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that the abuse now referred to is in full practice at all the kidels and cruives in the United Kingdom. In our opinion, fixed engines of this description, on all rivers with mixed property, should be every where abolished, agreeably to the declaration of their illegality in MAGNA CHARTA, where it is ordained, 'Omnes kidelli deponantur de cetero penitus per Thamesiam et Medweyam, et per totam Angliam, nisi per costeram maris.' Where such engines exist, by any supposed right which a court of law would sustain, the other proprietors of fishings in the river should be furnished with a power to remove them upon the payment of the value of the proven rent during fifteen or twenty years; and, while in exercise, they should be restrained to the margin of the stream, so that a third or a half of the channel should at all times be free from obstruction.
The importance of the water of rivers as a moving power in our manufactures is duly appreciated; but, unfortunately, in the arrangements usually made for its employment, the interests of the salmon fisheries have been strangely overlooked. When a river is dammed, by a wall thrown across the channel, and the principal part of the water directed into a mill-course, it is obvious that the spawned fish and the fry, in their descent, will follow the stream, enter this new bed, and pass on to their destruction at the water-wheel. It is equally obvious, that the sound fish, in their ascent from the sea, will be enticed to leave the channel of the river, enter the lower extremity of the mill-course, now the principal stream of water, and push onwards to the wheel, behind which they must remain. When the mill stops, and the course becomes dry, the salmon fall an easy prey to the miller, who is thus, besides having the water as a moving power, in possession of a kidel or cruive, more efficient as an engine for catching fish than any which human ingenuity has yet devised. The evidence in the Reports, demonstrating the existence and extent of this evil, appears to be complete; but were other proofs wanting, the extraordinary anxiety exhibited by many of the possessors of mills, to prevent the adoption of any remedy; the existence of corn-mills, kept in repair, which have no corn to grind; and the unceasing efforts to increase the height of the retaining wall of the dam, and consequently the diameter of the wheel, even where the required additional power could be obtained at a cheaper rate by increasing the width of the buckets, would abundantly mark the value of the poaching thus systematically practised.
For the purpose of removing the evils which have now been stated, it has been recommended to place a grating, or fender, at the opposite extremity of the mill-course, and thus prevent the fish, by mechanical means, from entering a channel, the copious
stream in which offers a powerful inducement. Two eminent engineers were consulted by the committee on this subject ;-but their observations embrace only a very limited branch of the subject. Any fender, or grate, placed at the mouth of a mill-course, at right angles to the stream, would obstruct the current of water, reduce its quantity, and thereby diminish its power, and the value of the mill. Two remedies here suggested themselves—either widening or deepening the entrance to the course, at the place where the fender shall be placed. In many cases the former expedient, owing to contiguous buildings, could not be carried into effect; and by the latter, a deep pool would be formed, most convenient to the poacher. We may ask what effect would be produced on the moving power of a mill, were two or three hundred salmon swimming before the grate, and attempting to effect an entrance by inserting their noses between its bars? By extending the length of the fender, and placing it obliquely at the entrance, all inconvenient obstruction to the water would be guarded against, and the migrating fish would be directed into the dam or channel of the river, according to circumstances. The width between the bars of the fender may equal an inch and a half, or two inches, (the dimensions which seem exclusively to have been contemplated by the committee and the engineers who were consulted,) so far as the interests of the parent fish are concerned; but, in order to prevent the fry from entering the mill-course, an object, surely, of importance to guard against, the bars would require to be placed at even a less distance than half an inch. One of the engineers recommends the fender, if inclined, to have the top sloping up the current, that the floating leaves might slip down the bars of the grate; but we imagine that the millers, if unrestrained, would place the slope in the opposite direction, that the floating leaves might slip up the bars to the surface, where they could be easily removed. Let us suppose that suitable fenders have been placed at each extremity of the mill-course, to prevent the entrance either of the parent fish or the fry,—we have still to investigate the character of other evils of vast amount, connected with the present construction of mill-dams, and imperiously requiring legislative interference. How are the descending spawned fish and fry to escape from the dam, or how are the ascending sound fish to reach the protection which it yields?
In some cases it is required by law, that there shall be a scuttle, or aperture, in the retaining wall of the dam, one foot square, and open during certain months of the year; or sluices, to be opened from Saturday night to Monday morning; the latter arrangement termed in Scotland the Saturday's Slap. But this scuttle, while it diminishes the value of the stream as a
moving power, confers but little benefit on the fisheries. The descending fish may effect their escape in safety through the furious torrent in the scuttle, but they will find themselves dispersed in a number of shallow unprotected pools, the consequence of the confined stream, after its escape, being suddenly distributed over the extended surface of the water. Were the scuttle placed at the top of the retaining wall, and this wall having a concave summit, with sloping sides into the dam and the channel, the water would be conducted, without impetuosity, into the channel, and the instant the mill stopped working, and the stream prevented from entering the mill-course, or the instant a flood occurred, the whole of the superfluous water would flow out in a stream suited to the migrations of the fish. Nor should a sluice in the middle of the wall be, in any case, neglected, equal at least to the area of the mill-course, or mill-courses, and kept open from six o'clock P. M. on Saturday to six o'clock P. M. on Sunday. By this arrangement, there would be no loss of power to the mill, and a free run of twenty-four hours in each week would be given to the fish in all rivers from their sources to the sea. At present, the millers, who are the greatest poachers in the kingdom, prevent the fisheries from deriving any benefit, either from the scuttle or the sluice, where such have been established, by a variety of obstructive contrivances. Passing over various kinds of revolving machines, we may mention the very ingenious device of the corporation of Limerick, of placing in the gap' something in the shape of a crocodile, or of an alligator, painted with very glowing colours, so as to frighten the salmon.'
Human ingenuity, we have seen, has been exhibited in the use of various engines to secure salmon after they have entered the rivers; nor have devices been wanting to effect their capture while yet in stations under influence of the tide. It has been stated that salmon, when they leave their unknown haunts, in deep water, approach the coast, and enter the estuaries, and there remain, moving about in shoals under the influence of the tide, until the rivers are in a suitable state to receive them. To attempt to capture fish, in such situations, by the moveable net, would be a wasteful expenditure of labour. In a river, this engine, if of sufficient size, gives the industrious fisherman a full command of the stream, especially if he arranges his resources so as to be sending out one net, while he is hauling in another, as the proprietors of the more inland streams feel to their cost. In the estuary, and on the sea-shore, the varying depth of the water, the inequalities of the bottom, the comparatively limited space which the net incloses, and, above all, the frequent swell of the water, lifting the net from the bottom, and giving to the fish a
ready way to escape, offer such obstacles to the moveable net as to render it, in such stations, almost a useless engine. The method, which had so frequently presented itself to savage tribes, of employing a net to act by the ebbing and flowing of the tide, appears to have been in use on the British shores from an early period. It is the kidel referred to in Magna Charta, and the novus mos piscandi of Hector Boece. By means of upright posts fixed in the sand, and extending from the shore to low-water mark, nets are kept suspended and stretched, so as to direct the fish, moving with the tide, into suitable courts or labyrinths, where they are detained and left accessible to the fisher, on the ebbing of the tide. These tide-nets, which in Scotland have obtained the denomination of stake-nets, capture both the fish moving into the estuary with the flood, and those moving out of the estuary with the ebb-tide. The fish which these nets entangle are in the best possible state, having recently arrived from deep water, and they are in a situation to be conveyed to the market in the speediest manner. Yet, in spite of the antiquity of this method of fishing, and its obvious efficiency, there are not wanting individuals who long for its abolition, and who wish it to be declared unlawful for a proprietor of fisheries on the sea-coast to employ the tide to his advantage. Before, however, discussing this branch of the question, it may be necessary to inquire into the restrictions at present imposed by law on these tide-nets, and to what extent they may be employed, without injuring the public interests of the fisheries.
If we attend to the natural history of the salmon fry, we shall find, that in rivers, even where these are under the influence of the tide, the tender beings descend in myriads at the margin of the stream; but when they reach the head of the estuary, they betake themselves to the shelter of the deep and salt water. If fixed nets be erected in those places, in rivers which are frequented by the fry, the injury to the fisheries, arising from their destruction, will be great indeed. It was to guard against this evil that they were prohibited in rivers, in England, by Magna Charta, and in Scotland by an act of Robert I.; while they were left unfettered in their use on the sea-coast. But at what point are we to assign the limit, riverward of which the tide-nets ought to be prohibited? It is the want of precision, in our statutes, in reference to this point, that has created in our estuaries an extent of debatable ground, the disputes concerning which have led to the present parliamentary inquiry. It is fortunate for those senators, who are now called upon to legislate on a subject which their predecessors overlooked, that there is a natural limit, riverward of which tide-nets can, in no ordinary circumstances, injure
or intercept either the descending spawned fish or the fry; and that limit is the point where the river is intersected by the mean level of the sea, and where the fish, migrating downwards, avoid the margin from its turbulent character, and occupy the middle and bottom of the estuary. We are aware, that there is another natural limit, which has been proposed, viz. the point of constant ebbing or flowing, or point of stagnation at the head of the estuary. Though this point will seldom be far distant from the other, it is inferior to it in permanency of character, since it will be found more seaward in winter than in summer, and during floods than in the ordinary state of the river, as it is the point where the antagonist currents neutralize each other in a common level.
If tide-nets be permitted at the mouths of rivers, even for some distance seaward of the point where the river naturally ceases, they will be productive of two evils, against which it is necessary to guard. They will interrupt the trade in the river, in ships and boats, and thereby prove a nuisance in a commercial country. They may be so arranged, even when prohibited beyond lowwater mark, as to intercept all the fish about to enter the river, and thus deprive the proprietors of inland fisheries of all share in the spoil. But both these evils admit of a very simple remedy. In no case, in an estuary having a bar at its junction with the sea, should the outer posts of the nets extend beyond low water, so as to preserve entire the full stream of the river to the sea; and in no case should they occupy a space on the banks on each side of the estuary, exceeding the tenth part of the breadth occupied by the water at the flood of neap tides. By such an arrangement, the navigation of the head of the estuary would not be interrupted, or monopoly of the fish acquired.
It is not to be disguised, that tide-nets, even when restrained in estuaries within the limits now recommended, have been held up to public odium, as detrimental in the extreme to the true interests of the fisheries, and as interfering with the natural and vested rights of the inland proprietors. After an attentive examination of all the objections to the use of tide-nets, we have been led to trace them, exclusively, either to ignorance of their real nature, or to the most unjustifiable selfishness. It was, at one time, confidently asserted, that the tide-nets destroyed the fry and the descending spawned fish; but we presume that this idle declamation has ceased, since the publication of the Reports, wherein it is demonstrated that the places most suitable for the erection of tide-nets, under the limitations already noticed, are those places which neither the fry nor the spawned fish frequent.
It has been somewhat hastily announced that salmon, being