Food is of two classes: vegetable,
which comes directly from the earth, and animal, which
has fed on vegetable life. This is, of course,
a more concentrated form of food, and much less of
it is needed to sustain life.
For the plentiful supply of vegetable
food we must depend upon the fertility of the soil,
as we have seen. Our animal food can not be classed
among our natural resources, but as a product of them,
and requires the same care and wise use.
In the early history of our country
natural animal food was abundant. Fishes swarmed
in the sea, lakes, and streams. Wild turkeys and
other game birds, deer, and bison formed a large part
of the food of our forefathers. But these have
been gradually disappearing. We have caught and
destroyed so many fish that we have only a fraction
of our former number. The game birds have disappeared
either because they have been killed in great numbers
or because their nesting-places have been destroyed.
Of the big game nothing is now left except in a few
remote regions, and it is growing less plentiful each
Although large quantities of fish
and game are marketed every year at certain seasons,
they form a small fraction of the animal food required
in the country, and we must now depend for most of
our animal food, not on that which was at first given
us for a natural resource but on that raised by man.
The poultry the chickens,
ducks, geese and turkeys; the cattle, beef and dairy,
the hogs and the sheep that are raised in such vast
numbers have taken the place of wild game. The
cultivated varieties have higher food value, and are
far more satisfactory, since they are ready for use
at any time.
The conservation of our animal food
resources presents a different problem from any other.
It is true that we have wasted and exhausted our natural
food supplies, but we must remember that to a certain
extent their preservation was neither possible nor
desirable. They have been driven out by advancing
Wild birds and animals leave as the
forests are cut out, destroying their natural homes.
Many of them can not be kept in captivity, so this
supply never could have been regulated. It was
necessary to destroy some of them to insure man’s
safety, and others were needed for his use. But
we can take their places with other animals which are
better fitted for our food, and it is the task of
keeping up a sufficient supply of these on the most
suitable land and under conditions that will yield
the best results, that constitutes the problem of
the conservation of our animal food resources.
The raising of poultry and live stock
on a large scale is a separate occupation, usually
followed in a scientific manner and it is not of that
industry that we need to speak, but rather of the benefit
to every farmer and to the dwellers in small communities,
of raising at least a part of the animal food used
by the family.
Every farm has some bits of unoccupied
land that can be fenced off for poultry. The
gleanings from the fields will supply their food, and
they will furnish meat and eggs for the family throughout
the year, with enough left to sell to provide other
Live stock, cattle, sheep and hogs,
as well as goats, horses and mules, are profitable
to every farmer. Many farms have woodland; land
that overflows at some seasons, and so is unfit for
raising crops; or some rocky unproductive land where
stock can be raised more profitably than anything
else, and if every farmer would use all the land not
suitable for farm crops for pasture land the problem
of an abundant meat supply, of dairy products and
of fertilizers to enrich the soil would be largely
solved. Some farming experts advocate letting
each field in turn be used for pasture every five
years, because the stock raised on it is equal in
value to any other farm crop, and because the rest
and fertilization almost double the value of the succeeding
In the West and Southwest there are
large tracts of public land untilled. Much of
the land can never be used for agricultural purposes,
because it is arid or mountainous.
This land is well adapted to grazing
and the government has allowed free use of it to stockmen
as pasture lands.
These public pasture lands are called
“ranges.” In the early years when
this part of the country belonged to Mexico, the ranges
were traversed by Indians and Mexicans who tended
the herds of wild cattle and horses, raised mostly
for their hides. But in the last quarter of a
century the business has fallen into the hands of
Americans who have introduced better breeds of higher
value. In California, Arizona, and New Mexico
there are now on the open ranges eight million sheep,
nearly three million cattle and nearly a million horses,
worth much more than one hundred million dollars.
Wyoming and Utah have great sheep ranges and do much
to keep up the wool supply. On Texas, with its
great cattle ranges, we depend for a large part of
our beef and leather. In all these states where
stock is fed on public land, there are many questions
as to ownership of animals, rights of rival rangers,
and other points to settle.
In some of these states the government
has set aside national forest reserves. Within
these is much good grazing land. In order that
the government may have some revenue from the land,
a regular price has been set on these forest lands.
The charge is forty cents a year each for horses,
thirty-five cents a year for cattle, and twelve cents
for sheep. The land is properly divided, so that
each kind of stock has suitable pasture. Each
person who pays this tax is given a certain range and
no one else is allowed to use it. There is sufficient
pasture for each so that it need not be too closely
cropped. A man may lease the same range year
after year, may put down wells to supply his stock,
live on it, and do many things to improve it.
The forest rangers who patrol the
forest to watch for fires or for timber thieves also
protect these stockmen in their rights and prevent
trouble about grazing privileges.
Outside the forest reserves the grazing
is free, but the advantages offered by this system
are so great that nearly all rangers now wish to use
the forest reserves.
As each ranger has his land assigned
to him and no one else can use it, the grass is not
overcropped as it often is in regions outside the
forests. If pasture is good, so many herds are
pastured there that soon the grass is all trampled
down and eaten off. Large areas are so badly
injured that it will not naturally resod itself.
Cattle men are asking that the same
rules that apply to the national forests be applied
to other public lands, so that the pasturage may be
improved and each man may have protection in his rights.
If all grazing lands could be thus
leased, it would give the business a far more permanent
character, better breeds of stock would be raised,
and individual owners would direct their efforts to
improving both stock and pasture, after the manner
of stock raisers on private lands.
So large a part of our animal food,
our wool, our leather and many smaller needs depend
on this industry, that every effort should be made
to encourage it, and to provide the wisest laws and
best methods both for conserving and developing it.
In conclusion it is interesting to
note that the Department of Agriculture is making
a study of food birds and animals in various parts
of the world, and trying to domesticate them, to add
to the variety of our food supply. The quail,
the golden pheasant and some species of grouse among
birds, and two or three species of deer, including
the reindeer, appear to be adapted to domestic life
in this country, and may, before many years, become
a part of the animal industry of the United States.
One who has never seen the big catches
of fish brought in by a mackerel fleet or visited
a wholesale fish market can have little idea of the
importance of that industry, nor of the immense amount
of food that is taken from the waters of the United
States every year.
The word fish is made to include not
only fish proper, but oysters, clams, scallops, lobsters,
crabs, shrimps, and turtles. Fish is liked by
most persons, is more easily digested than meat and
is nourishing. As a food resource, it is different
in many respects from any other. It does not
exhaust the soil, nor take from the earth anything
of value, the food of fishes consisting of water plants
and animals that are not used by man in any other
way. Fish also purify the water in which they
live, and so cause a great, though indirect, benefit.
It is so plainly the wise thing, then,
to keep our rivers stocked with fish and to use them
for food only, that it seems that this valuable resource
has been more seriously and unnecessarily wasted than
Fish are wasted on inland streams
in the following ways: (1) By dynamiting.
If a charge of dynamite be exploded on the bed of the
river, great numbers of fish, killed by the shock,
rise to the top of the water and can be taken.
This practice was quite common at one time, but is
now prohibited by law in several states.
(2) By seining. A seine or net
is placed entirely across the stream, and all the
fish which come down the stream are caught. In
several states seining is not allowed at all.
In others it is allowed only at certain seasons.
And in still others the meshes of the seine must be
large enough to allow all fish below a certain size
to slip through.
(3) By catching with a hook, (angling)
more fish than can be used or catching small fish
and then throwing them away. This is a very common
custom among sportsmen, but should be prohibited by
law. From a certain small inland lake, it is
said that during the entire season an average of five
thousand fish a day is taken. These are almost
all caught by summer residents, and it is unlikely
that a large per cent. of them are eaten. In
a few years the lake will be exhausted, and will cease
to furnish fish for the people of the community, and
there will, of course, be no more fishing for the
sportsmen. Equal waste is going on all through
the summer at every resort where good fishing is to
be had. Some states have laws regulating the
size of the fish that may be caught and the number
that one person may take in one day, and all states
should have such laws.
(4) The worst waste of our fish is
caused by turning large quantities of sewage or refuse
from factories into streams. All the fish for
miles up and down a river are often destroyed in this
way. As we have seen, this is only one of the
bad results of allowing such refuse to drain into
streams; every state should have strict laws prohibiting
From the waters of the New England
states more than five hundred and twenty-eight millions
of fish are taken each year. Here are the great
cod, mackerel, and herring fisheries. From the
Middle Atlantic states, the great region for oysters,
lobsters and other sea food, come eight hundred and
twenty million more; one hundred and six million come
from the South Atlantic states; one hundred and thirteen
million, including the much sought tarpon and red
snappers, come from the Gulf states; two hundred and
seventeen million are caught in the Pacific states,
including the great salmon catches; ninety-six millions
are taken from the Mississippi River and its tributaries,
and one hundred and sixty-six millions, largely salmon,
from Alaska. The Great Lakes, with their pickerel,
and other fine fresh-water fish furnish one hundred
and thirteen millions and the small inland waters
at least five millions more.
When they are taken from the waters
the 2,169,000,000 pounds of fish caught in the United
States are worth $58,000,000, but by canning, salting,
and other processes of preserving, the value is greatly
Fortunately, there is a method of
conserving our supply of fish and not only preventing
it from growing less, but of greatly increasing the
number and improving the quality. The United States
government has a thoroughly well organized fish commission,
and many states and counties and even private clubs
carry on the same work, which is a general supervision
of the fish supply.
The government maintains stations
which are regularly engaged in hatching fish, keeping
them until the greatest danger of their being destroyed
is past, and then placing them in various streams all
over the country. These fish are always of good
food varieties, and are carefully selected to insure
the kind best suited to the stream, as to whether it
is warm or cold, deep or shallow, clear or muddy, fresh
or salt, slow and placid, or swift and turbulent,
for each kind of stream has certain varieties of fish
that are especially adapted to it.
With all these things taken into account,
stocking only with the best food varieties, if a state
has laws which require that a stream be kept free
from sewage and refuse, that no tiny fish be taken
from the water, and that only a stated number can
be taken in a day by a single person, hundreds of
small streams, ponds and reservoirs all over the country
may be made to yield food supplies for the entire
community near by.
Governor Deneen, of Illinois, in urging
that streams be improved for navigation, says, “No
estimate of the benefits to flow from stream development
would be complete without allusion to the fisheries
which have been established on the Illinois River,
largely by restocking with fish from hatcheries.
The fisheries located on that stream are second in
value only to those of the Columbia River.
“Our experience thus far indicates
that the food resources of the water may be brought
up in value to those of the land. The Illinois
valley contains 80,000 acres of water area and yields
a fish product worth ten dollars an acre each year,
very nearly all profit. The average value of
the land product near by is a little less than twelve
dollars an acre, and the labor, cost of seeding, and
exhaustion of fertilization of the land must all be
counted before there can be a profit.”
In 1908 the United States Fish Commission
distributed nearly two and a half billion of young
fish and half a million fish eggs. These were
such excellent varieties as salmon, shad, trout, bass,
white fish, perch, cod, flat fish and lobsters.
The Bureau of Fisheries has its fish-hatching
stations, its boats for catching fish in nets and
its tank cars for carrying the young fish and eggs
to the streams that are to be stocked.
Some of the most important work is
interestingly described in a history of the Bureau
of Fisheries issued in 1908. Among other things
it tells of the lobster industry in both the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans. Lobsters are not found naturally
in the Pacific, but shipments of lobsters have been
made from the Atlantic coast. At the last shipment,
after carrying them across the continent packed in
seaweed, more than a thousand lobsters were safely
placed on the bed of the Pacific Ocean.
On the Atlantic coast the lobsters
were rapidly disappearing when the work of artificial
“planting” of young lobsters and eggs began.
The results can be seen now, for more lobsters are
being caught each year, and the price to users is
growing less as the supply becomes more plentiful.
The shad and the salmon are considered
the finest of all fish for eating. Both are salt-water
fish and both have the habit of going some distance
up fresh-water rivers to lay their eggs. No eggs
are ever laid in salt water. The mother fish
goes up beyond where the tide comes in, so that the
baby fish may have fresh water, which is necessary
for them. Salmon and shad are never caught in
the sea, but in the rivers, where they go in large
numbers to lay their eggs in the spring. This,
of course, means the destruction of both fish and
eggs, the present and future supply.
Shad eggs, or roe are sold in large
quantities. The Bureau of Fisheries has planted
three thousand millions of young shad in streams along
the coast, and the eggs from which these fish were
hatched were all taken from fish that had been caught
for market, and would have been totally lost if the
Bureau had not collected them from the fishermen.
Shad have been planted in the Sacramento
and Columbia Rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
From these two sources they have spread until now
they are found as far south as Los Angeles, and as
far north as Alaska, a coast line of 4,000 miles,
and it is said that more shad could now be caught
in the Sacramento and Columbia Rivers than in any other
In addition to supplying the streams
with young fish, it is necessary to leave a part of
each river clear so that some of the fish may find
their way up-stream to deposit their eggs. The
salmon have been almost driven out from the waters
of New England, except in the Penobscot River, where
they have been kept by the watchfulness of the Fisheries
Bureau. It is believed that the entire salmon
industry in Maine would be wiped out in five years
if fish culture should cease, and in the West, where
the drain on the salmon for canning purposes is so
heavy, artificial planting is used very largely to
keep up the supply.
The experiments with oysters are full
of interest. In Chesapeake Bay, where the best
natural oyster beds were found, the demands on them
were so great that the supply began to fail.
In 1904 only a little more than one-fourth as many
were produced as in 1880. The natural oyster beds
were then marked and set aside as public fishing grounds.
These are to be used by whoever wishes
but under strict protective rules. All other
ocean beds may be planted with oysters by any one who
leases the privilege from the state, and the right
to collect the oysters from a certain bed belongs
to the person who leases it as fully as does property
Louisiana had a small number of natural
beds. About ten years ago the planting of oyster
beds began, and soon 20,000 acres had been planted.
Conditions were particularly favorable, and within
two years after the eggs or spawn were placed it was
found that oysters three and a half to four inches
in size had grown in quantities of 1,000 to 2,000 bushels
per acre. For a long time it has been the custom
of fishermen to fatten their oysters by transplanting
them to new beds where the food is abundant, and in
a short time the oysters are much plumper, it takes
fewer of them to make a quart and they also sell at
a higher price, because they are of the finest quality.
These rich food beds are not plentiful,
and many dealers are compelled to put small oysters
on the market. The Bureau of Fisheries has made
a study of these food beds, and by using fertilizer,
such as farmers use on their land, have been able
to make such beds of sea-plants grow where they do
not naturally exist. These experiments have been
tried only a short time, but the results have been
entirely satisfactory, and it is hoped that before
long, rich oyster beds may be made to grow in any part
of the ocean where oysters will thrive.
In the Great Lakes the fishing is
so heavy that it is probable that the supply of perch
and white fish would be very low by this time if fish-culture
had not been carried on to so great an extent.
White fish, lake trout, pike and perch may be hatched
in such large numbers as to keep the fisheries up
to their present yield.
Another important work of the Fisheries
Bureau is to keep up the supply of cod for the great
fisheries on the New England coast. For the last
twenty years profitable shore cod fishery has been
kept up on grounds that had been entirely exhausted
before and also where cod had never been found before.
At the wharves, government officers from the Fisheries
Bureau board the fishing boats when they come in and
take the eggs from the fish. These are taken
to the government hatchery and either the eggs or
the young fish are put back into the sea, and so keep
up an unending supply.
Alaska is one of the most important
fishing regions of the world. For this entire
Territory, the United States paid Russia $7,200,000
and many thought that the money was practically thrown
away, since it apparently bought for us nothing but
barren, ice-bound shores. But since it became
a part of the United States, Alaska has yielded fishery
products alone amounting in value to $158,000,000 twenty-two
and a half times the price paid. Of this, $49,000,000
came from the fur seal fishery, $86,000,000 from salmon
and $23,000,000 from other fish.
About $1,500,000 worth of sponges
are now taken from Florida waters each year.
Naturally the failure of the industry would be a serious
loss to the state. But the natural sponge beds
are being rapidly exhausted, and the Bureau of Fisheries
is convinced that the continuation of the sponge fisheries
must depend on artificial planting. Sponges can
be produced from cuttings at a cost much less than
that of taking them from the natural beds.
Rhode Island has been successful in
cultivating soft-shell clams and in increasing the
area of its clam beds.
The Mississippi and its branches are
subject to great floods in the early spring and occasionally
in summer. After these floods millions of fishes
are left in small pools some distance back from the
river. These pools gradually dry up; the larger
fishes are caught and the smaller ones die. The
state and National Fish Commissions are now collecting
these fishes in large numbers, and using them to stock
ponds and rivers in other parts of the country.
They are used to supply many parts
of the West and South and there is much greater demand
for them than the Commissions can meet. Not that
there is a lack of fish, for millions are left to waste
because the Commissions can not distribute them rapidly
enough to save them. If large storage ponds could
be established to collect and keep the fish during
the flood season, so that all the time might be spent
in collecting fish during the overflow, and they could
be sent out later, the amount of fish saved would
be increased many fold.
The fish thus saved are being made
to serve another useful purpose. Pearl buttons
are made from the shells of mussels or fresh-water
clams. This business, which is now worth $5,000,000,
can not last many years unless some means of increasing
the supply of mussels can be devised.
Now these men, who are always studying
new plans, have thought of a wonderful way in which
to let the fish help in carrying on this work.
They obtain the mussel eggs, and when they are hatched
place them in the pools with the fish from the overflowed
lands. The tiny mussel larvae attach themselves
to the fish and are carried to the rivers and ponds
with the fish. Soon they are ready to drop to
the bottom and find food for themselves.
In this way 25,000,000 mussels were
carried last year to streams where mussels are known
to thrive. If these mussel-bearing fish can be
obtained by farmers having private fish ponds, the
ponds can be drained each year and the mussels gathered,
thus adding considerably to the owner’s income,
and also keeping up the pearl button industry, in
addition to the food supply which he gains from the
Enough has been said to show clearly
how desirable and how possible it is to conserve and
increase our fish supplies. With the cooeperation
of all who waste the fish at present, and those who
might aid in stocking the streams, we could add greatly
to the food supply of the nation at a less cost than
in any other way.