by so great a mass of witnesses, testifying to the importance of this trade, and knowing to what height, after so many years of toil and trouble, we have now attained, ought we to put in peril our present most advantageous position, by venturing upon any fanciful alteration of that familiar machinery which has hitherto worked so well?

It is, however, rumoured that Government proposes, we presume by way of mending these matters, to abolish the Board of Fisheries, collect the statistics, and exercise the superintendence, after some other fashion, cast the brand into oblivion, with

The Scottish Fisheries.

draw the grant for the building of
piers and quays, and so dispense, in
toto, with the advice, assistance, or
intervention of the old and experienced
authorities. This proposal, of course,
proceeds upon the assumption that
the brand may now be advantage-
ously done away with, and the prin-
ciple adopted which has so long been
applied to the linen and woollen manu-
factures, which are not now stamped
officially, but depend for preference
on the character and merits of each
particular maker. We understand it
to be alleged, that this so-called
sounder system should be applied to
the Scotch fisheries, with a view to
assimilate them, so far, to those of
Ireland. We shall now consider this
proposal, which, we need scarcely say,
has sorely perplexed and alarmed the
people of our coasts. They almost
feel as if the fate foretold by the Pro-
phet Isaiah was now in store for them,
and that the time is at hand, when
"the fishers also shall mourn,
and they that spread nets upon the
waters shall languish."-Isa. xix. 8.

We shall now, as briefly as we can,
take up the subject under the differ-
ent heads into which it naturally
divides itself.

In the first place, we can bear testimony, from personal knowledge, to the fact, that great importance is attached by our fishing population to the existence of the Board. They view it as a body to whom they can have easy access, through the resident Fishery officers at the various stations. Their impression is that their interests are cared for by it, and hence their willingness, in cases of difference or dispute, to be regulated by the friendly interposition of the official superintendents. Innumer

able cases might be cited of aid afforded by the captain and crew of the Princess Royal fishery cutter, as well as by the effective influence and authority of the naval superintendent, with his Queen's ship. But the great advantage of the former vessel is, that she is under the entire control of the Board for the whole year, whereas the war-steamer is only given for a time, and is of course always under Admiralty orders. There is also additional benefit found to flow to the Highland population of our insular

[March,

and other western shores, from the easy intercourse they can have with cutter, compared with the utter and the Gaelic-speaking boats' crew of the irremediable absence of all intelligible intercourse, which not unfrequently occurs, between that population and the unalloyed Saxons of a steam-ship from the south.

Fisheries believes itself, and on good
We doubt not that the Board of
ground, to be, from the very nature of
position than any other body of men
its constitution, in a more favourable
local requirements of parties applying
can be, to ascertain and judge of the
way of piers and quays. Their accu-
for additional accommodation in the
rate statistical returns enable them
to know whether a given station is
local officers having necessarily an
on the increase or otherwise, and their
intimate acquaintance with the cha-
racter of the fishing population of each
district, can testify to their activity
information which it would be ex-
and success.
They can thus give
way, but without which the propriety
tremely difficult to obtain in any other
of erecting, or repairing and extend-
ing, any of these shore-works, could
not be so satisfactorily determined.

late the Scotch to the Irish fisheries,
In respect to the proposal to assimi-
Irish Herring Fishery has actually
we believe the fact to be, that the
ing. Let any one read over the Re-
no existence as a national undertak-
ports of the Irish Commissioners, and
functions are confined almost exclu-
he will perceive at once that their
sively to the regulation and improve-
ment of the Inland Fisheries; that is,
those of salmon and white trout.
Any mention of herrings is, in truth,
of the most casual and unimportant
kind. There is, no doubt, a some-
portion of the eastern coast of Ireland,
what regular herring fishery off a
the boats sailing, for the time being,
to and from the harbour of Howth.
But it is very well known to every per-
son in any way conversant with the sub-
ject, that these boats consist of about
140 from St Ives, in Cornwall, of to-
of some 20 from Campbeltown in
wards 100 from the Isle of Man, and
the west of Scotland. Scarcely any
native Irish boats frequent that
fishery. We believe that a few come

off from Arklow,-we presume very few, as they are not enumerated by the Irish Commissioners. These Commissioners, however, state, that of all the boats above mentioned, the Scotch “are invariably the most successful," owing to the superior nature of their nets, and no doubt more skilful mode of management. So backward, in truth, is the condition of the Irish herring fishery, and those connected with it, compared with the Scotch and its conductors, that a very few seasons ago a set of cooper's tools for the manufacture of barrels could not be found at any curing-station in all Ireland, and there had to be sent over from Scotland, at the request of Mr Ffennel, one of the Irish Inspecting Commissioners, a few skilled artisans, with the necessary implements, to instruct the establishments of the sister isle, and aid those concerned in their pursuit of knowledge under difficulties. Now, we should certainly be very sorry to be assimilated to anything of that kind, although we can easily conceive that the assimilation of the Irish fisheries to those of Scotland would be of great advantage to the former.

We are willing to make every allowance for the difference in the character and disposition of the Scotch and Irish (although the majority of the one, so far as fishers are concerned, are as Celtic as the other), and for many disturbing elements in the Green Isle which do not so deeply and fatally pervade the social state of our own people; but still, where we find, on the one hand, a most important branch of commerce long established and maintained in security, and now on the increase from year to year, and on the other a desponding if not decreasing condition of affairs, carried on with little energy and no success,there seems nothing unreasonable in the supposition, that management and methodical regulation, a long-continued course of instruction, an unceasing supervision, and encouragement both by precept and example, to work up and attain to a higher standard of excellence than heretofore, may have produced the most beneficial effect in the former case; while the absence of such ameliorating causes, and of all counteractions of

apathy and ignorance, may have been injurious in the latter. The Scotch fishermen and fish-curers have experienced, and still enjoy, the advantages referred to, the Irish have not been deprived of them, because they never had them in possession. The Scotch herring fishery is by far the greatest and most successful in the world, the Irish is unfortunately the smallest and least prosperous on the waters of the known earth; and why should we seek to assimilate the two by adding much to nothing, rather than by endeavouring to create something out of nothing, and thus increasing the previously existing stores of national wealth? Of course, we know not with certainty what effect would follow the formation along the still unproductive Irish shores of a machinery in accordance with the system which has proved so signally successful along the wild coasts of much more barren and ungenial Scotland; but we think it would surely be a wiser and more generous policy to try the experiment of assimilation, rather by endeavouring to raise up Ireland to what it ought to be, than run the risk of bringing the two countries into somewhat similar condition, by sacrificing any of the few advantages which Scotland now enjoys.

If the accurate ascertainment of the statistics of the land is now deemed of such vital importance, surely that of the sea, to this great maritime and commercial nation, is no way less so. This brings us to the consideration of the performance of another important duty of the Board, the advantages of which we should of course lose on its abolition. Our marine and fishery statistics have been hitherto collected with great fulness and accuracy by the officers of the Board, and annually reported to Parliament. On the demolition of the Board, who are to perform the same functions in time to come? If the coast-guard is to be so employed, as it is in Ireland, let us briefly inquire into the well-doing of that system there.

In reference to the marine statistics of the sister isle, as collected and transmitted by the coast-guard, the Irish Fishery Commissioners report as follows:

"The doubts which we have expressed in former reports of the accuracy of the tabular returns, which are founded upon information furnished by the coast-guard department, are, we regret to state, undiminished. Several cases in which we have endeavoured to test their correctness, have convinced us that not even an approximate estimate can be formed of the actual extent and state of the fishing establishment on the coast. From any sources within our reach, unaided by anything like a responsible staff, we are unable to obtain the necessary information, or to effect that perfect organisation of the coast which would tend to the promotion of the fisheries and the preservation of order an object of vital importance to the well-working of the fisheries, as well as to the peace of the country.

"We have in our department but one clerk, whose duties are sometimes necessarily extended to visiting distant stations for the promulgation of by-laws, or for other purposes; and on such occasions we have required of him to furnish us with a statement of his progress. His reports prove how exceedingly valuable the services of qualified persons would be, instead of the desultory and unsatisfactory information which we are enabled to procure from irresponsible persons, who are bound to make our business quite subordinate to their more important duties. We subjoin a copy of the circular and queries which we issue annually to the coast-guard depart ment; and in most cases we find that five out of the seven questions asked are either not answered at all, or in a manner not calculated to afford much infor

mation."

In a subsequent report the Inspecting Commissioners state, in relation to the Belmullet district, which extends from Duna Head to Butter Point, that the diminution in the number of boats and hands is so great as to seem quite incredible. They attribute this not so much to the actual decrease, as to the erroneous and exaggerated information formerly received. "There are no first-class boats, and only 190 second class, with 676 men and boys, instead of the former establishment, which was stated to have been 962 vessels, with 3376 men and boys.

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1852.

This

clearly proves the great inaccuracy of former returns."+

In the most recent report of the Irish Commissioners the following is the conclusion come to :

"We cannot conclude this report on the coast fisheries of Ireland without expressing our deep regret that we are not furnished with data which would enable us to supply accurate statistical information as to the physical resources which may be found upon our shores for purposes of national defence. The encouragement of our coast fisheries used

in former times to be considered the most effectual and legitimate means of providing for our navy.

In

France we are told that the whole commercial navy-masters, mates, sailors, and shipboys-are under the eye and jurisdiction of the Minister of Marine; -nay, every fisherman, waterman, ferryman, oyster-dredger, and boat-builder is registered. We very much wish that

we had been enabled to establish even a less perfect system of organisation, but we find ourselves more deficient in means of obtaining accurate information every succeeding year; and we entertain little hopes that, until the present plan of registry is much improved, we can ever attempt to present returns the accuracy of which we could vouch for." +

We do not think that the preceding extracts are encouraging, or hold out any great inducement to assimilate our established mode of marine statistical collection to that of Ireland. Far better to abide as we are, and "let well alone." It may also be borne in mind, that so far as the north-west portions of Scotland, with their numerous and deeply-indented fishing-bays, are concerned, there is actually no coast-guard in existence.

A single paragraph may suffice in regard to the general marine superintendence, or police duties, as exercised by the Board of Fisheries. These duties are chiefly performed by boats' crews from the Princess Royal fishery cutter. We may re

fer to the fact that the Chamber of Commerce of Wick apply each season to the Board for a boat's crew to be stationed at Wick, for the purpose of preserving order in the fleet of fish

Twentieth Report from the Board of Public Works, Ireland, p. 236. London,

+ Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries, Ireland, for 1853. Dublin, 1854. Ibid. 1854. Dublin, 1855.

ing-boats assembled in that overcrowded mart; and that the results are invariably so successful and satisfactory, that no complaints of brawling or contention are ever made. On the contrary, the Chamber of Commerce seems annually to express and record its grateful acknowledgnents to the Board for its efficient services in this particular matter of the preservation of the peace. The following, however, is of a somewhat different complexion, in the last Report of the Irish Commissioners, regarding the state of matters in the Green Isle :

:

"The fishers and buyers complain greatly of the absence of some regulations for the preservation of order among the multitude of boats and people that are often assembled; and still more of the absence of any summary jurisdiction for enforcing regulations and settling disputes between the boatmen themselves, and between them and the purchasers; and have agreed upon a memorial to the Lord-Lieutenant upon the subject, which, doubtless, will come before the Board in due time." "The inspecting commander at Donaghadee complains that the people do not conform to the laws with regard to the size of the meshes; and that with poke nets, used in Lough Strangford, great quantities of fry of cod, whiting, pollock, blocken, sythes, salmon-trout, turbot, golpens, and smelts, from two to three inches long, are destroyed."+

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We may now say a few words regarding the somewhat disputed subject of the brand. Many of our readers are, no doubt, so innocent as not to know very precisely what this mysterious symbol indicates. The mark called the Full crown Brand merely means, that the herrings contained in the barrel which bears it have been regularly selected and assorted from the first, as of full size, good quality, and fresh condition;

that they have been gutted and salted immediately after capture; have gone through various intermediate curative processes not needful to be here detailed; have lain at least ten days in pickle since their first presentment in the market-place; and having been then carefully inspected by the fishery officer of the station, and found in every way excellent and in sound order, have had the heads and girdings of their barrels firmly and finally fixed down by the cooper, and so being entitled to the Government Brand, have accordingly had that distinction impressed upon them by means of a hot iron which "the likeness of a queenly crown has on."

Now, it has been argued by some, who, like Campbell's sable chieftain of the Indian forest,

"Scorning to wield the hatchet for a bribe,

'Gainst Brand himself have gone in

battle forth,"

that this is an interference with the freedom of trade, which should be left open to all competitors, without fear or favour. They maintain that although it may be convenient and advantageous to dealers, it practically tends to confine improvement in the mode of cure within the limits just necessary to secure the brand, and that there is thus no inducement held out to a fish-curer to surpass his fellows, the Government brand, as it were, equalising the value of the article, although one set of barrels may

be much better than another. It is also asserted that the brand creates an artificial system inconsistent with proper and prevailing principles, and that the sounder system now applied to the linen and woollen trade (from both of which the Government mark has been for some time removed), and all along to the fisheries of Ireland, should be put in force.

* Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries, Ireland, for 1854, p. 12. The above quotation refers to the herring fishery carried on at Howth. We think it right to state that the schedules appended to the report bear testimony "to the peaceable and orderly habits of the fishermen, and to the total absence of any conflicts or disturbance of any kind." It is, unfortunately, added, that "it is much to be deplored that nearly all agree in describing an unexampled state of depression as extending to all parts of the coast."-Ibid., p. 6.

+ Ibid., p. 6. As the law now stands, there is no regulation in respect to the size of the mesh of nets used in Ireland for the capture of fish other than of the salmon species.

VOL. LXXIX.-NO. CCCCLXXXV.

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