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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/843

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CONSERVATION OF THE MACKEREL SUPPLY.

CONSERVATION OF THE MACKEREL SUPPLY.
By ROBERT F. WALSH.

During the past few years there has been a serious scarcity of mackerel off the northern Atlantic coast, or rather the fishermen have been unable to capture such large numbers of this fish as had been their custom in former years. This falling off in the mackerel "catch" has a marked effect upon the fish-food supply of our markets. Scarcity of any commodity tends to increase the prices of articles which are used for similar purposes; hence, not only has mackerel become a fish of luxury—because of its scarcity—but the prices of most other fishes have been advanced correctively with the decrease in the general fish supply caused by the partial failure of the mackerel fishing during the past few years.

Recognizing this, the United States Fishery Commissioners inquired into the subject, but arrived at no definite conclusions, either with regard to the causes of this scarcity of mackerel, or as to how the supply could be increased to the former standard. However, some enterprising owners of fishing schooners having a knowledge of the enormous "banks" of mackerel that frequent the southern Irish coast at certain seasons, equipped their vessels for the ocean voyage and sent them across the Atlantic to fish for mackerel in Irish waters. In the matter of capturing large quantities of fish—superior to that which is caught in the western Atlantic—they were successful; but the question is undecided as to whether or not a continuance of the experiment would be financially judicious.

To my mind it seems clear that the sending of vessels to the Irish coast to capture fish for this market could not be profitably continued; but I believe that I can point out, not only the causes which led to the failure of the mackerel fishing upon this coast, but also show—from practical observation of the habits of mackerel and the methods of fishing for them—how the supply off the northern Atlantic coast could be readmitted.

The solution of such a problem as this can not be arrived at by any theoretical examination of the question. Study of the habits of the fishes, through centuries, and practical observation of their movements and instincts, can alone guide one in arriving at satisfactory conclusions. And, in order that my statements may receive due consideration, I think it not unwise to premise that at the Fisheries Exhibition in London, in 1883, I read a paper upon this subject before a special International Conference, and was awarded for it one of the few "grand diplomas of honor" which were conferred by the "commissioners appointed by her Majesty's Government."