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last year. The Committee have submitted to the consideration of Government, a measure which would completely obviate the impediment to the prosecution of those fisheries, connected with the renewal of the 41st Geo. III. cap. 21, being the Act under which the bulk of the salt-fish consumed in London is cured, But owing to the slow progress which the regular inquiries, perhaps in some degree necessarily make, the Bill passed only a few days before the close of the Session, without the remedy to these fisheries. The Committee have every reason to acknowledge the great attention paid to their representations by his Majesty's Government; but it is a fact which they cannot but seriously lament, that owing to the allowances of salt, duty free, not having been in a state of complete arrangement, fish to a very large amount, which has been taken within the last three or four months, has been thrown overboard by the fishermen, to the great loss of themselves and the Public.
The Committee mention the above circumstances as they occur, in the course of a statement of facts; but feel it incumbent on them to add, from observation, that a more anxious desire for assisting the British Fisheries, and that deserving class of persons who labor in them, can, no where more warmly be felt, than in that quarter where they naturally look for their chief support and encouragement.
The measure which may next be mentioned is, that of purchases made by the Committee, of large quantities of salt for sale to the fishermen, as the particular circumstances of the fisheries may require it. The quantity of salt consumed in the North Sea and Iceland stations had become very considerable, and purchases proportionably large were made by the Committee in the last year to meet that demand, and further encourage their exertions. Through the hindrances which have been stated, so large a stock has been left on hand that the Committee must at least have greatly limited the amount of their encouragement for this year, if indeed the contingencies of a measure which had become so considerable, should have rendered any attempt on this subject with their reduced means at all advisable.
Another expedient of encouragement adopted by the Committee, and operating on the like principle, has been that of offering to the fishermen to take all their surplus mackarel at the rate of 10s. the 120. This stimulus has been continued from the 1812 to the present season, with a success much beyond the most sanguine expectation. With the certainty of obtaining at all hazards some reward for their labor, fresh adventurers have
This measure was suggested to the Committee by Mr. Hale, of Spi
been attracted to the Mackarel Fishery; the utmost activity and perseverance has been excited among the fishermen; the daily supply has continued to increase long before any necessity existed for purchases by the Association; and at length so much attention had been excited at home among the lower order of retailers, and others, that the quantity which it has been necessary for the Committee to purchase, has been of comparatively very trifling amount, the loss by no means considerable, and many millions of this fish, a plentiful supply of which is so important a benefit to the poor in the metropolis, have been added to the general store of food that, without this stimulus, the public would never have obtained.
The Committee have also at various times purchased quantities of herrings, for the supply of the interior; and these purchases have operated on the like principle of encouragement to the fisheries which influenced the other attempts which have beer.
The true secret of stimulating the industry of the fishermen, and promoting the supply of fish, appearing to the Committee tc have been thus discovered, they directed their attention to extend the benefit beyond the supply of Mackarel and Iceland Cod, tc the general supply of Cod and Flat-fish in the metropolis. They soon found, however, that their limited resources presented an insuperable obstacle to their making the attempt. The total sum which the public has entrusted to their management, including the receipt from the Fish Association, has not amounted to 17,000%. for the relief of all the manufacturing districts, and for their general purposes. They therefore submitted to the consideration of his Majesty's Government the following proposal :—
A bounty of 5s. per cwt. to be granted on all the live cod fish, haddocks, ling, and halibuts, taken by British fishing vessels, which, in the months of October, November, December, January, February, and March, shall be sold at Billingsgate Market at, or under, 4d. per pound and which, in the other months, shall be sold there at, or under, 2d. per lb. : and of 2s. per cwt. on all the live plaice, skate, thornbacks, maids, and other flat fish, taken by British fishing vessels, which, in the first mentioned months, shall be sold at Billingsgate Market at, or under, 2d. per lb. ; and which in the other months shall be sold there at, or under, id. per lb. The bounty in each year to be continued in distribution until the sum of 4000l. shall thus be expended in it.
The proposed bounty would operate precisely on the same principle as the purchasing of the surplus quantities of fish. It would afford, to the extent of it, an indemnity against absolute
loss, when the supply should be very large, and the prices consequently low. It would be distributed only when the necessity was greatest, and, as in the other cases, since all the fishermen would seek to obtain the higher prices, it would be a benefit which all would wish to avoid with the losing sales, on which alone the bounty would be payable.
From the experience which the Committee have already acquired on this method of encouragement, and the opinions of those who are well qualified to judge of the effect, it would seem satisfactorily evident, that the general supply of fish in London would be augmented by this bounty to an extent very far indeed beyond the increase obtained by any former one of the like amount.
The Committee would here further observe, that a variety of little grievances and hardships, which must be expected even under the best possible public arrangements that could be suggested, are constantly occurring to the fishermen, through ignorance, nadvertence, and accident, which frequently demand the attention of the Committee. They are too minute to particularize, and ¡eparately may not be considered of any general moment. They re often, however, of serious consequence to the poor fishermen hey concern, and render it quite necessary that such an institution as the Association should exist, to obtain for them the proper remedy.
2. The duties on salt are constantly producing the most serious impediments to the progress of the fisheries. The present bearings of this evil may thus be stated :-The duties on salt amount to more than twenty-nine times the price of it; or, in other words, when salt is purchased, more than twenty-nine equal parts of the sum are paid for duty, and less than one such part for its intrinsic value. The salt, with the duty on it, thus becomes so expensive as to be placed quite beyond the procurement of the fishermen. No fish could therefore be salted by them, but for certain allowances of salt, duty free, afforded under the superintendance of the Excise. The large amount of these duties offers the most powerful inducements to the commission of frauds on the revenue; and consequently, were it not for vigilant attention, and heavy penalties, they would be practised to a great extent. The Acts which have provided the allowances are extremely numerous, and not a little confusion has prevailed among them. With regard, however, to the removal of these duties, there are some to whom it may be proper to remark, that it is much easier to point out a mischief than to suggest a remedy; that they have continued for centuries, during the administration of all the eminent characters which have for so long a period of our history occupied the stations of authority, that none of them have seen the period at which the abolition of
the salt duties was thought expedient; and that they have now become a very important source of revenue.
It can be scarcely necessary therefore to add, with reference to the allusions made in the course of this Report to one branch of them, that the Committee are by no means to be understood as complaining of an inconvenience overlooked or needlessly tolerated. The public may be assured, it is a subject which is not forgotten, and that a complete remedy would be provided, were it immediately practicable. It is to be remarked, however, that the fisheries of no other country have any hindrance or embarrassment whatever from salt duties. In France, where, indeed, the oppression of it chiefly arose from the purchasing of the taxed article having been compulsory, the duties on salt are altogether abolished. They were abolished by Pedro III. King of Arragon, in the year 1283; and so complete was his perception of their mischief, that he decreed that neither he nor any of his successors should have power again to impose them.
3. Another general impediment to the progress of the British Fisheries, is the inability of poor fishermen to incur the heavy expense of purchasing vessels, and the excessive charges of their outfit. From a very early period the Dutch have been our most successful rivals in the fisheries. This may be readily accounted for by the consideration, that in addition to their being wholly free from the salt duties, and to the encouragement of the fisheries being there nationally and individually almost a principle of action, the expense of every sort of necessary to make a fishing voyage is, in Holland, trifling, compared with what British fishermen incur. The business of a master fisherman, with us, requires some substantial capital for its support. It is all hazard and uncertainty; with deductions from his profits, so large as to form a serious hindrance to his acquiring that proportion of property which is adequate to the pursuit.
Thus a material part of the capital which supports the fisheries belongs to the salesman, between whom and the fishermen the most intimate connexion of interests subsists; and without whose assistance it may much be doubted, whether, in the present state of things, the British Fisheries could retain their standing. For all the capital disposable in the fisheries, ample outlets present themselves through the ordinary channels. The improvements of the fishermen are slow, their prejudices strong, and the condition neither of mind or body is such as to stimulate them to any zeal in correcting errors in their modes of business.
From the earliest times it has been a just subject of complaint, that the inhabitants of our island have been constantly paying a large sum to the Dutch for the produce of the ocean around it.
It is said, that in the reign of Queen Elizabeth four hundred Dutch boats were constantly employed in obtaining fish to be sold to the English. In the year 1750, the inhabitants of Lowestoff and Southwold, in Suffolk, were under the necessity of petitioning the House of Commons for relief, the Dutch having persevered in fishing so near the shore, and with such effect, as to sweep the fish out of their bays. The Dutch annoyed them with one hundred vessels at a time; and as they stated, allowed the British fishermen in those parts to follow their occupations neither by day nor night. The Committee have found that a trade for turbots, very injurious to the revenue, is now carried on with Holland, in which several thousand pounds per annum are paid wholly in specie to the Dutch, by our own fishermen, to take for them turbots out of the ocean. The Committee thought it proper to make a representation of this circumstance to Government, and to suggest the propriety of a bounty, small in amount, being offered to British fishermen, in order to afford them some relief from their peculiar disadvantages, and induce them to enter on the turbot fishery, which they are now almost hopelessly attempting. Were some trifling encouragement given them, there is every reason to expect that their superior skill and perseverance would soon render this fishery their own, and allow that excellent fish no longer to be confined as a luxury to the tables of the rich.
Lastly; it may be observed, as another general impediment, that the market of this immense metropolis naturally induces the body of fishermen to resort hither with their large cargoes of this perishable article, while scarcely any exertion has been made to forward it for the general supply of the interior, nor any sufficient arrangements for its due distribution even throughout the ample range of London and the parts adjacent.
So powerful an attraction is the London market, that it is not a rare occurrence for sea-ports to be worse supplied than the metropolis,—from whence fish is not unfrequently forwarded to the inhabitants of those parts. Fish has been forwarded to the London market-there purchased, and returned for the supply of persons residing at the sea-ports from whence it first came for sale. The attraction of the London market, is however a necessary effect, which must continue to operate in its natural course. To give it a more beneficial operation in that course has been attempted, and the attempts will now be stated, with the local impediments which they are intended to remedy.
The Committee would here in the first place notice the impediment to the supply of fish in the metropolis, arising from the variations of wind and tide, in conveying the fish through the windings of the river. Before the encouragement offered by the Asso