[ILN 6 Mar 1847]
Tins is the first of a Series of our national Fisheries, from the pencil of Mr. Duncan, which we intend, as the season may suggest, to present to our readers.
The great winter rendezvous of the Herring is within the Arctic Circle there they continue for many months, in order to recruit themselve after the fatigue of spawning; the seas within that space swarmin with insect food in a far greater degree than those of our warmer latitudes. This mighty army begins to put itself in motion early in spring appearing off the Shetland Isles in April and May; but the grand shoal does not come till June. In fine weather they reflect a variety splendid colours, like a field of precious gems.
" The first check that this army meets in its march southward, is from the Shetland Isles, which divide it into two parts: one wing takes to the east, the other to the western shores of Great Britain, and fill every creek and bay with their numbers; the former proceed toward Yarmouth, the great and ancient mart of herrings; they then pass through the British Channel, and after that, in a manner, disappear. Those which take towards the west, after offering themselves to the Hebrides, where the great stationary Fishery is, proceed to the north of Ireland, where they meet with a second interruption, and are obliged to make a second division: the one takes to the western side, and is scarcely perceived, being soon lost in the immensity of the Atlantic; but the other that passes into the Irish Sea, rejoices and feeds the inhabitants of most of the coasts that border on it."
The artist has chosen his scene from the Fishery off the Isle of Man, where, in successful years, from 40,000 to 50,000 barrels of herrings are taken.
The Fishermen have already been diligent in Fifeshire, where the Herring Fishing has been prosecuted most successfully. Many crews have slept but little for a week.
The importance of the improvement of our Fisheries, especially in time of scarcity like the present, has often been insisted on. A Correspondent of the Daily News says :- "the Herring Fishery is well known to he precarious, as it is dependent on the unexplained migrations of the shoals that visit our coasts ; but the deep-water fishing which I recommend would aford a regular and profitable employment, if maintained in steady operation by sufficient capital. The banks on the southern and western coasts of Ireland abound with fine fish. Success there has no limit in nature but is limited by the inefficient means in the hands of poor fishermen. Yet, even with these inferior means the success has often been such that, in some seasons large quantities of fish have been thrown on the land as manure, for want of a ready market. Ireland, with abundant stores on her own coast has been in the habit of importing about 200,000 barrels of herring from Scotland and Shetland.Why? Because the Fisheries of these coasts were under better mangement."
We learn the Government has just voted £3000 for the management of the Fisheries on the west coast. It will be given through the Fishery Board, and will be chiefly expended in the providing of lines and other fishing materials for the destitute Fishermen.