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The Scottish Fisheries.

by opening) would inevitably d each party through whose hand the profits of both the fisherm fish pass from their first capta curers in our own country; beca their final consumption must some share of profit, whateve in this country. creases the difficulties of the abroad, both of import and tra mediate stages, tends to lower p and other unavoidable charges, The duties considerable increase would be ta vent the exaction of any higher pr. in the foreign market, because debar any sales whatever. Ast price, then, must remain the same. mount to prohibition, and would t nearly so, to the foreign consume", large proportion of the loss occasion by increased expense would unavos ably fall upon our own people. Ner it is well known that, in consequel culiarities of the curing trade, t of the perilous and uncertain nata profits to those concerned can in n of a fisherman's vocation, and the p they may require increase. way stand reduction, however mu!

In reply to these objections, it may
be mentioned that herrings are of a
very different nature from linen or
woollen fabrics, and after being packed
for exportation, cannot have their
character and condition ascertained
by either touch or eye-sight, without
injury to their future state.
brand is not compulsory, and can
scarcely present any barrier to im-
provement in the cure of herrings,
because if any curer, more skilful
than his neighbours, can find out and
put in practice any better method
than that now in use, he is entirely
free to do so, and may thus establish
his name, and trust to it, independent
of the brand. Moreover, whatever
may be the philosophical value of the
principle in political economy pointed
out as deserving of a preference in
the abstract, it must practically
(and the gutting and curing of
herrings are very practical opera-
tions in their way) be borne in mind,
that our fisheries have grown up
rapidly under the present system,
which was found necessary to enable
us to compete with the Dutch, whom
we have thereby driven out of what-
ever markets are open to us without
disadvantageous differential duties,
and that our now prosperous practice
is sunk into the very foundations of our
foreign trade, affecting the wellbeing
of almost countless thousands, from the
forlorn fisherman to the wealthiest
capitalist, or most aspiring specula-


It is assuredly a strong fact, that
the foreign merchants themselves are
unanimous in favour of the con-
tinuance of the present system, as
enabling them to transmit their bar
rels, on the faith of the brand, into
far inland countries, where the names
of our native curers, however familiar
to many of ourselves, are necessarily
quite unknown, but where the ac-
knowledged crown brand, by its sim-
plicity and certainty, suffices for
every purpose of an agreed-on guar-
antee. Great derangement of the
foreign trade, and consequent disad-
vantage, are naturally apprehended
from any sudden departure from the
existing long-established system. The
trouble and expense which, in absence
of the brand, necessarily follow the
practice of braken (that is, inspection

chants on this matter has been manifested many times. On the 7th of The opinion of the foreign merMarch 1844, Messrs Robinow & Sons, and Hudtwalcker & Co., of Hamburg, write as follows:

"We believe ourselves entitled to
state that we are not merely expressing
general interested in the herring trade
our own individual sentiments, but, at
the same time, those of the public in
of the Continent. The official interfer-
will, on the one hand, prove to the
ence of the Board will prove a great
buyers on the Continent that the Board
benefit to the Scotch herring trade. It

of Fisheries is desirous to do all in its
power to justify the renowned fame of
its brands, and in this way give more con-
by such steps to pay as much attention
fidence to the trade. On the other hand,
the curers of Scotland will be influenced
and thus increasing confidence on the
part of consumers, and increasing vigil-
to the curing and packing as possible,
ance, with a view to improve the cure,
on the part of the curers and officers,
will conjointly contribute to increase
the consumption of Scotch herrings on
the Continent, and consequently to in-
crease the exportation."

Mr Wellmann, of Stettin, a very

The Scottish Fisheries.

extensive foreign purchaser of the
Caithness branded herrings, in a
letter to Mr George Traill, M.P. for
the county, wrote thus on the 8th
of February 1851 :—

"Scotch herrings are only sold in
small quantities in this market and the
neighbourhood; they are chiefly sent
great distances of from a hundred to
eight hundred miles English, into the
interior of Germany and Poland, either
by orders or offers, without the assist-
ance of commission merchants, for the
great expense of forwarding them does
not permit any commission to a third
party. The great distance prevents,
likewise, dealers from inspecting the
herrings on the spot here, who therefore
make their purchases solely on their
trust in the official brand, knowing that
the fish must be selected well, and pro-
perly cured, that the barrels be of
legal size, and that they require to be
well and tightly made before the brand
can be affixed. These herrings are gene-
rally forwarded by crafts, which are often
six or eight weeks on their passage, and
it frequently happens that a great fall in
the market takes place during that time;
and should the official brand be removed,
dealers in the interior might easily take
advantage of such falls, for it would not
be difficult to find complaints-such, for
instance, that the fish were not pro-
perly selected or well cured-that they
had too much or too little salt- or that
the barrels were of a smaller size (for no
one can there say of what size the
barrels require to be); and as most her-
rings are sold on credit, they would con-
sequently be often stored at the risk and
the expense of the shipper, and perhaps
in markets where the person who pur-
chased them was the only dealer.

The cheapness and the improved cure
have increased the importation of Scotch
herrings into our port to a great extent,
for there is no port to which more
Scotch herrings are shipped than Stettin,
whilst the importation of Dutch and
Norwegian fish has diminished."

A body of Hamburg merchants,
too numerous to be here named,
stated, on the 4th of October 1852,
that it is by the careful observance
of the regulations established and
enforced by the Board of Fisheries,
that the Scotch herring trade has
attained to its present magnitude:

"It is by the crown full brand," they observe, "that we enter into contracts, make sales and deliveries, without exa

mination. Such herrings pass current
from hand to hand here, and into the
interior, some of them reaching the em-
barrels of full crown branded herrings
pire of Austria. The many thousand
arrived this season have given entire
satisfaction to us and our constituents;
but the sale of unbranded herrings is
frequently the subject of complaint, and
threats made by customers to return the
herrings. We are, therefore, compelled
to make abatements in the price.'

The partners of four merchant
firms of Berlin expressed themselves
thus, on the 7th of October 1852:-
"We hereby represent our entire con-
fidence in the official brand applied
to the Scotch herrings by the officers
of the Board of Fisheries, which is
our only guarantee for the large
capital we embark in this business.'
And the heads of six mercantile
houses of Magdeburg state, within
a few days of that time, in respect to
a rumour which had reached them
"An alteration in this
regarding the possible abolition of
the brand:
respect would put us to the greatest
inconvenience, and compel us to
in the end would not be agreeable
adopt another plan of payment, which
to your merchants and curers.
The opinion of a body of merchants,
importing annually 50,000 to 60,000
barrels of Scotch herrings, will be
worth some consideration, particu-
larly as the object concerns the in-
terests of both parties."

Mr Thalberg, another Prussian merchant, has recently (in 1855) written as under :

"In order to show how the Scotch herrings had risen in the Dantzic market, while in 1841 only from 3000 to 4000 barrels were imported, last year there were 35,000, and Scotch herrings were gradually more and more taken into the interior, while Norwegian herrings have correspondingly decreased. The same was the fact at Königsberg. This he attributed to the brand. Some of the herrings were actually sent to the Black Sea, being bought at Dantzic on the faith of the brand, which was so essential to a continuance and spread of the trade, that he did not believe purchasers from the interior would come

such a distance and examine the barrels for themselves, were the brand abolished. Norwegian herrings were sent in small yachts, and each parcel was examined

with the greatest minuteness before being purchased."

These are the opinions of foreign merchants on this important point. The following may be taken as expressing the sentiments of those at home. Mr James Methuen, of Leith, a skilful curer, extensively known as of great experience, and very largely embarked in the export trade, very recently wrote as follows:

"It is impossible to see each herring in a barrel, therefore inspection of them at the time of curing and packing enables an officer to brand with knowledge of the article, and gives confidence to the purchaser.

"The official brand has proved the means of exchange by bill of lading from hand to hand, and from dealer to dealer, in Scotland, afloat in the middle of the North Sea, in the Baltic, or in the rivers of Germany in their river craft,

and up the interior of Germany for hundreds of miles,-and been passed and paid for as a good bill of exchange in some cases through half-a-dozen purchasers.

"I ask those who differ, would it be wise of Parliament to peril the industry of so many thousands of our seafaring and industrious population, for want of the supervision that has wrought so well and Dutch cured herrings on the contias to displace the demand for Norwegian nent of Europe, and enhanced the value of the Scotch crown-branded herrings, so that they are now bought and sold without inspection by parties who never, and cannot, see them."*

The important fact previously stated by Mr Wellmann, in regard to the increasing consumption of Scotch herrings in the Baltic, and the consequently decreased importation from other quarters, is well shown by the following table :

In 1834, barrels of Dutch herrings received at Stettin,

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In the year 1849, our exportation to Stettin amounted to 147,103 barrels. That season is well known to have been the most productive of herrings of any ever "recorded in history," and so gave us the power, while Prussia afforded the opportunity, of this most beneficial exportation. It gives us sincere pleasure to add, that the immediately preceding season of 1855, although by no means the greatest in respect of capture, has exceeded all its predecessors in exportation to the Prussian markets154,961 barrels having been transmitted to Stettin during the year now closed. Almost the whole of that vast consignment was ordered in consequence of the certain guarantee

53,981 19,960


12,507 116,538


afforded by the crown brand. Now that peace is ere long, as we trust, about to be proclaimed, it is pleasant to anticipate the fresh impulse which may be given to the consumption of our native produce in many inland countries of the Continent. disastrous, though, from the cruel necessities of war, advisable destruction of the great Russian fisheries, will no doubt, for a time, cause additional recourse to our marine resources; but the absence of the wellknown and long-trusted brand from our barrels exported to the Baltic, would assuredly tend to check, or render less likely, that desirable increase.t

It is thought by many considerate

Letter from Mr Methuen to the Lord Advocate; Edinburgh Evening Courant, February 6, 1856.

+ We have recently received the Commercial Circular of Messrs Plüddeman and Kirstein of Stettin, of date the 20th January 1856. Referring to the increased consumption of our herrings in the Continental markets during the last season, they attributed it chiefly to the high prices of all descriptions of meat, as a consequence of the high value of rye, and all other grains, caused by the blockade of the Russian ports, and the failure of the Continental crops. The following is their

and well-instructed people, by bankers and men of business, whether merchants or otherwise, that the power of obtaining the brand is of great advantage to young men of small means, and not yet established commercial reputation, who desire to enter into the export herring trade. By attending carefully to the cure of, it may be, only a few hundred barrels, they obtain the brand, and can ship their small stock with as good a prospect of a fair proportional profit as the most wealthy and best-known exporter. This opens a door to rising integrity and intelligence which might otherwise be closed, and it lessens the occasional evils of those engrossing monopolies which the large command of capital or credit is apt to produce, to the disadvantage of the poorer though not less trustworthy


In reference to the next head of our discourse-the small annual grant of £3000 for the erection or enlargement of harbours, piers, and quays,we think it cannot be doubted that its administration by the Board of Fisheries is necessarily attended by numerous and great advantages. Correspondence and inquiry take place in each particular instance of application for aid; one of the first practical steps being an accurate survey by the Board's engineers, with a report on the practicability and probable expense of the proposed work. The

cost of this preliminary investigation is shared, half and half, between the applicant and the Board. The Board, being by this time in possession of all particulars necessary to be known, determines the proportion which the proprietor or fishermen (or both, as the case may be) should be made to bear of the ultimate outlay, while the latter parties also take into consideration how far they are able to make the required contribution; and so the agreement is either completed, or does not take place. Of course, the Board may either reject or entertain an application, while a proprietor (committed to nothing more than his share of the previous survey) may on his part accept or refuse to pledge himself to the payment of his fixed proportion, according to what he knows of his own ways and means. It is not till these preliminaries have been adjusted that the actual work is mutually agreed upon, and put in operation. We know that many of these undertakings, which on their first proposal seemed almost hopeless of execution, have, by the encouragement and exertion of the Board, been brought to a successful issue, and are not only now in themselves of unspeakable advantage to our fishing population, but, by affording a successful example of the benefits which occur from comparatively small sums judiciously expended, have been the means of conducing directly to the

summary of the importation of Scotch herrings, into their own and neighbouring districts, during the last four years :

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The above transmissions for 1855 give a total of 322,422 barrels of Scotch herrings, of which the price to our curers, for such as were full-crown branded, varied from L.1, 1s. to L.1, 4s. each, producing, with such as were of a somewhat inferior quality and price, an enormous aggregate of income from the Prussian ports alone.

We may here add, that there is an immediate prospect of the duty on our herrings being greatly reduced in Belgium. It is at present 13 francs (or about 118.) per barrel-a tax which quite prohibits importation. When the great cities of Brussels, Ghent, Liège, Louvain, Antwerp, Bruges, Mons, Namur, Malines, &c., are open to our produce, what may we not hope for from the appetites of a Catholic and therefore fish-eating population?

erection of similar undertakings else where, of equal benefit, but not previously taken into contemplation. A great deal more is done by these quiet and considerate means than can possibly be here detailed; but it is self-evident that the constant and unconstrained communication which now and has so long existed between the Commissioners, the great majority of whom are resident in Edinburgh, and the proprietors as well as people of the coast districts, where an increase of boat accommodation is so much required, cannot be otherwise than advantageous.*

Now, if the Board of Fisheries be abolished, how and by whom are these friendly and encouraging communications to be carried on, and who are to pay the preliminary expenses? Through what agency are matters to be put in shape for acceptance by the Treasury, and the recommendation of a special grant by Parliament, in favour of any particular pier, or other work, that may be wanted? These preliminary but unavoidable expenses would in many cases fall upon a body of poor fishermen, who, without any warning voice on the one hand, or word of encouragement on the other, must proceed in doubt and darkness as to the chances of ultimate success with Government; while that Government could not proceed to action in the proposed matter without ordering some inquiry of their own, with a view to confirm or confute the opinion of the applicant, and thus causing, whatever might be the result, additional if not double expenditure, while the object of the abolition of the Board is to save expense! A detailed explanation to Parliament regarding the special requirements of each particular case, though safe and salutary in the instance of great public harbour-works, would prove

inconvenient, if not inoperative, in the administration of the numerous smaller fishing-pier grants for Scotland, hitherto contributed and administered by the Board. In what way the local though important circumstances connected with the expenditure of a few hundred pounds for the erection of a slip at the far end of Lewis, at Sandseir in Shetland, or Eday in Orkney, can form the subject of an immediate and judicious parliamentary inquiry, we cannot well conceive. Probably few proprietors would desire to take advantage of a grant for some small but desirable improvement in those wild regions, were all the private and preliminary negotiations subjected to so cumbrous and uncertain a course as a consideration by the House of Commons. The communications now made to the Board of Fisheries by many Highland and other proprietors, are no doubt often to a certain extent of a confidential nature, involving the exposition of pecuniary affairs in connection with the proportional sums which particular proprietors may or may not have it in their power to pay. But when the main point is proved, to the satisfaction of the Board-to wit, that a great and general advantage will assuredly accrue to the people, whether a closely congregated mass, or the forlorn and far-scattered remnants of some dim and distant island of the sea,-then is the grant agreed to, and every effort, consistent with enduring efficiency, made to economise its administration, while every exertion has been previously put forth to obtain the utmost possible aid from proprietors and fishermen. It is obvious, from the annual reports made to Parliament, how much is frequently effected by the Board in this way. Let the following examples suffice for the exposition

We have reason to believe that petitions to the Treasury for the maintenance of the Board of Fisheries and its official brand, have been presented or are in course of transmission from the following twenty-one ports in this country, viz. :Wick Town-Council, Wick Chamber of Commerce, Helmsdale, Burghhead, Lossiemouth, Macduff, Banff, Gardenstown, Whitehills, Portsoy, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Montrose, Anstruther, Leith Chamber of Commerce, Eyemouth, Burnmouth, Coldingham, Berwick-upon-Tweed, &c., Glasgow, Greenock, Bute. The following places on the Continent have sent in corresponding petitions, viz. :-Stettin, Königsberg, Dantzic, Berlin, Breslau, Dresden, Magdeburg, Harburg, Hamburg.

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