The Federal government assumes management of the Pribilof Islands
fur seal resource.
The United States
Commission of Fish and Fisheries, formed on February
9th is the first Federal agency concerned with natural resource
The nation's first fisheries laboratory is established at Woods Hole by
the U.S. Fish Commission, the forerunner of today's NMFS. The first
U.S. Fish Commissioner, Spencer F. Baird, selects Woods Hole for its
central location, support facilities, clean water, and good access to
offshore fishing sites. A survey of marine life in local waters
begins. Others conduct research at Cape Hatteras and on the Great
Lakes. Baird personally investigates the alleged decrease of southern
New England fisheries, taking testimony from many witnesses.
First Fisheries Lab, Woods Hole
The Fish Commission is directed by Congress ... to determine whether a
diminution of the number of food-fishes of the coast and lakes of the
U.S. has taken place; and, if so, to what causes the same is due; and
whether any and what protective prohibitory or precautionany measures
should be adopted in the premises.... Baird immediately initiates a
broad spectrum of ecological research.
Vinal N. Edwards
, the first permanent federal employee of the
fisheries service is employed as an all-around technician, a
position he holds until his death in 1919. Edwards had no
scientific background but was often described as an "intuitive"
naturalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the ocean processes
and marine life in and around Woods Hole.
American Fish Culturists Association appropriates $15,000 for
the U.S government to begin fish culture development, adding
aquaculture to the Fish Commission's charge.
In March, northern fur seal research on the Pribilof Islands begins
when Henry Wood Elliott of the Treasury Department is sent to the
islands to supervise fur seal management. Under Baird's direction,
Elliott conducts the first seal studies, and his watercolors illustrate
every aspect of seal life.
The Commission's summer station is set up at Eastport, Maine, and a
special herring study is made.
On August 30th, Livingston Stone makes the first collection and
fertilization of salmon eggs at Baird Station on the McCloud River in
northern California and ships them to the east coast by rail. He is
also appointed Secretary of the American Fish Culturist's Association
On October 23rd, 30,000 chinook salmon eggs are shipped from California
to the East Coast; all but 7,000 die in transit. About 200-300 hatch
and are raised to fingering size and planted unsuccessfully in the
Susquehanna River in March 1873.
The Fish Commission's summer research station in Portland, Maine, is
augmented by the loan of an 80-ton steamer from the U.S. Navy. Outer
waters between Mount Desert and Cape Cod are also explored with the
U.S. Coast Survey steamer Bache
In January Stone plants Great Lakes whitefish into Clear Lake, Calif.,
the first of many such unsuccessful efforts there.
Stone, with a special railway California Aquarium Car leaves
Charlestown, N.H. for the Pacific coast on June 3rd. Approximately
300,000 fish, including catfish, eels, bullheads, perch, bass, trout,
and lobsters, are accidentally planted in Nebraska's Elkhorn River when
a railroad bridge collapses. Stone and his assistants swim to safety,
but three people die in the accident.
On July 2nd, Stone releases 35,000 Hudson River shad into the
Sacramento River. Shad transplants continue for several years, and
the Atlantic species becomes well established on the Pacific coast.
Baird publishes the first of the annual USFC reports on the Commission's
operations and research. The series provides a much-needed outlet
for scientific reports on the Nation's fisheries and oceanographic
studies. The first edition details Baird's findings on "The Condition
of the Sea Fisheries of the South Coast of New England in 1871 and
"Baggage-masters will allow agents of the U.S. Fish Commission to ride
in the baggage-cars and to attend to the tanks which they have
charge."--A. J. Cassett, Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
The Baird Hatchery on the McCloud River is recognized as a permanent
station of the Fish Commission. From it, fertilized salmon eggs are
shipped around the world. The hatchery site now lies under the waters
behind Shasta Dam.
The Commission's research work is centered at Noank, Conn., and an
attempt is made to introduce shad to European waters.
A combination of federal and private funds make renovation of a shed
into a more permanent, two-story lab at Woods Hole complete with a
windmill for pumping seawater to research aquaria.
The Fish Commission presents a large exhibit of fish culture methods
and aspects of American fisheries at the Philadelphia International
Exhibition; carp are first imported from Germany
"To conductors and Baggage-masters. You will permit his Fish Commission
deputy's cans of living fish to be carried in the baggage cars."--Gen'l
Superintendent, Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Co.,
The War Department furnished Baird station a military guard this year,
which proved to be a very valuable acquisition.--Livingston Stone.
The first successful U.S. east coast sardine cannery is started at
Eastport, Maine, 43 years after the world's first sardine cannery began
operating in Nantes, France.
Fish Commission investigations resume at Salem, Mass., and later at
Halifax, Nova Scotia. Federal carp ponds are established in
The Halifax Fishery Commission is charged with settling the amount of
compensation to be paid by the United States for the privilege of
fishing off the eastern Canadian Provinces and Commissioner Baird is
summoned to testity. Baird's assistant, G. Brown Goode, reports that
"The information at that time available concerning the fisheries was
found to be so slight and imperfect that a plan for systematic
investigation of the subject was arranged and partially undertaken." The
full study of America's fisheries and their history and status would
later be published as part of the Tenth U.S. Census.
The first salmon cannery in Alaska is established at Klawok.
The first major monograph on the menhaden, a prolific and widely
useful species, is published by G. Brown Goode, Assistant Fish
Commissioner. The menhaden is still one of the Nation's most important
fisheries, and research into its ecology and utilization continues
J. R. Shotwell, in a letter to Baird, describes the efforts of a New
Jersey gas company to remove harmful products from distilled coal waste
before dumping in the Delaware River.
The U.S. Fish Commission occupies a permanent station in
Gloucester, MA to supplement fish propagation studies ongoing at
the Woods Hole Station. This would eventually become the first
seafood technology lab in the United States.
The first clam cannery in the United States is established at Pine
Point, Maine. Also, crab is first canned at Norfolk, Va.
The breeding of cod and haddock is accomplished at Gloucester, Mass.
The Commission publishes six annual or biannual reports totaling 5,650
pages during 1871-78 and they provide a much needed outlet for
fisheries and oceanographic research papers and reports.
Commissioner Baird initiates a landmark study on the composition of
fish to determine their food and nutritive values. The research,
conducted by W. O. Atwater and Charles Woods, provides important bench-
mark data, many of which are still useful today.
The field of fish technology opens with investigations of methods for
freezing fish, and in 1882 net preservatives are studied.
The Fish Commission's summer station is located at Provincetown, Mass.
Oyster propagation is accomplished cooperatively with the Maryland Fish
Commission and under the direction of Major Ferguson. Distribution of
the German carp is also initiated--a move later rued.
One hundred and fifty east coast striped bass are successfully
transplanted by Livingston Stone to the Pacific near Martinez, Calif.
The Fish Commission, cooperating with the Superintendent of the Tenth
U.S. Census, dispatches specialists to all parts of the Nation to
study and record the biological, statistical, and practical aspects
of all U.S. fisheries. The results are published in 1887 as a huge,
comprehensive seven-volume work on The Fisheries and Fishery Industries
of the United States.
The Fish Commission's first research vessel, the 156.5-foot U.S.S. Fish
Hawk is launched. The coal-burning steamer is built to serve as a
floating hatchery in coastal waters for shad, herring, and striped bass