Fisheries, the business of catching fish, and the localities frequented by the kinds of fish that are objects of capture, such as the cod, herring, mackerel, and salmon. The whale fishery and the seal fishery are terms employed to designate the pursuit of the whale and the seal, though those animals are not fishes. (See Whale Fishery, and Seal Fishery.)-Among the ancients, fisheries were carried on extensively from a very early period, and formed a valuable branch of industry. Byzantium (the modern Constantinople), and Sinope on the Black sea, were famous for their lucrative fisheries. From Suetonius we learn that the muroena or lamprey, the favorite fish of the Romans, was caught in the greatest abundance in the sea around Sicily, and in the Carpathian sea between Crete and Rhodes. In the 3d century of our era the fishermen of the Mediterranean pursued their prey not only on the coasts, but in the open sea, making long voyages, and even passing the pillars of Hercules. The fisheries of Egypt were especially celebrated for their productiveness, but they were all inland, in lakes, canals, and the river Nile. The revenues arising from the fisheries of Lake Moeris were given to the queen of Egypt for pin money, and are said to have amounted to nearly $500,000 annually.-The earliest mention of the herring fishery that has reached us dates from A. D. 709. The cod fishery began to be regulated by legislation in western Europe toward the end of the 9th century.
From an ordinance of Charles VI. in 1415 it appears that the mackerel fishery of France at that period was very extensive, and that the fish were sold at an extremely low rate in the markets of Paris. The development of the fisheries during the middle ages was greatly promoted by the demand for fish created by the fasts of the church. But the discovery, at the end of the 15th century, of Newfoundland and its fisher-ies, which to this day surpass all others in magnitude and value, gave the greatest impulse to the business. The cod, mackerel, and herring are the chief objects of pursuit, and their range is not limited to the neighborhood of Newfoundland, but they are caught in vast numbers on the coast of New England, in all the bays and inlets of the British maritime possessions, and on the coast of Labrador. The French were the first Europeans who engaged in the American cod fishery. They visited Newfoundland as early as 1504. In 1508 Thomas Aubert made a fishing voyage from Dieppe to the gulf of St. Lawrence, and after that the Newfoundland fisheries increased so rapidly that in 1517 they gave employment to 50 vessels from different nations, chiefly, however, from France. In 1577 there were 150 French vessels engaged in the business, which they pursued with great success.
A few years later the government of Henry IV. took active measures to protect and encourage the cod fishery. Early in the 17th century, however, the business began to decline, so that in 1645 the number of French vessels employed in it was 50 less than in 1577. At this period began those contests between the French and English about the sovereignty of the fishing grounds, which continued more than a century. After the treaty of Ryswick in 1697, the French claimed the exclusive ownership of the American fisheries east of the Kennebec river in Maine, except on the W. coast of Newfoundland, where, by a specific stipulation of the treaty, the English were permitted to fish. By the treaty of peace of 1713, however, the French fishermen were prohibited from coming within 30 leagues of the coast of Nova Scotia, but they were granted the privilege of fishing on the E. coast of Newfoundland, from Cape Bonavista to the northern point, thence along the western shores as far as Point Riche. Notwithstanding the restrictions of this treaty, the French continued to pursue the fisheries with energy and success. They settled on the island of Cape Breton, where they built the town and fortress of Lonisburg, at an expense of 30,000,000 livres, which became the great rendezvous of their fishermen.
In 1721 their fleet of fishing vessels is said to have increased to 400 sail, a greater number than at any former period. In 1744 they had 564 vessels, manned by 27,500 men, and producing 1,441,500 quintals of fish, valued at $4,500,000. After the fall of Louisburg in 1745 the fleet declined to about 100 sail. By the treaty of Paris in 1763 it was agreed that the French should have the liberty of fishing and drying fish on a part of the coasts of Newfoundland, and of fishing in the gulf of St. Lawrence at the distance of three leagues and upward from the shore, and on the coasts of Cape Breton at the distance of 15 leagues from the shore. The little islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon near the S. coast of Newfoundland were ceded to France to serve as shelter for the French fishermen. A few years later, in 1768, the number of French vessels at Newfoundland had increased to 259. By the treaty of peace in 1783 the right of the French to Miquelon and St. Pierre was confirmed, but their right to fish on the E. coast of Newfoundland between Cape Bonavista and Cape St. John was abandoned, and extended on theW. coast from Point Riche to Cape Ray. The French revolution was disastrous to the fisheries, and in 1792 fewer than 3,400 Frenchmen were engaged in the North American seas.
During the reign of Napoleon they con-tinued to languish, and the fishermen met with severe losses from the British cruisers. After the peace of 1815 the business rapidly increased, and from 1835 to 1839 the cod fishery employed an average of 416 vessels, with an aggregate tonnage of 53,456; from 1842 to 1847, 389 vessels of 49,165 tons, of which 21,195 tons were employed on the coast of Newfoundland, 657 at St. Pierre and Miquelon, 5,816 on the Grand bank, 13,703 on the same without drying, and 7,794 at Iceland. From 1841 to 1850 the number of men averaged 11,500; in 1852 the number of vessels was 450, and of men 14,000; in 1858, 492 vessels of 77,150 tons and 15,280 men; value of product, $3,500,000. In 1869, 676 vessels, manned by 14,149 men, produced about 670,000 quintals of cod and its products. In 1870, 188 vessels and 7,000 men were employed in the Newfoundland fishery, and 299 vessels, with 5,000 men, in the Iceland fishery. The protection and encouragement of this great branch of national industry has from its commencement been sedulously attended to by the French government. Bounties to a large amount are granted to the fishermen.