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In the year 1805, the number of vessels em- prising that the inhabitants of Newfoundland ployed in the American fishery here amounted to are not able to maintain a competition against the about 1500, carrying about 10,000 men, and the American fishermen.' quantity of fish caught by them to 800,000 or In 1812, France having been driven out of 900,000 quintals, while the whole produce of the her fisheries in this neighbourhood, our ships British Newfoundland fishery of that year did and men employed here are said to have equalled not exceed 500,000 quintals; and the number of those of America, amounting to about 1500 vessels and men we employed did not amount to vessels carrying ten men each. At this time the one-half of that employed by the Americans! Americans were permitted to cure and dry fish The demand for fish in our West India settle- on any part of the shore of Newfoundland; but ments, upon an average of three years, ending the abuses this gave rise to induced our govern1807, was 456,221 cwt. 97,486 of which was ment, at the conclusion of the late war, to cirfurnished by the mother country, leaving 358,735 cumscribe their fishery within certain limits, and cwt. to be supplied from the American fisheries. only to allow them the privilege of curing and of this quantity, above half was supplied by the drying their fish at certain spots on the shore. United States, using our salt and our fishing That is, the fishermen of the United States are banks, and in the three years, only 170,610 cwt. at liberty to take fish, in common with the sub- ., from our Newfoundland fishery, found a market jects of his Britannic majesty, on that part of in the West Indies.
the southern coast of Newfoundland, which exThe causes assigned for this, in an able pam- tends from Cape Ray to the Rameau Islands, from phlet on the subject of encouraging the New- Cape Ray to the Quirpon Islands, on the shores foundland fishery, are these :—The New England of the Magdalen Islands, and also on the coasts, fishery, in all its branches, is carried on by shares, bays, harbours, and creeks, from Mount Joly, each man having a proportion of his own catch, on the southern coast of Labrador, to and through and few or none being hired as servants on the strait of Belleisle, and thence northerly inwages. By this mode, the fisherman's interest definitely along the coast; and they are at liberty being proportioned to his industry, he is actuated also, to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled to labor by the most powerful incentive. The bays, harbours, and creeks of the southern part American fishermen are remarkable for their ac. of the coast of Newfoundland, and of the coast tivity and enterprise, and not less so for their of Labrador; but so soon as the same, or any sobriety and frugality; and, in order to be as in- portion thereof, shall be settled, they are no dependent as possible on the owner of the vessel, longer at liberty to dry and curé fish at such Each fisherman victuals himself, and the crew portion, without a previous agreement with the take it in turns to manage and cater for the rest. inhabitants or proprietors; and, in consideration, It is hardly necessary to add that men, provisions, of these privileges, the United States renounce, and every other article of outfit, are procured on their part, any liberty heretofore enjoyed or upon much better terms in the United States than claimed by their subjects, to take, dry, or cure in Great Britain. But the English fishermen must fish, on or within three marine miles of any of not only lay in a large stock of provisions out the coasts, bays, creeks, or harbours of his Briand home at a dear rate, but must also carry out tannic majesty's dominions in America, not inwith them a number of persons to assist in the cluded within the above mentioned limits; but fishery, who, consequently, eat the bread of idle- may be admitted to such bays and harbours, for ness on the passage out and bome; for the laws the purpose of wooding, watering, or repairing by which the colony was held were such as damages only. From its distance from the almost to forbid residence, and those who did shores of Newfoundland, the Great Bank is of reside had no power of internal legislation ; they course free to all the world; but the fishery can Were restrained from erecting the necessary dwel- only be successfully carried on by a constant lings for themselves and their servants; they were and uninterrupted communication with the prohibited from enclosing and cultivating the shore. land, beyond the planting of a few potatoes; During the war with America in 1813, our and from the importation of provisions from the Newfoundland fishery increased largely: the United States, except only on such conditions as export of dried cod alone for that year amounted were not calculated to afford the residents much to 946,102 quintals, with a proportionate inrelief
. “From a system,' says the author of the crease in oil, seal-skins, salmon, &c.; amounting above pamphlet, • the first object of which is to in value to £1,500,000. Since peace has bewithhold that principle of internal legislation, come universal, and the French and Americans which is acknowledged to be indispensable to the have been readmitted, the former are said, by good government of every community, which their bounties on all fish caught here, &c., to restrains the building of comfortable dwellings have taken in this fishery 300,000 quintals of in a climate exposed to the most inclement win- cod in one year (1814). The nature and value ter, which prohibits the cultivatiou of the soil for of our own exports for this fishery, in that and food, and restricts the importation of it from the the following year, will appear from the anonly market to which the inhabitants have the nexed Table. power to go,-from such a system it is not sur
1. Number of fishing ships, European and
island bankers, ships from Nova Scotia,
&c., the West India and stationary vessels 2. Burden of the above mentioned ships . 3. Number of men belonging to them 4. Number of boats kept by the fishing ships,
bye-boat men and inhabitants 5. Number of men employed in the fishery
and trade in ships and boats, and as
shoremen 6. Quintals of fish caught and cured by the
fishing ships, bankers, and boats 7. Exported to Spain, Portugal, and Italy,
British Europe, the West Indies, British
Ainerica, and the Brasils 8. Tierces of salmon cured and sent to British
and foreign markets 9. Tons of train oil made by the fishing ships 10. The number of seal-skins taken 11. Tons of seal oil made
The price of cod-fish is here reckoned at per Duncan of Lerwick, fully corroborates the prequintal, from 158. t9 258.; of salmon, from 65s. vious statement I had made on the subject last to 80s. the tierce; of train oil, from £26 to £34 year. The fishing vessels,' says this gentleman, the ton, and seal oil generally about £36 the spread themselves so widely over the bank, that ton. In 1814 the number of passengers that it seldom happens that more than two or three went over from England, Ireland, and Jersey, are in sight of each other at the same time, yet amounted to 2800; in 1815 they were 6735. they have never reached its utmost boundary.' In 1815 the population of residents amounted I shall, however, communicate what is known of to 55,284 in summer; in winter they are dimi- its extent, from the experience of a former seanished about 10,000.
The bank appears to commence near the After the banks of Newfoundland, those near cluster of islands bearing the name of Orkney: Ireland, the coast of Norway, Orkney, and the it is said to lie into the land about sixteen miles. Shetland Islands, abound most with cod-fish. The fishermen refer to the west of Westray as its Dr. Hibbert gives the following interesting ac- origin; and thence it is continued in a direction count of the recent discovery of the new bank, nearly north by west, having been variously enmentioned by Mr. Stevenson, in the Edinburgh tered upon in steering from the east, even as far Philosophical Journal, January, 1820:
distant as about twenty miles north-west of Shet• It is, I believe, about ten or twelve years land. If this information be correct, it would since a few vessels, from six to thirty-five tons give to what is known of the extent of the bank, burden, and carrying from six to eight hands, a distance of about 140 miles. first prosecuted a desultory and uncertain fishing Respecting the depth of water on the bank, for cod off the coasts of Shetland. They seldom I reported last year, that it was from twenty-eight went farther to look for fish than the immediate to forty-seven fathoms: the information recently neighbourhood of Foula and Fair Isle; and their given me, assigns to it a depth of from forty to success in general was very limited. To some fifty fathoms. This discrepance of opinion, which of the vessels thus employed the discovery of the is not of material consequence, probably arises bank is due. The first knowledge of its exist- from the difference of observations taken near ence is contended for by three or more parties; the origin of the bank at Orkney, or to the west but the great probability is, that it was simulta- of Foula, where its form becomes more definite. neous, since the same cause, which was the un Its breadth has been reported to me as varying commonly fine spring of 1818, caused almost from eighteen to forty-five miles; here also Í every vessel to seek for fish, at a more than have met with some little difference of opinion, usual distance from the coasts of Shetland, and which naturally arises from an indecision refinding a very abundant supply off the north of specting the exact depth to which its boundaries Orkney, in the vicinity of the place which at or shelving sides may be referred, and which can tracted Mr. Neill's attention, they fell in with only be rectified by extensive soundings. The the track of the cod-bank.'
surface of the bank is described as in some • The cod-bank of Shetland is described by places rocky, and in others sandy, and as covered the fistiermen as lying from twenty-five to thirty by buckies, mussels, and razor-fish. miles west of Foula. That its extent is very • It has been thought that this bank is continugreat, all who have fished upon it agree. The ous with a cod-bank near the Faroe Islands, not information politely given me by Mr. Sheriff only from the general direction of the Shetland
Bank, which bears towards that very northerly who concealed from the rest of the world the and remote group of islands, but also from a fact of its existence, or whether the knowledge similarity of character in the fish caught at each of it, if really acquired by us, scarcely became an place. The cod of both Shetland and Faroe object of remembrance, owing to our proverbial have been described to me,' says Dr. H.,' by a supineness in every thing relating to the advancegentleman familiar with the fish, as gray-backed, ment of the British fisheries? The independent spotted with black, and tinged with a ring, system of the Hollanders, and their little comwhich is of a brownish color, inclining to gray. munication with the natives of the country, the This continuation, then, the existence of which policy of which is obvious, is alluded to by is very problematical, may perhaps take place, Brand, in his Tour to Shetland, in the year 1712 : rather by a series of distinct banks in a given “The Dutch, he remarks, 'cannot be said so direction, than by one that is uninterrupted. properly to trade with the country, as to fish
In connexion with the history of the bank, upon their coasts. In fact they only purchased it may not be uninteresting to enquire if it was fresh victuals from the natives, and a few stockreally known to those nations who cannot be ac- ings. cused of a supineness in the prosecution of their The Dutch fishery is first particularly nofisheries, and my enquiries will be principally di- ticed by captain Smith, who in 1633, by order rected to the Dutch, who for nearly three centu of the earl of Pembroke, and the British Fishery ries have been the principal fishers frequenting Company of London, visited the islands of Shetthe coast of Shetland.
land. He saw 1500 sail of busses, of eighty tons In order to understand the history of the each, taking herrings on the coast of Shetland, Shetland fishery, we must distinguish between with twenty rafters or ships of war, carrying those nations who prosecuted it through the me- twenty guns each, as convoys. But the confirdium of the inhabitants of Shetland, and those mation which he adds to this narrative, relating who, avoiding such an intercourse, obtained the to a distinct establishment which the Dutch poslucrative object of their visits by an equipment sessed, for the purpose of prosecuting the codwhich rendered them independent of the people fishery, is so remarkable, and is so involved in the whose coasts they visited. The merchants who question of the importance of this new accession prosecuted the Shetland fishery, through the to our national resources, that I shall give capmedium of the natives of the place, were from tain Smith's account in his own words. Besides Hamburgh, Lubeck, Bremen, and Denmark. 1500 sail of herring busses and twenty wafters, They occupied booths or shops in the country, 'there was also,' he adds, a small fleet of and trafficked with the Shetlanders chiefly for dogger-boats, which were of the burden of sixty ling. This fish is caught in deep water, at a ton, which did fish only with hooks and lines for distance of thirty miles from land. For this ling and cod. Many of these boats and busses purpose light six-oared boats are at present em came into several havens or sounds, to fit and ployed, eighteen feet in keel, and six in beam, trim themselves. One thing was observable, ibe as venturous crews of which carry each a that, within eight or ten days after the doggerstretch of lines amounting to 6000 fathoms, with boats went to sea, they came into the sound 1200 attached hooks. The German and Danish again so full laden .as they could swim. The merchants, who had almost exclusively conducted certain number of dogger-boats I could not the Shetland ling-fisheries for nearly two centu- learn, but the general report was about 400. Upon ries, left these shores in consequence of the the narrative of captain Smith, I have certain rebounties granted for the exportation of fish from marks to make. The dogger-boats are stated in Great Britain, agreeably to the acts of the years very general terms to fist for ling and cod; but 1705 and 1714. To these visitors succeeded which of those fish was the leading object of their occasional companies of Scotch and English pursuit, our early narrator does not on this occamerchants, who were actuated by the new sion inform us. It is well known, that the mode bounty; but eventually the fishery devolved to of prosecuting the white fishery, inasmuch as it the Shetland landholders, whose policy it was to has for its leading object the taking of cod or ling, parcel out occupations to number of indivi- differs in certain essential points. The ling is duals, involving at the same time, in the condi- sought for in deep water; the cod, on the contions of their holdings, the obligation to supply trary, is taken in the greatest quantity upon them at a stipulated rate with all the ling they banks or on shoals. For the taking of ling, long caught during the customary summer season. lines, baited with many hundred hooks, are alThe fish, when dried, were chiefly exported to lowed to remain in deep water all night. Hence the shores of the Mediterranean, and to Ireland. the intent of employing open boats, that may
* The second description of visitors to Shet- not be driven to a distance from their tines. Cod, land, for the purpose of prosecuting the fishery on the contrary, is caught by hand-lines, baited of the place, comprehended, as I stated, that with single hooks, which are dropped into the people who, avoiding an intercourse with the na- water from the sides and stern of decked vessels. tives of the shores which they rifled, obtained the • It is possible to conceive, that the Dutch, in lucrative object of their visits by an independent prosecuting the ling-fishery, by means of their equipment: I here allude to the Dutch nation. doggers, had recourse to the expedient of a drove An enquiry into the nature of their visits to sail, which, by restraining the motion of their vesShetland will involve in it the question, whether sels, prevented them from being driven far from the cod-bank, first generally made known to the lines which they had laid. But it may be this country in the year 1818, was or was not remarked that, whenever the Dutch fleet of dog. previously resorted to by this reserved nation, çers is described, with regard to its particular
object, it is distinctly stated to be intended for one occasion, a vessel with six hands took, in a the cod-fishery. Thus in Sir Robert Sibbald's single tide or day, 1200 fish. The general result description of Shetland, bearing the date of of the fishery, however, of last year, could not 1711, the following passage occurs : • But the fairly represent the productiveness of the bank; greatest advantage Shetland hath is from the since the vessels which constantly resorted thither fishing of herring and cod, which abound so, were comparatively few. Notwithstanding, thirthat great fleets of the Hollanders come here, and teen vessels, from ten to thirty-five tons burden, begin to take herring upon St. John's day, with and having from six to eight hands each, fished, their busses. But, the author adds, “they at the upon an average of each, twelve tons of dried same time employ hundreds of doggers for taking fish; when, in previous years, the average was of cod.' From what has been advanced, I am three or four tons less. During thus year, howdisposed to believe, that the ancient importance ever, a fair trial of the bank was made. The of the Dutch cod-fishery of Shetland has been fishing season commenced in May and terminated much underrated, and overlooked, by confound in August. The number of vessels on the bank ing it with a fishery of a different kind ; that of was increased from thirteen to twenty-five, and ling being for the most part conducted through were of various sizes, from ten to sixty tons burthe medium of the natives of Shetland.
den, and manned with from six to twelve hands The second remark which I have to make each, boys included. The average quantity of upon captain Smith's early narration, refers to cod taken was much greater than that of previthe success of the Dutch doggers. It may be ous years, being not less than fifteen tons of dried observed, that, previous to the cod-bank being fish for each vessel, when, prior to the year 1818, found out in the year 1818, the fishery, which a sloop often took only six or seven tons, and was conducted round every part of the Shetland never at the utmost exceeded in this respect coast, was highly desultory and uncertain ; and twelve tons. Some vessels, however, this year it rarely happened that vessels of only ten to are understood to have obtained from twenty to thirty tons, after being employed a week in fish- twenty-five tons each. ing, returned to their several harbours, like the “It is evident, with regard to dried cod,' he Dutch doggers described by Smith, “so full laden contends, “that the fish prepared in Shetland as they could swim. But captain Smith tells will ever maintain its pre-eminence over the cod us, that vessels capable of holding a much greater of other places. The Newfoundland fishermen quantity of fish, and amounting to even sixty are described as exposing their fish, after it has tons, came into the harbours, after an eight days' been salted, on standing fakes, made by a slight cruise, full laden. For the reasons thus given, wattle, and supported by poles often twenty I am strongly inclined to suspect that the bank feet from the ground. But the humidity is not was, two centuries ago, well known to the Dutch, near so well extracted from the fish as when, acand that the knowledge of it was either carefully cording to the Shetland method, they are carewithheld from this nation in particular, or, which fully laid out upon dry beaches, the stones of is more probable, regarded by us with such an which have been, during winter, exposed to the indifference, that when the Dutch left our shores, abrading action of the ocean, and are thus cleared owing to the interruption they experienced in from vegetable and animal matter. I am informed our wars with them, it was soon forgotten that that the fishing season for cod might be successsuch a bank existed. In support of the latter fully prolonged. It regularly commences in opinion, a gentleman in Shetland last year in- May, and ends in August; but Mr. Duncan formed me, that he had a distinct recollection of remarks, that stout vessels might be employed formerly seeing in an old Dutch chart the notice all the year round, as the cod is to be taken at of a bank to the west of Foula, corresponding to all seasons.' the observations inade in the year 1818.
Sir Thomas Bernard says, “I bear no personal “For nearly a century and a half after captain enmity to the Newfoundland fisheries; but I Smith's visit, we find that the Dutch still conti- ain persuaded that one domestic fishery upon our nued to prosecute the cod-fishing on the coast of owu coasts, employing our own people, though Shetland. In a MS. tour of the late Reverend only of half their magnitude, would do this George Low, in my possession, made through country infinitely more real service than they can Shetland in the year 1778, it appears that this ever do. They can never provide employment gentleman was present when Bressay Sound was for our own poor; and they are not, exclusively, filled with Dutch busses preparing to set out for nurseries for British seamen. So far indeed the herring-fishery. After describing, in a very from their being exclusively so, it is more than particular manner, the arrangements and eco- doubtful whether their effects are not inimical nomy of this fleet, he adds, ' Besides the herring- and injurious to the interests of this country, busses, the Dutch send out many doggers on the whilst they are very favorable to those of the cod-fishing. These are going and coming from American States; especially if it should appear, early spring through the whole summer. Each that a considerable portion of the persons emdogger" has ten men and two boys, the half of ployed in those fisheries, are emigrants from our whom sleep while the other are employed in sister island ;--young men in the prime and fishing.'
most valuable part of life; who, instead of sup*One boat alone,' says this writer afterwards, plying our army and navy with sailors and sol• which fished nearly the whole season on the diers, fly to a distant quarter of the globe: leavbank, or contiguously to it, took 11,000 fish, equal ing the helpless and the aged to be provided for to thirty-nine ton of wet fish, or fifteen ton of at the cost, and by the labor of those who condried fish. I was indeed informed, that upon tinue at home :--young men, who, at the expira
tion of their three years service, generally settle lowed for the encouragement of British advenfor life in America.'
turers : the first was of 30s. per ton to every
buss Sect. II.-OF THE HERRING FISHERY.
of seventy tons and upwards. This bounty was
afterwards raised to 50s. per ton, to be paid to Our chief stations for this fishery are off the such adventurers as were entitled to it by claimShetland and Western Islands, and off the coasting it at the places of rendezvous. The busses of Norfolk, in which the Dutch also share. See are from twenty to ninety tons burden, but the Clupea. There are two seasons for it; the first best size is eighty. A vessel of eighty tons from June to the end of August, and the second ought to take ten lasts, or 120 barrels of herrings, in autumn, when the fogs become very favorable to clear expenses, the price of the fish to be adfor this kind of fishing. The Dutch begin their mitted to be a guinea a barrel. A ship of this herring fishing on the 24th of June, and employ size ought to have eighteen men, and three boats; a vast number of vessels in it, called busses, one of twenty tons should have six men; and being between forty-five and sixty tons burden every five tons above require an additional hand. each, carrying three or four small guns. Before To every ton are 280 yards of nets; so a vessel they go out, they are said to make a verbal agree- of eighty tons carries 20,000 square yards : each ment respecting their conduct on the voyage, net is twelve yards long, and ten deep; and which is very honorably observed. The regula- every boat takes out from twenty to thirty nets, tions of the admiralty of Holland are partly fol- and puts them together so as to form a long lowed by most nations : as, that no fisher shall train; they are sunk at each end of the train by a cast his net within 100 fathoms of another boat; stone, which weighs it down to the full extent: that while the nets are cast, a light shall be kept the top is supported by buoys, made of sheep's on the bind part of the vessel : that when a boat skin, with a hollow stick at the mouth, fastened is by any accident obliged to leave off fishing, tight; through this the skin is blown up, and the light shall be cast into the sea : that when the then stopped with a peg, to prevent the escape greater part of a fleet leaves off fishing, and casts of the air. Sometimes these buoys are placed at. anchor, the rest shall do the same, &c. Mr. An- the top of the nets; at other times the nets are derson, in his History of Commerce, attributes suffered to sink deeper, by lengthening the cords to the Scots a knowledge of great antiquity in the fastened to them, every cord being for that purherring fishery. He says that the Netherlanders pose ten or twelve fathoms long. But the best resorted to these coasts as early as A. D. 836, to fisheries are generally in more shallow water. purchase salted fish of the natives; but, imposing Of the herring fishery in the Western Isles on strangers, they learned the art, and took up the following account is given by Mr. Pennant, the trade, which has since proved of such ime in his Voyage to the Hebrides. The fishing is mense emolument to the Dutch. Sir Walter always performed in the night, unless by acciRaleigh's observations on that head, extracted dent. The busses remain at anchor, and send from the same author, are extremely worthy the out their boats a little before sun-set; which attention of the curious, and excite reflections on continue out, in winter and summer, till daythe vast strength resulting from the wisdom of light; often taking up and emptying their nets, well-applied industry. In 1603, he remarks, the which they do ten or twelve times in a night, in Dutch sold to different nations as many herrings case of good success. During winter it is a most as amounted to £1,759,000 sterling. In 1615 dangerous and fatiguing employ, by reason of they at once sent out 2000 busses, and employed the greatness and frequency of the gales in these in them 37,000 fishermen. In 1618 they sent seas, and in such gales are the most successful out 3000 ships, with 50,000 men, to take the captures: but, by the Providence of heaven, the herrings, and 9000 more ships to transport and fishers are seldom lost; and, what is wonderful, sell the fish; which by sea and land employed few are visited with illness. They go out well 150,000 men, besides those first mentioned. prepared, with a warm great coat, boots, and All this wealth was gotten on our coasts; while skin aprons, and a good provision of beef and our attention was taken up in a distant whale- spirits. The same good fortune attends the fishery: The Scottish monarchs for a long time busses, which in the tempestuous season, and in seemed to direct all their attention to the preser- the darkest nights, are continually shifting, in vation of the salmon-fishery ; probably because these narrow seas, from harbour to harbour. their subjects were novices in sea affairs. At Sometimes eighty barrels of herrings are taken in length James III. endeavoured to stimulate his a night by the boats of a single vessel. It once great men to these patriotic undertakings; for, happened, in Loch Slappan, in Skye, that a buss by an act of his third parliament, he compelled of eighty tons might have taken 200 barrels in ‘certain lords spiritual and temporal, and burghs, one night, with 10,000 square yards of net ; but to make ships, busses, and boats, with nets and the master was obliged to desist, for want of a other pertinents for fishing. That the same sufficient number of hands to preserve the capshould be made in each burgh; in number ac- ture. The herrings are preserved by salting, cording to the substance of each burgh, and the after the entrails are taken out. This last is an least of them to be of twenty tons: and that all operation performed by the country, people, who idle men be compelled by the sheriffs in the get three half-pence per barrel for their trouble; country to go on board the same.' Numerous and sometimes, even in the winter, can gain indeed have been the attempts made at different fifteen pence a-day. This employs both women periods to secure this treasure to ourselves, but and children ; but the salting is only entrusted with little success.
In the reign of Geo. II. a to the crew of the busses. The fish are laid on very strong effort was made, and bounties al- their backs in the barrels, and layers of salt be