Imágenes de páginas

oppressors, soon attain their normal proportion, the balance of species is re-established, and those alternations between comparative scarcity and abundance, which occasionally characterise the “harvest of the sea,' are thus accounted for. The want of sufficient data for the complete solution of all the questions bearing upon the future prospects of our sea-fisheries is, however, admitted by those who have bestowed any attention on the subject. We are in almost total ignorance of the periods when, and the localities in which, different kinds of fish spawn. A small expenditure incurred for the purpose of ascertaining, if possible, the conditions under which they propagate, and the time when their breeding-grounds might be protected from human molestation, would be far from being thrown away, for the permanence of our sea-fisheries is a matter of national importance. Marine fish-ponds, in which the spawn could be observed from the time of its deposit until it quickens into life, and the progressive growth of the fish ascertained, might, it has been suggested, be easily formed in many places on our coast. Fish 'viviers,' such as exist at Arcachon, where dams are constructed to facilitate the entry of sea-fish and to prevent their escape, are surely equally practicable in England. These preserves yield large profits, and are well adapted to add to the knowledge of the natural history of fishes. Hitherto we have laboured under the disadvantage of having had no recognised source whence to obtain trustworthy information on the various facts connected with our sea-fisheries. A suggestion, therefore, of the Irish Commissioners, that an inspector should be appointed to traverse the coast, collect statistics, note the periods of the arrival and departure of different kinds of fish, ascertain, if possible, the times and places of their spawning, and periodically report the results of his observations and inquiries, is well deserving of consideration.

The Fishery Exhibition which was held last year at Arcachon proves that a general interest has been awakened to this important branch of industry. It included representatives from England, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Spain, Denmark, the United States, and China. Five hundred exhibitors displayed the various productions of the seas of their respective countries, and the fishing implements used in each. We understand that similar exhibitions are about to take place both in England and in Holland in the course of the present year.

The French fishermen are, it is well known, in the habit of resorting to the eastern coasts of England to participate in the herring and mackerel fisheries, and a convention between the

* A French fishing town in the Bay of Biscay.


Governments of the two countries regulates the distance within which the fishermen of the one may approach the shores of the other. It is doubtful, however, whether these regulations were ever rigidly observed. Prohibited from entering our ports except from stress of weather, the French fishermen have been obliged to use larger boats than they would otherwise deem necessary, and their operations sometimes interfered considerably with those of our fishermen. The convention has not, it is understood, given satisfaction to the fishermen of either country, and it will speedily be superseded by another of a more liberal character, for which the negotiations have just been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. A free intercourse between the fishermen of France and England will conduce to the interests of both, and it has long been the opinion of our fishermen that if the privilege were conceded to them of resorting to French markets, and a similar privilege were granted to the French in reference to our own, both would be benefited. Large quantities of sea-fish are daily despatched during the season from Billingsgate to France, and it is abundantly clear that the interests of our fishermen of all denominations, especially trawlers, would be promoted by their being permitted to dispose of their fish in French ports, duty free; and there are many fishing towns in the United Kingdom that would appreciate the advantage of having the crews of French fishing-boats as their occasional customers.

Our sea-fisheries have not yet received that amount of attention which they undoubtedly deserve. When we consider,' say the Commissioners, the care that has been bestowed on the improvement of agriculture, the national societies which are established for promoting it, and the scientific knowledge and engineering skill which have been enlisted in its aid, it seems strange that the sea-fisheries have hitherto attracted so little of the public attention, for there are few objects of enterprise that present better chances of profit, and none of greater utility could be named than the development of enterprise, skill, and mechanical ingenuity which might be elicited by a periodical exhibition, and by the publications of an influential society specially devoted to the subject of the British Fisheries. They add that the great importance of fish as an article of food may be clearly shown by a comparison of the total supply of fish and beef to London in the course of a single year. It has been roughly estimated that London consumes 300,000 fat cattle annually, which, at an average weight of 6 cwt. each, would amount to 90,000 tons of beef. At the present time there are between 800 and 900 trawl vessels engaged in supplying the


London market with fish, and assuming the annual take for each to be 90 tons, this would give a total of some 80,000 tons of trawled fish. This is irrespective of the vast quantities of herrings, sprats, shell-fish, and fish of other descriptions, which are obtained by other modes of fishing. The weight of beef and of fish annually consumed in London is thus in no great disproportion, but the price is very different; and why it should be so it is not easy to discover, for the fertility of the sea is so great that it will bear no comparison with that of the earth. Once in a year an acre of land carefully tilled, will, in the words of the Commissioners, produce a ton of corn or 3 cwt. of meat.

The same area at the bottom of the sea of a good fishing-ground will yield to the persevering fisherman a greater quantity of food every week in the

year. The owner of a trawling smack receives little more than 71. per ton for his fish, prime and offal included, while the farmer obtains for his beef not less than 60l. per ton. The buyer of fish, however, at least at the west-end of the metropolis, finds that his fish costs him considerably more by weight than his mutton and his beef. Some allowance must be made for the risk incurred by dealers in so perishable a commodity, and for the cost of ice for its preservation ; there can, however, be no doubt that the price of fish to the consumer is enormously and disproportionately high ; for, while the fisherman receives only 3d. to 4d. a pound at Billingsgate for his prime fish, the consumer is charged 1s., 1s. 3d., and 1s. 6d. by the fishmonger.* The proprietor of a trawling smack employed in the North Sea has assured us that he rarely obtains at Billingsgate more than 3d. or 4d. per pound for his finest Dogger Bank cod. It is for the public to devise some mode of protecting themselves from the unconscionable demands of the retailer; for no satisfactory reason can be assigned why he should require profits so enormously disproportioned to the cost at which an article in such general demand is obtained, to the remuneration of the capitalist, and to the earnings of the hardy and indefatigable toilers of the sea.'

* • Report,' p. 17.



ART. III.-Nachrichten über Leben und Schriften des Herrn

Geheimrathes Dr. Karl Ernst v. Baer, mitgetheilt von ihm selbst. Veröffentlicht bei Gelegenheit seines Fünfzigjährigen DoctorJubiläums am 29. August, 1864, von der Ritterschaft Esthlands. (A Sketch of the Life and Writings of Dr. Charles Ernest von Baer, contributed by himself. Published on the occasion of the Jubilee of his Doctorate on the 29th of August, 1864, by the Ritterschaft' of Esthonia.) St. Petersburg. 1865. (For private circulation only.) CHEN a skilled man sets about learning for himself the

working of any engine or piece of mechanism, he begins by taking it to pieces and then tries to put it together again. The first step is generally easy enough, but it teaches little. It is, in fact, only preliminary to the second, which is at the same time far more difficult and infinitely more instructive. The taking to pieces of that puzzling mechanism, the animal body, was begun long ago, in very early times, and has at the present day arrived at so near an approach to perfection, that weak faint-hearted men are sometimes heard to complain that in anatomy there is very little room left for discovery. In most animals all the parts have been unrivetted, all the joints loosened, and all the pieces, even to the tiniest bits, carefully sorted out, so that everything seems ready for the higher task of synthesis to begin. The putting together, however, of an animal is a work the very beginning of which is far above our might, far above the might of all the king's laboratories and all the king's men. So far are we from being able to construct an animal, that we cannot put together even the simplest vital pieces; the very nails which bind the plainest work of life are to us as yet magic nails, not to be had from any manufactory. Nay, the case is even worse. A common engine may be stopped from its work without damage, and when it has been stopped all the parts remain as they were, except just so far as that they were moving and are now at rest: the fly-wheel is the same body whether it be revolving or whether it be still. With the vital ‘machine it is otherwise : it can be stopped only at the cost of being spoilt; with it, arrest means confusion and obliteration. That which the anatomists lay before us as the machinery of life is, to a very great extent, not the original mechanism, but, looked at from a chemical point of view, only a group of secondary post-mortem arrangements. A corpse is not an engine at rest—it is a ruin. To put together into a working whole the bits of machinery of which the anatomist and the physiologist tell us, is as hopeless a task as that of piecing together into an acting engine the fragments of an exploded boiler.


But that which we cannot do ourselves, is being continually done for us all the world over. Every moment an animal 'is born. Every moment the entrance of a new young life upon the globe proclaims that the task of building up a living frame has once more been accomplished. Nature is constantly in travail ; for ever, in things great and small, teaching those who care to listen, how an animal is put together; for ever pointing out with her finger, to those who care to see, the ways in which an almost formless and structureless egg is, little by little, changed and moulded and worked up into the intricate and perplexing system of a grown-up being.

Of course for a long time mankind did not care to see, though great men like Harvey had glimpses of the process. For a while, at an epoch when inquiry into other matters was rife, men's eyes, as regards this, were blinded by a plausible untruth. They were told that the infant animal was, 'even in its earliest stages, an invisible miniature of the future adult, carefully and neatly folded up in the body of its parent. Growth was said to be an unfolding and a getting bigger-a mere amplification. The progress of an animal from the egg onwards was thought to be like that of the lion's head on the screen of a child's magic-lantern, which, appearing at first as a tiny thing not bigger than a shilling, and yet with all its parts perfect, gradually swells out into a life-size picture. The benumbing influence which such an idea, potent because so seemingly natural, would exercise upon all inquiry, is evident. If it were true, the formation of an animal would be so perfect a mystery as to seem no mystery at all. To Caspar F. Wolff

, a prophet unknown and unhonoured save among a few biologists, is due the credit of having demolished this false theory, and of having shown that growth is the putting on of forms and parts-that, in the making of an animal, Nature first lays down a rough sketch and then fills in the details as the mass enlarges in size. The path which he thus opened up has since been trodden by many inquirers, the results of whose labours have served to justify the idea which he nursed, that in the history of development are to be found the very essentials of biology, and that all other studies, anatomical and the like, are, compared with it, hardly more than a mere scratching of the surface. Among Wolff's successors, the chief place may fairly be given to the man whose name stands at the head of this article, and who, though the greater part of his work was finished while many of our present distinguished naturalists were at school, and though his name seems to belong almost to a past generation, is still enjoying an old age full of honour and good report, and fragrant with the satisfaction of fruitful well-spent days.

« AnteriorContinuar »