Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/370

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic and Pacific coast states, yielded an aggregate of nearly eight and a half million pounds as compared with less than four and a half million pounds in the earlier year.[1] Every pound of this increased coastal yield in 1888, however, was due to the expansion of the Delaware River and Bay fishery, which in that year produced over 6,400,000 pounds. But even this phenomenal catch is said to have been smaller than it had been a few years before.[2] It seems safe to conclude, therefore, that in 1885 the combined sturgeon catch in the Lakes and in the Delaware region alone was not less than 25 per cent, greater than the total product of the whole country in 1880. If this be true the total catch in the United States must have ranged at least somewhere above 16,000,000 pounds in 1885. It was the demand for caviar in European markets and especially in Germany which had more than anything else made the fishery profitable and caused it to rise almost in a single decade, 1875-1885, to an industry of important proportions among the valuable fisheries of the country.

By 1890, almost every district was beginning to show the effects of the vigorous fishing which had swelled the total catch during the early years of the decade. The declining supply was most marked in the lakes, where the catch had fallen off by nearly three million pounds in five years. The Middle Atlantic States then stood first, the quantity taken from the comparatively small expanse of Delaware Bay exceeding the entire lake catch by nearly a million pounds,[3] the total being over three times as great as it had been in 1880, but distinctly less than the amounts reported in the intervening years. In the South Atlantic States also there had been extensive declines in the sturgeon products,[4] but since the catch in these areas increased to a marked degree in subsequent years it seems necessary to suppose that the low catch of 1890 was due in part, at least, to other causes than scarcity of fish. Along the Pacific coast, on the other hand, marked expansion was taking place in the years preceding and subsequent to 1890, as the result of a successful sturgeon industry established on the Columbia River in 1888. Vast quantities of sturgeon had been observed by the fishermen ever since the salmon fishery had begun two decades before, but all that time the sturgeon had been looked on as a nuisance and "in most cases was knocked on the head and set adrift in the river."[5] The abundance of the supply available can be seen from the fact that two years after the business was started the catch rose to nearly 1,700,000 pounds, and to more than 3,000,000 pounds in 1892. This important increase in the Pacific coast district, combined with the greater extent of the Delaware

  1. U. S. Commission Report, 1888, "Statistical Survey of the Coast Fisheries of the United States."
  2. U. S. Fish Commission Bulletin, 1888, p. 278.
  3. U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1899, p. 372.
  4. U. S. Fish Commission Bulletin, 1891, p. 281.
  5. 28 U. S. Fish Commission Report, 1893, p. 250.