PROPOSED FISH HATCHERY.
TO TUB EDITOR. Sm, —The accompanying letters, which I herewith hand you for publication, have been addressed by Mr 6. M. Thomson, F.L.S., to Mr J. A. Millar and myself with the objeot of bringing the important matter they treat of under the notice of the Government. I ask you to publish the letters with the view of drawing public attention to and enlisting public opinion in support of a project which, if successful, would be fraught with incalculable benefit to the whole colony. The project 13 to make an attempt to stock our New Zealand seas with the species of food fishes found on the coasts of Europe. It is true the present is not the first time this question has been urged on public notice, but it is hoped that better laid plans, together. with fuller and more accurate knowledge regardiog the conditions which govern ova life, will ensure that success. which was denied the ill-considered attempts of this past. This knowledge, whether utilised now or not, miut be looked on as an invaluable possession, and the colony must ever be indebted to those who have governed it for us.
To moat of us in Dunedin it was known that Mr Thomson had been applying himself towards the attainment of this object for these many years past; but lam inclined to think few only are aware how zealously and untiringly he ha 3 been prosecuting the work. Mr Thomson has got an offer of £SOO to be applied in furthering the undertaking, conditional on the Government supplementing the sum to the extent referred to in his letters. It is to be hoped the Government will recognise the importance of the work and grant the aid desired,—l am, etc., W. M. Bolt. Dunedin, September 20. Dunedin, 12th June, 1897. Messrs W. M. Bolt, M.L.C., and J. A. Millar, M.H.R., Dunedin.
Dear sirs, — I have much pleasure in laying before you details of the proposed scheme for establishing a marine fish hatchery and biological station at Purakanui, regarding which I have been in correspondence with you for several months past. Though I have from time to time kept you informed of the progress made, yet it will contribute to a better understanding of the whole proposal if I give n sketch of the action taken up to the present time, together with some details of the establishment which is contemplated and the work which it will attempt to do. For many years past I have taken much interest, chiefly from a scientific point of view, in the fish fauna of New Zealand, and have realised that if any legislation was to be carried out having for its object tho encouragement of the fishing industry and the utilisation of this most valuable national possession, information of a thoroughly scientific character as to the life, histories, ami habits of our marine fishes must be accumulated. At present it may be said that such in Formation is Ktill mainly to be acquired. The majority of tha fish to be found on our coasts have been described and catalogued, some idea has been gained of their regional distribution and range, and a little regarding their food, habits, etc., the principal contributors to such knowledge being Sir J. Hector, Captain Hutton, and others. But there is practically none as to their development, the movements of the migratory species, as well as on other important points. In 1889, when the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition scheme was being coiried out, I suggested to the Executive that a fisheries court should be formed. This wa3 accord- j ingly done, but though it proved a very interesting adjunct of the Exhibition tho idea was conceived too late, and the funds available were too small to enable it to be carried out in a sufficiently effective manner. In conjunction with Mr Lewis Wilson, the Under-Secretary of the Marine Department, an attempt was made some years ago to get the lighthouse-keepers round the coasts of the colony to record certain facts about the fish they caught, e pecially with the view of ascertaining, if pos-sible,-the time of spawning, the nature of their food, etc. Printed forms were issued to the light - keepers, and, as these came in, they were forwarded to me from time to time by the department. It soon became apparent that, from the want of any special training in observational work" on the part of the men from whom the information was sought, the results would be of very little value. In 1891 these results were summarised by me in a paper read before the Otago Institute on November 10 and published in the Trans. N.Z. lust., vol. xxiv., p. 202. The work previously compiled by Mr Sherrin and published ny the Ciovernment did not add anything to our knowledge of the subject. ft wilt no doubt be remembered that in IRSti, during the Premiership of Sir Robert Stout, an atte.npt was made to introduce the ova of the herring to this country The project was crudely conceived, and, though up to a certain point success seemed assured, yet it failed utterly within a week of the shipment of the frv from London. Had the ova reached the colony alive the chances were utterly against the survival of the young fry, as no provision had been made to hatch them out or protect them afterwards. But, even from the failure of this experiment, it was clear that the problem of the successful introduction of the herring to these southern seas v>as not a difficult one. Yet no attempt has since been made in the same or a similar direction. Since the Scotch Fishery Board commenced the hatching of marine fish ova at Dmibar I have been watching the result*, and have been in correspondence with the director, Dr Fulton, especially with the view of ascertaining whether it would be feasible to introduce some of the finer edible fishes of the Europeau ?eas to New Zealand. To bring the question into somewhat tangible shape. I read a paper on ' New Zealand fisheries, and the desirability of introducing new species of sea fish' before the Otago Institute on October 8,1895, and that tody appointed a subcommittee consisting of Messrs A. Hamilton, J. S. Tennaut. and myself to make investigations l during the summer of 1895-90. The report of this sub-committee was presented to the Institute Jast May, the gist of it being that it was highly desirable that an attempt should he made to introduce certain of the finer species of European | food-fishes into these seas, and that Purakanui Inlet presented a most suitable site for the erec-< tion of an establishment for hatching the ova of sea fishes. The reasons for selecting Purakanui were as follow:—(1) Its readv accessibility from Port Chalmers, so that a small steamer could run round in . little over an hour, while on the land side it is within three mile 3 of a railway station; (2) its sheltered position, so that from whatever quarter the wind blows the buildings, would be secure from any sea, while at the same time a small steamer could lie close to the entrance and be communicated with by boats; (3) the firm and rocky nature of the ground, which would greatly facilitate the erection of tanks, buildings, etc. ; (4) the abundance of pure sea water which would always be available; (5) the fact that the inlet communicates with.a wide bay (Blueskinßay), into which, . owing to a sort of eddy, great quantities of pelagic organisms are floated by the prevalent winds and currents, so that it constitutes an excellent feeding ground for voung fish; and (6) the occurrence of a current which flows up the coast in a northeasterly direction at the rate of about one and si-half mi!es an hour, by which any fish fry liberated at Purakanui would tend to be distributed along the coast. This last point is important in a colonial point of view, for any fry set free in Ota?o watere would soon spread northwards, whereas if they were liberated in the North, say at Cook Strait, thev would not readily, if at ail, move southwards. From Purakanui it would be a matter of simplicity to convey fry to Forveiux Straits or t > St< ward Island.
The establishment to he erected at Purakanui would he generally on the plan of that at Dunbar, but on a somewhat simpler scale. It would probably include the following:—(1) One or more small tidal ponds in which to place any specimens of fish which might be introduced in the growing or adult condition, or any fish which it might be desirable to keep or rear in conlinement; (2) a spawning pond; (3) a building to serve as a filtering and spawn-collecting chamber; (4) a hatching house; (5) a laboratory and tank house. The cost of such an establishment, with pumps, etc, complete, has been roughly estimated by Mr G. M." Barr, C.E., at about £550. The work of the establishment would be both special and general. It would be ready to receive either fish or ova of those species which it was decided to introduce. Tho former would be kept in confinement in the enclosures, and their ova would be collected and dealt with. The latter would be hatched out in the hatching boxes, and the fry when old enough set free in the open sea, except such as it was desirable to attempt to rear, thus giving the best chance of distributing the fish over thecolony. Or they could be carried in specially devised boxes, as is done elsewhere, and distributed to other parts. Then the various local species of fish which were taken in the neighborhood would be subjected to careful and scientific examination. Their ova could also be collected and dealt with, and information accumulated as to their habits, distribution, etc., which would be of incalculable importance. It would probably be found that such fish as the flounder and sole would well repay collection and hatching of the ova; but whether this was so or not, such a station would be the best place for the acquisition of such knowledge as can only be gained by a study of the fish in confinement.
I have not succeeded in ascertaining what the colony paid for the unsuccessful attempt to introduce the herring, referred to previously, but from the account of it the cost must have been very considerable. The Otago Acclimatisation Society recently introduced a few lobsters, whioh were liberated on-the mole at Otago Heads; The cost of the various spipments made amounted to over £IOO, and it is somewhat problematical how far the attempt has been successful. It has to be remembered that the lobster is a slow-growing species, requiring six years or more to come to maturity, and that npart from the chances of destruction to the original stock, which are very considerable, the embryos are subject to great mortality, and only a 1 very small percentage reach maturity. Had a station such as we contemplate at Purakanui been in existence when the-im-ported lobsters arrived at Port Chalmers, the chances of the experiment succeeding would have hefcn vastly-increased,
While we have thus.been accumulating information on this side, we have also been doing the same in Britain, so that should our efforts to erect such an establishment prove successful, we would bo in a position to take action at once. The Scotch Fishery Board, at the request of the Otago Institute, and at its expense—the Committee having voted a small sum for the purpose—are carrying out at Dunbar during the present summer a series of experiments as to the possibility of retarding the ova of cod, turbot, and other food-Mshes for a period of fifty days. If this cm be accomplished without impairing the vitality of the ova, then the problem of introducing these fine fishes is at once greatly simplified. Plans for the conveyance of fish and ova are also under discussion, so that matters may be in
•.» forward a state as possible when the erection of the station has been proceeded with. This is the stage we have now reached in regard to plans and proposals. The all-important question of ways and means has been already met to a very large extent by the votes of .£250 each made conditionally by the Otago Institute and the Otago Acclimatisation Society. I shall communicate with you in a few days as to further proceedings.—l am, etc., Geo M. Thomson. Dunedin, 15th June, 1897. Dear sir,—Everything in connection with the proposed fish hatchery is now in train as far as I can carry it at present, and now I have to ask you and Mr Millar to undertake the further duty of getting the ground which is required, and also the necessary funds secured. To put you in full possession of the facts of what has been done hitherto, I have written to you and Mr Millar jointly on 12th inst. I enclose a sketch of the ground at Purakanui winch it is desired to have set aside as a reserve.
It consists of a strip extending along the east side of the inlet from the outer side of Hill street (Purakanui Township) to a line in continuation of that separating sections 10 and 11, block 3, and reaching from high-water mark a distance of two chains into the channel. It is suggested that the reserve and all buildings to be erected in connection with it be vested in a board of six members, two to be nominated by the Governor, two by the Otago Institute (the Council of), and two by the Council of the Otago Acclimatisation Society. Each of these latter bodies has voted the sum of .£•250, making together a total of £SOO, conditional (1) on the Government granting the same amount —viz., £ for £—and (2) also undertaking to carry on the station for a term of years. The members of the Institute suggested ten years, but as insistence on such a term might wreck the plan I think that you should just make the best terms possible, as I am satisfied that if once the establishment is set going it will justify its existence in a very short time. I cannot say what the cost of maintenance would be, but a curator would probably cost £2OO a year, and to this another £IOO might be added. There would be no other salaries, I think, to pay, but there would be expenses of boats, steamer hire, etc., however economically we tried to work the station.
1 am sending a copy of this to Mr Miliar, and do not know of anything which I have to add to it. but if I have omitted any necessary data you will uo doubt inform me.
Delays seem to have been considerable, but I have really lost no time, as I only heard from the secretary of the Acclimatisation Society on Saturday last.
Trusting that you and Mr Millar will find no difficulty in carrying the matter through the next stages—l am, etc., Geo. M. Thomson.
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PROPOSED FISH HATCHERY., Evening Star, Issue 10424, 20 September 1897