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Fish Culture in Canada

The Progress of Fish Culture in Canada by Prof. E.E. Prince, Dominion Commissioner and General Inspector of Fisheries for Canada.

Taken from: Dept. of Marine and Fisheries 1905 - 38th annual report.

Fish culture is one of the most ancient of human pursuits, for the Chinese are known to have practiced it from almost prehistoric times. In Europe, and on this western continent, it is of recent date. There was, indeed, no necessity for aiding Nature’s recuperative processes in the rivers, lakes, and sea, so long as these abounded to excess in the most valuable kinds of food fishes. Even today those waters of Canada, not depleted by man's reckless wastefulness, are populous with the finny tribes, and over the Dominion generally, the enforcement of protective laws, close seasons, netting limitations, etc., has warded off exhaustion, though in international waters the difficulties of wise preservation are very great. Hence, the aid of artificial fish culture has been enlisted, not as a substitute for judicious fishery laws, but as supplementary and subordinate. The story of its development and progress in Canada is an interesting one.

It was not until 1853, so far as I can ascertain, that any attempt was made upon this continent to artificially breed fishes. Dr. Theodatus Garlick, of Cleveland, Ohio, was the pioneer. He obtained parent brook trout in Canada, taking them across from Port Stanley in Ontario, to his establishment in Ohio. He was an enthusiast, and his exhibits of young fish, hatched from Canadian trout eggs, were a feature for many years at agricultural exhibitions in the various states bordering on the great lakes. Canada soon followed suit. The initial attempts were, of course, largely experimental.

The late Mr. Samuel Wilmot claimed to have originated fish culture in Canada; but I find this claim was disputed, and with justification, by a well-known citizen of Ottawa, the late Richard Nettle. Stimulated no doubt by recollections famous streams in his native Devonshire, Mr. Nettle, as early as 1856 or 1857, began the incubation of salmon and trout eggs for purpose of artificial stocking, in hatching tanks in the city of Quebec. He disputed the accuracy of the claim frequently put forward on behalf of Mr. Wilmot. The Bishop of Ottawa, (Dr. Hamilton) incidentally confirmed the claim of Mr. Nettle in a recent conservation, his lordship informing me that he himself saw the young fish and the hatching arrangements about the time referred to. Mr. Nettle was then superintendent of fisheries for Lower Canada. From a report by the late Mr. Wilmot, dated December 31, 1878, it appears that he commenced experiments in fish-hatching in 1865, eight or nine years later than Mr. Nettle’s experiments, and he carried it on as a private enterprise until the Dominion government took the work over and gave Mr. Wilmot an appointment as a government official. In 1866 Mr. Wilmot acted as a fishery officer, with authority from the government of Upper Canada, and on May 30, 1868, he became an officer under the Department of Marine and Fisheries; but it was not until eight years later (1876) that he became superintendent of fish breeding. For his initial experiments he was paid, in 1869, the sum of $2,000 by Order in Council.