THIS is one of the most important natural resources of the Dominion, providing employment for a large population, and when it is said that the value of the catch of fish (including seals) during 1908 was over 25,000,000 dollars, and that the capital invested in the industry is 15,000,000 dollars, little more is needed to show that Canada has an enormous asset within her territorial waters. With a coastline on her Atlantic provinces of over five thousand miles,’ some on the deeply indented and island-studded Pacific coast, not to mention the 220,000 square miles of fresh water in her many great lakes, it may be surmised that the Dominion possesses perhaps the most extensive fisheries in the world. The fishing fleet during the year mentioned consisted of 1,414 vessels and nearly 40,000 boats, and the number of men engaged was over 70,000. There are, moreover, many persons engaged in canneries and the preparation of fish for the market, and including these it is estimated that the total of those directly employed is no less than 85,000, exclusive of the coopers, net and rope makers, boat builders and others indirectly identified with the industry.
Nova Scotia stands first among the provinces in the fishing industry, followed by British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, while the value of the catch in Manitoba and the district of Keewatin, as well as in Saskatchewan, is not by any means inconsiderable.
Salmon, lobsters, cod, herring, mackerel, halibut and whitefish are the leading commercial fishes, but large quantities of many other varieties are obtained.
No effort is spared by the Government to assist and encourage the industry, and as evidence of this it may be mentioned that the total expenditure of the controlling department was over 950,000 dollars in 1908 the last year for which figures are available. Of this sum 242,601 dollars represents the amount devoted to the Protection Service alone, in which thirteen vessels are employed, six patrolling the Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence, five on the Pacific coast, one on the Great Lakes and one on Lake Winnipeg.
To encourage the development of the sea fisheries and the building of fishing vessels, bounties are paid to the extent of about 160,000 dollars, under the authority of the Deep Sea Fisheries Act. The bounty for 1908 was distributed upon the following basis :Vessels : The owners of the vessels entitled to receive bounty shall be paid one dollar per registered ton, provided however that the payment to the owner of any one vessel shall not exceed eighty dollars, and all vessel fishermen entitled to receive bounty shall be paid the sum of seven dollars, twenty-five cents each. Boats : Fishermen engaged in fishing in boats, who shall also have complied with the regulation entitling them to receive bounty, shall be paid the sum of three dollars, ninety cents each, and the owners of fishing boats shall be paid one dollar per boat.” The number of claims paid during the year was 13,841, an increase of 648 over the previous year.
The work performed at the various Marine Biological Stations at St. Andrews (New Brunswick), Departure: Bay (near Nanaimo, British Columbia), and on Georgian. Bay (the Great Lakes Station), is generally acknowledged. by those in a position to judge to be of exceeding value and the equipment in each oase is of an elaborate character.
An important phase of the work carried on is that connected with the thirty seven fish breeding establishments, the aggregate out put of which during 1908 was, 682 millions of fry of various kinds. Experts have also been engaged from time to time to advise and report upon oyster culture, deep sea drifting for herring, herring curing, steam trawling, and other subjects of similar importance to the development of the industry.
Among the fishes interesting to sportsmen peculiar to the country must be mentioned the ouananiche (wah-nah-nish, or winninish), the maskinonge, the speckled or brook trout, the black bass and Black Sea bass.
The first named is a member of the salmon family and is commonly spoken of as land locked salmon. It is found in Lake St. John and the numerous rivers in the Saguenay region which lies on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. The game qualities of the fish have been well described by a writer in the Quebec Chronicle in the following terms :” In proportion to their size, these ouananiche are the gamest fish that swim. They are peculiar to Lake St. John and its tributaries ; but hook a respectable ouananiche in the boiling waters of the Grand Discharge, and you have entered upon a fight as different in comparison with other fish, as is that with a dark-coloured trout hooked in the heaviest rapids, compared with the half-hearted struggle of a dainty fingerling in a crystal lake. In proportion to his avoirdupois, he can do more tackle-smashing, pound for pound, than any fish that swims. His leaps are terrific ; he can give a black bass long odds, and then show him points in high jumping.”
The maskinonge, though in many respects superior to the pike, bears a resemblance to that fish and often attains a weight of seventy-pounds. It is popularly known in Canada as the ” lunge,” and is to be found in the rivers and lakes in the western portion of Quebec, among the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence and in some of the rivers and lakes of Ontario.
Bass is found in abundance in the Maritime provinces and in portions of Ontario and Quebec, and is an object of the greatest interest to the sportsmen of Eastern Canada.
If the salmon fishery in the river estuaries, and the seal fishery, which is carried on some distance from the shore, are excepted, the fishing industry of the Pacific coast may be said to have received but little attention in times gone by, although undoubtedly it offers great scope for development. More attention is being devoted to it and with the advent of capital it will certainly reach large proportions. Halibut, black cod, candle fish (oolachan), anchovy, smelt, herring and other marketable fishes are to be found in great numbers.
The outstanding feature of the British Columbia fisheries is the remarkable run of salmon which takes place annually up the rivers. These salmon belong to seven different species, the four principal being the sockeye, quinnat, cohoe and steelhead. The first named is of the greatest economic importance and is the one on which the well-known canning industry largely depends. The fish swarm to the mouths of the rivers during the spawning season in incredible numbers, and in their efforts to get up stream many of them are forced on to the banks. The industry of canning salmon for export has attained great importance and, properly regulated, will continue to contribute greatly to the wealth of the province of British Columbia.