PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
COMMISSIONER OF FISHERIES
For the Year ending December 31st, 1913
THE PROVINCE GFBRITISHCCLUMBIfl.
AUTHORITY OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
Printed by William H. Ctjllin, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
1914. Provincial Fisheries Department,
Victoria, March 3rd, 1914.
To His Honour Thomas W. Paterson,
Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of British Columbia.
May it please Your Honour:
I beg to submit herewith a report reviewing the operations of the Provincial
Fisheries Department for the fiscal year.
W. J. BOWSER,
■■ Commissioner of Fisheries.
Commissioner of Fisheries' Office,
Victoria, British Columbia, March 3rd, 1914. TABLE OF CONTENTS.
FISHERIES COMMISSIONER'S REPORT FOR 1913.
Standing with other Provinces. Value of Salmon Pack. Value of Fish marketed during
Fiscal Year 1912-13 7
Need for Scientific Investigation. Faunistic Survey. Growth of Deep-sea Fisheries.
Removal of United States Duty. Need for Inspection 8
Effect of Completion of Grand Trunk Pacific. Completion of Panama Canal 9
Dr. Gilbert's Investigations of Life History of Salmon 9-10
Sea-lions on Coast of the Province. Mr. Thompson's Papers on Sliell-fisli. Dr. Stafford
on the Pacific Oyster 11
Analysis of Salmon Pack. Fraser River Pack. Pack in Northern British Columbia .... 12
Other Salmon Products. Spawning Beds of Fraser River 13
Conditions in the North. Rivers Inlet Spawning Beds. Skeena and Nass. The Fishway
at Meziadin Falls. Egg-collections for British Columbia Hatcheries 14
Sockeye Salmon-pack of Fraser and Puget Sound, 1900 to 1913, inclusive 15
Sockeye Eggs taken. 1901 to 1913. White Fishermen. Whitefish-eggs. Advisory Board.
Catch of Whales 10
The Spawning-beds of the Fkasee. By John P. Babcock.
On the Fishing-grounds 17-27
Conditions above the Fishing-grounds 27-30
Quesnel Lake 31-32
Chilko Lake 33
Seton Lake 34
Shuswap-Adams Lake 35
Harrison and Lillooet Lake ■ 3P>
Summary of Conditions 37
Plates accompanying Report on the Spawning-beds of Fraser by J. P. Babcock and
the succeeding Appendix, Nos. 1-20.
Repokt on the Obstructed Condition of the Frasek Rivfk. By G. P. Napier,
Assoc.M.Inst.C.K., Assistant Public Works Engineer 39-42
The Spawning-beds of the Skeena 43^5
The Spawning-beds of Rivers Inlet 40-18
The Spawning-beds of the Nass 49-50
The Fishway at Meziadin Falls 51-52
Contributions to the Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. (No. 1.) By C H. Gilbert 53-77
Plates Nos. I.-XIII.
The Native Oyster of British Columbia (Ostrea lurida, Carpenter). By Joseph
Stafford, M.A., Ph.D 79-102
Plates Nos. 1, 2.
Report on the Shell-fish Beds of British Columbia. (Clams. Mussels, and Scallops.)
By William F. Thompson, Stanford University 103-125
Report on the Abalone of British^ Columbia. (Haliotis gigantea, Chemnitz.) By
William F. Thompson, of Stanford University 126-130
Sea-lions on the Coast of British Columbia. By Dr. C. F. and W. A. Newcombe 131-145
Plates Nos. 1-16.
Pack of British Columbia Salmon, Season 1913 146
Estimated Pack of Puget Sound Salmon 147
Map showing Halibut Grounds of British Columbia, Breeding-grounds, and Haulino-
out Places of Sea-lions, with Descriptive Matter 148 FISHERIES COMMISSIONER'S REPORT FOR 1913.
The fisheries of British Columbia for the fiscal year ending March Slst, 1913, totalled
$14,455,488 in value, an increase of $778,363 over those of the preceding twelve months. This
exceeds the value of the fisheries of the three Maritime Provinces combined, and is almost half
the total value of the fisheries of Canada, which for that period amounted to $33,389,464.
S'tanding with other Provinces.
The figures by Provinces follow:—
British Columbia $14,455,480
Nova Scotia 7,384,054
New Brunswick 4,264,054
Prince Edward Island 1,379,905
Yukon Territory 111,239
Value .of Salmon-pack.
The salmon-pack of British Columbia constitutes the chief factor in the total, amounting
to $9,540,368. Through lower prices and decreased demand for the cheaper varieties, for which
reason less of the latter were packed, the total value of the salmon is less than that of the
preceding twelvemonth, $9,851,897.
Value of Fish marketed during Fiscal Year 1912-13.
The chief increases in production are in halibut and herring. For the year quoted, halibut
valued at $2,461,208 was landed at the ports of the Province, as compared with quantities valued
at $1,845,135 in the previous year. An enormous increase in the value of the herring taken is
also shown, this being figured at $1,017,417, as compared with $414,730 for the preceding year.
The total value of fish marketed during the fiscal year 1912-13 is comprised as follows:—
Salmon , $9,540,368
Skate • 7.1S4
Mixed fish 53,990
Carried forward $13,655,305 R 8 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Brought forward $13,655,305
Crabs, cockles, other shell-fish 202,520
Salmon roe 10,000
Whales and whale products 536,774
Fur-seal skins 6.150
Hair-seal skins 569
Need for Scientific Investigation.
The glowing future for the fisheries of British Columbia, which everything portends, accentuates the need for fuller investigation of the habits and distribution of the food-fishes of this
Coast. No attempts on any worthy scale have as yet been made in this direction, and aside
from the investigations conducted by this Department in the past few years, the result of which
have been given to the public in the annual reports, there is but scanty literature dealing with
this very important subject. Efforts should be made to determine the life-history of the herring
and halibut, to note their seasonal migrations, whether for food or breeding purposes, and the
banks and areas they frequent at different months should be charted. Experiments to determine
methods of fish-drying and fish-curing suitable to this Coast should be made, and also methods
of curing approved hi the Orient and in Europe should be demonstrated, and an effort made to
secure a market for the other species of food-fishes which now are not utilized.
-, Faunistic Survey.
An adequate faunistic survey of the waters of the Coast should be preliminary to the
launching of investigations along the lines indicated. Study of the individual species of fishes
valuable for food would recommend itself attendant upon such a survey. But no delay attendant
upon the launching of such an ambitious undertaking should intervene to prevent grappling with
the problems of pressing import. In the case of the halibut, prediction is made that the fishery
will be depleted, although the success of the catch in recent years would not seem to warrant
this. Immediate study should be given its life-history, however, ill order that protective or other
measures be taken to conserve it. The belief held by many that should the halibut-fishing be
depleted, other varieties of food-fish not now in favour would take its place, is not warranted.
It must be remembered that for one halibut taken and marketed, probably ten other food-fishes
are caught and destroyed.
Growth of Deep-sea Fisheries.
The growth of the deep-sea fisheries must be viewed with great satisfaction, since, in this
way, stability of employment may be offered to a population subsisting by this industry. The
salmon-fisheries, while the chief source of wealth to the fisherman and packer of the Province
in the past, are open to the objection that they last but from two to four mouths.
Impetus to British Columbia Fisheries through Removal of United States Duty.
Added impetus to all branches of the fisheries has been lent by the removal of the duty upon
fresh fish entering the United States. Halibut, herring, cod, and other fisheries have benefited
by this. The demand for pickled herring is a noticeable feature in this connection, and already-
one firm at Nanaimo and others in the north are preparing to cater to this market.
Need for Inspection.
It is eminently necessary that some strict supervision be conducted of this source of food-
supply and a system of governmental labels adopted, ensuring the quality of the products. If
only the choicest product be marketed in this manner, the industry can be increased indefinitely.
British Columbia Coast waters teem with herring and the industry could be prosecuted at all
seasons of the year. 4 Geo. 5 British Columbia. R 9
Effect of Completion of Grand Trunk Pacific.
With the completion of the Grand Trunk Pacific, it is expected that much of the fishing
industry which centres now at Ketchikan, and at other ports in Alaska and on Puget Sound,
will be transferred to Prince Rupert. With the terminus of this railway as a base, the American
fishing-vessels could reach their markets earlier, save handling, etc., and otherwise operate much
more advantageously than from Alaska ports or Puget Sound A concerted effort on the part
of the authorities and of the northern city should be made, however, to encourage this action.
Facilities for landing and storing the catch should be provided and special inducements offered
in order to foster the industry at this port. No harm should be wrought native companies by
so doing, since they will benefit, first, by the sale of bait, by the improved shipping facilities
which the railway will be able to provide, with a larger volume of business, and at the same
time their home market will be conserved to them by the duty which remains upon fish caught
in foreign bottoms landed at Canadian ports for consumption in Canada.
Completion of Panama Canal.
The completion of the Panama Canal, it is believed, will have a very important effect upon
the fisheries of British Columbia. Already announcement is made that British and German
shipping firms are planning to run lines of steamers from this Coast to Great Britain and the
Continent. One German firm announces monthly sailings, and the statement is made that each
vessel will have refrigerator accommodation for 500 to 600 tons of frozen fish. In addition,
sailings of vessels of a draught light enough to navigate the Mississippi to New Orleans are
planned, and it will be possible to reach the most densely populated region of the American
Middle West by this cheap method of transit. The result follows that, with cheap freight rates,
many species of our fishes which have never been utilized will at once have a market value.
Dr. Gilbert's Investigations of Life of Salmon.
The Department continued its investigations during the year. Dr. C. H. Gilbert extended
his researches and salmou-scale examination so as to cover- the fish running to the Fraser, Nass.
the Skeena, and Rivers Inlet. His report is appended. Dr. Gilbert summarizes a number of
his conclusions as follows:—
(1.) An examination of the Fraser River sockeye run at frequent intervals throughout
1913, the big year of the cycle, resulted in a complete verification of the prophecy made by the
writer in 1912 (see British Columbia Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries for 1912, pp. 23
and 63), to the effect that "the enormous numbers of a big year must consist in overwhelming
proportions of four-year-olds," inasmuch as " the five-year fish present—developed in their due
proportion from the few eggs of an ' off-year'—would be too scattered to produce any effect
among the vast hordes of four-year-olds." Among nearly 2,000 sockeyes of the 1913 run taken
at random there were found but three five-year fish. It will be recalled that in 1911 about
46 per cent, of the run consisted of five-year fish, and in 1912 about 10 per cent.
The fact that practically the only class of fish present in this run of the big year of the
cycle possessed the type of scale which the writer had previously determined to indicate four
years of age is sufficient demonstration of the correctness of that determination. In sharp
contrast stands the interpretation of the scale adopted by Professor J. P. McMurrich and
reaffirmed by him in a recent paper, according to which the Fraser River sockeyes of the 1913
run would have to be considered three-year-olds. To maintain a four-year cycle with three-year
fish might well tax the resources of the most ingenious theorist.
(2.) The question has been frequently raised concerning the relation of the Fraser River
sockeye to those of the Skagit River, in the State of Washington. In size and general appearance the fish of the two streams are strikingly similar, to such an extent, indeed, that dealers
and fish experts generally admit they cannot distinguish the one from the other. Both runs
enter the Straits of Fuca and pursue the same course as far as the entrance to Deception Pass,
inside which lies the mouth of the Skagit River. They are both captured in the same traps on
the west shore of Whidbey Island, but the Skagit fish run earlier in the season and have, in
fact, about completed their run when the advance guard bound for the Fraser makes its
appearance. The question at issue is whether the progeny from the two streams join forces in
the sea, become indistinguishable, and return indifferently to one or the other stream, or whether
each breed returns to its own river. Examination of the scales has decided the question at once and incontestably. Any teu
Skagit River sockeyes of the 1913 run taken at random could be distinguished from any ten
Fraser River fish of the same year by the scale-structure, and by the widely differing proportions
of the age-groups represented in the two runs. To this can be added the fact that the Skagit
River run exhibits no increase during the big years of the Fraser cycle, and does not follow in
any way the oscillations in that stream. It is then a matter of practical fish-culture, and can
be positively asserted, that the output of the two streams is entirely distinct and unrelated, that
an increased hatch of sockeyes in the Fraser River will not affect the run in the Skagit, and
conversely that no fish-cultural operations in the Skagit watershed will have any effect in
keeping up the Fraser River run.
(3.) Examination of sockeye scales from all the principal streams of the Province during
the two successive seasons, 1912 and 1913, has shown beyond question that each of these—Rivers
Inlet, the Skeena, and the Nass—possesses, as does the Fraser, its own separate colony of
sockeyes, which exhibit differences in habit, in method of growth, and in period of maturity—
these differences persisting from year to year and constituting each of these colonies a distinct
biologic race. This fact disposes effectively of the general question concerning the return
of our salmon at maturity to the river-basins in which they were hatched. It can now be
affirmed with entire confidence that they do so return, that they are effectively isolated, and
that they interbreed thus within the limits of their colony. They have in this manner established
racial peculiarities, which find expression not only during their sojourn of a year in their native
stream or lake, when a peculiar environment might be thought to produce the effect, but also
during the three or four years of their later life in the ocean, when it would seem the conditions
must be uniform for all neighbouring colonies. That we are here approaching as near as
may be the formation of incipient species under the influence of isolation admits no question.
Steuctural features, which are more conservative and resistant, have not been modified, but
other peculiarities yield more readily. Those who deal with these fish commercially know well
that the product of different streams may show wide differences in the size and the proportions
of the fish, in the colour of the flesh, -and in the amount of oil which it contains. The study of
the scales opens up an entirely new field of investigation, and demonstrates that, from different
basins, fishes which appear wholly similar to the eye may have had quite dissimilar habits
and methods of growth, and that these differences have come to mark the races to which they
belong. That a few strays pass from one stream to another is entirely probable. That such
is the case has been demonstrated in the Atlantic salmon by marking experiments, but it has
also been shown by the same method that a vast proportion return and are recaptured in their
native stream. The strays are in such small proportion as not to hinder the effective isolation
of the colony.
(4.) By means of the scale method of investigation we have been able during the past
season to throw additional light on the fate of the young sockeyes after they leave their native
streams and enter the sea—a matter of great economic importance. As first shown by Mr. J. P.
Babcock in the Report of the Fisheries Commissioner for 1903 (p. S), the seaward movement of
young fish in the Fraser River comprises both fry of the year and also yearlings which have
lingered in the fresh waters since the preceding season. The same condition was demonstrated
in 1904 for Rivers Inlet (Fisheries Commissioner's Report for 1904, p. 8), and while other
observations in British Columbia are lacking, it is probable that the downward migration of
young in all the larger rivers of the Province consists in part of fry, 1% inches or less in length,
and in part of larger yearlings. The fate of these two groups is universally recognized as a
fish-cultural problem of prime importance.
Examination of scales from all important sockeye streams of the Province has shown for
each basin that adult fish are derived from yearling migrants, to the practical exclusion of
those which migrate as fry. Out of some 8.000 sockeyes of the 1913 run, only twelve fish seemed
with some probability to have developed from .fry migrants. It would seem, then, that, with
few exceptions, the fry of this species perish after entering the sea. The only alternative to
this conclusion is that fry develop in the sea in precisely the same manner, at the same rate,
and with all the local peculiarities which mark those of their own basin, which develop for a
year in their native lake. To one acquainted with all the facts, such an hypothesis appears
impossible and absurd. OS ID 4 Geo. 5 British Columbia. R 11
The deplorable waste occasioned by the loss of vast numbers of fry cannot be checked; it
would seem in the case of such progeny as are the result of natural spawning. They cannot be
held back from migrating as fry, if the instinct seizes them. But the case is different in hatchery
practice. Here it is still the custom to release the young as soon as the egg-sac is absorbed and
free feeding begins. But, in view of the conditions here pointed out, it would appear imperative
that the fry of the year hereafter should be held in troughs or ponds and fed until midsummer,
when the time for downward migration will have passed. They can then be deposited in the
lake, with full confidence that they will pass to sea as yearlings the following spring.
Sea-lions on the Coast of the Province.
During the year the Department conducted an investigation to disclose the numbers of sea-
lions that frequent and breed upon our Coast, and the number and locations of the islands where
they breed. The investigation was made in response to the many complaints made that the
sea-lions were seriously damaging our fisheries.
The inquiry was placed in charge of Dr. C. F. Newcombe. Dr. Newcombe, from his great
familiarity with our entire Coast, and his intimate knowledge with our Coast Indians, especially
qualified him to conduct such an inquiry. He was ably assisted by his son, Mr. A. Newcombe.
Their report, together with some of the excellent photographs which they obtained of the
rookeries, and those of adults and pups furnished by Warburton Pike, Esq., will be found in
the Appendix of this report. The report discloses the presence on our Coast of upward of 11,000
breeding sea-lions (Eamctopias stelleri) and many pups. They were found upon three groups of
islands within a radius of sixty-five nautical miles, namely: (1) Cape St. James Islands, Queen
Charlotte Group; (2) the Sea Otter Islands, off Rivers and Smith Inlets; and (3) Cape Scott
Islands, off the northern end of Vancouver Island.
Such investigations as have been made on the Pacific Coast of North America demonstrate
that the sea-lion (Emnetopias stelleri), the only species found breeding on our Coast, largely
subsists upon fish. It has been established that sea-lions seriously damage the salmon-fishing
at the mouth of the Columbia.
Dr. Newcombe sttbmits evidence to show that sea-lions pursue the salmon to Rivers and
Smith Inlets, and that they occasionally damage the nets used in that district. They do not
commonly enter Puget Sound or damage the nets or traps used there. Sea-lions are no longer
of economic importance to our Coast Indians, since they no longer hunt them for their hides or
as food. The sea-lion is no longer hunted for his hide commercially upon a scale that indicates
that any serious inroads will be made in the herds described by Dr. Newcombe. There is some
evidence to show that the number of sea-lions in our waters is increasing. From their numbers,
their habits, and great size, it is manifest that they consume an immense amount of fish, including
salmon, halibut, and herring. Since they are of no immediate or prospective value, a systematic
effort should be made to materially reduce their numbers. Most of the rookeries described in
the report are so situated as to prevent landings, and even when landings can be made in favourable weather the sea-lions at once take to the water, leaving only the very young pups subject
to attack. The difficulty of recovering the carcasses of those killed in the sea precludes hunting
them successfully for a bounty. The most effective and economical method of reducing their
numbers on our Coast would be to equip a small power-sloop and place it in charge of two or
more good hunters, and let them operate at the rookeries during the breeding season. The
matter will be brought to the attention of the authorities at Ottawa, with the expectation that
steps will be undertaken to seriously reduce the number of sea-lions on our Coast.
Mr. Thompson's Papers on Shell-fish.
Mr. W. F. Thompson, who in 1912 investigated the extent of beds of shell-fish in the southern
portion of the Province, continued this service during 1913. He visited most of the known areas
in Queen Charlotte Islands and Northern Vancouver Island, reporting as to their extent and.the
possibilities of their development. He also made a study of the abalone of the British Columbia
Coast, and his paper in this connection is also appended. He will continue and complete this
portion of his studies during the year.
Dr. Stafford on the Pacific Oyster.
During 1913 the Department retained Joseph Stafford, M.A., Ph.D., of McGill University, to
deal with the study of the life-history of the Pacific oyster. Following an agreement with the R 12 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Dominion under which the Province assumes the sole right to lease foreshore for oyster-
cultivation, everything possible is being done to encourage this industry. To be successful,
culture must start out with a knowledge of the mode of life and requirements of the animal.
Hence an extensive and scientific study of the animal was necessary. With this end in view,
Dr. Stafford, during the months of May to September, carried on investigations. He points out:
" The existing natural supply would not go far on account of the restricted distribution and
small size. Culture is desirable. To be most successful, culture must start out with a knowledge
of the mode of life and requirements of the animal. Hence an extensive and scientific study
of the species is necessary." The investigations include observations on distribution, mode of
occurrence, manner of life, activities, defence, competition, kind of food, organization, breeding,
development of young, favourable and adverse physical conditions of the substratum, sea-water,
salinity, temperature, the time and manner of spawning, how to find and recognize the different
stages of development, length of period of each stage, rate of growth, death-rate, cause of
Dr. Stafford's report will be found in the Appendix. It is a most valuable contribution on
the life of the Pacific oyster. It is the first fruitful application of plankton methods on this
oyster and the first account of the development of this species that is of practicable value to
those engaged in the industry in our waters.
Dr. Stafford will return to the Province during the approaching season, when he will
continue his investigations in this connection.
Analysis of Salmon-pack.
An analysis of the salmon-pack of British Columbia for 1913-14 shows that the 1,353,901
cases composing it were made up as follows: Sockeye, 972,128; red springs, 37,433; white
springs, 3,616; dog-salmon, 77,965; pinks, 192,887; cohoes, 69,822. The large sockeye-pack was
due to the fact that 1913 was the " big year " on the Fraser. The small number of pinks and
dog-salmon put up was due to the lessened demand and consequent lower prices realized by
Fraser River Pack.
The pack of Fraser River sockeye was the largest in the history of the canning industry,
totalling 2,402,389 cases, of which 736,661 cases were put up on the Canadian side and 1,665,728
cases by the United States packers of Puget Sound. This is ail increase of 830,069 cases over
the pack of 1909, or an increase of 53.9 per cent.; of 727,769 cases over the pack of 1905, or an
increase of 43.4 per cent.; of 368,624 cases over 1901, previously the year of the greatest pack,
or an increase of 18 per cent.
This gratifying condition was foreshadowed in the report of the Department for 1909, p. IS.
when Mr. Babcock, after reviewing conditions on the spawning-beds, under the caption " The
Run Four Years Hence," stated: " A careful comparison of the number of fish observed on
the spawning-beds this season with those seen there in 1905 shows unquestionably that many
rnore fish reached there this year. The weather conditions were as favourable and the hatcheries
were well filled; therefore, I believe, the prospect of a big run four years hence is better than
at this time four years ago."
Pack in Northern British Columbia.
Conditions in the north were the reverse of satisfactory, for the pack of sockeye on the
Skeena, Rivers Inlet, and the Nass was the poorest in years. Thus the Skeena produced but
52,927 cases, as compared with 92,498 in 1912, 131,066 in 1911, 187,246 in 1910, and 87,901 in
1909, the corresponding year in the four-year cycle of the life of the average sockeye. Similarly,
the Rivers Inlet sockeye-pack totalled 61,745, compared with 112,884 in 1912, 88,705 in 1911,
126,921 in 1910, and 89,027 in 1909. The Nass produced 23,574 cases in 1913, as compared with
36,037 in 1912, 37,327 in 1911, 38,810 in 1910, and 28,246 cases in 1909.
The small packs in the north seemingly resulted not from a failure of the sockeye to run,
but were due to weather conditions. Owing to cold, wet weather during the fishing season, the
salmon swam at greater depths and the nets failed to take their wonted toll of fish. 4 Geo. 5 British Columbia. R 13
Other Salmon Products.
In addition to the salmon canned and to the quantities consumed fresh, 2,125 tierces of
mild-cured salmon were put up in British Columbia, representing a total of 1,700,000 lb. of spring
or quiunat salmon. Salmon placed in cold storage totalled 1,900,000 lb.
During the season the Department as usual conducted an inspection of the fishing and
spawning waters of the Fraser, Skeena, and Nass Rivers and Rivers Inlet. Detailed reports
from each section are given in full with Appendix of his report.
Spawning-grounds of Fraser River.
The report upon the fishing and spawning area of the Fraser River by John P. Babcock,
Assistant to the Commissioner, which is given in the Appendix, shows that the number of sockeye
which sought entrance to the Fraser River this year was greater than during any former season
of which we have a record. The catch was also a record one. Owing to favourable tides at the
height of the run, coincident to the weekly closed periods, and a thirty-six hours' strike of our
fishermen, the number of sockeye which passed above the fishing limits early in August was
• unusually large. Throughout the season the numbers of sockeye which passed above the fishing
limits was ample to have stocked all the spawning-beds. Owing, however, to work incidental to
the construction of the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway through the Fraser River Canyon,
the channels of the river there were so seriously affected that the sockeye which reached the
canyon in August and September had great difficulty in passing. Mr. Babcock expresses the
opinion that the major portion of that run was unable to get through the canyon. The failure
of sockeye to reach the great lake section above the canyon in numbers approaching those of
former big years warrants that conclusion.
On becoming convinced that the run was being seriously interrupted, the situation was at
once called to the attention of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries in Ottawa, with the result
that this Department was empowered to undertake relief measures. The work of opening up
temporary channels was placed in charge of G. P. Napier, Assistant Engineer. Provincial Works
Department. Through his efforts open passage-ways were maintained for the salmon from
October 13th to the end of the run. His report as to the means employed and the measures
which he deems essential to restore the river to its former channels is given in the Appendix.
The reports of Messrs. Babcock and Napier are accompanied by photographs and sketch-
maps, showing the character and extent of the rock-deposits and their influence on the currents
of the river, which are reproduced for publication.
Summarizing conditions above the fishing limits and on the spawning-grounds of the Fraser
River this year, Mr. Babcock states:—
" From the foregoing statement of conditions existing above the fishing limits and upon the
spawning-grounds of the Fraser River, I feel fully justified from my investigations in concluding
that the number of sockeye which passed above the fishing limits was as great this year as any
preceding big run of which we have a record, and I think even greater. The sockeye made
their appearance in the canyon above Yale in June, and during the high waters of that month
and July large numbers passed through to Quesnel and Chilko Lakes. The greater proportion
of the run of sockeye in late July and in August and September were blockaded in the canyon
by rock obstructions placed in the channel incident to the construction of the Canadian Northern
Pacific Railroad, so that few were able to pass through during that time. No humpbacks
succeeded in passing through the canyon. The blasting of temporary passage-ways enabled a
large proportion of the sockeye run of October and November to pass through the canyon. A
down-stream movement between Hell's Gate and Yale was noticeable in August, was very
pronounced in September, and continued until the middle of October. The streams which enter
the Fraser between Hell's Gate and Agassiz were filled with sockeye from the middle of August
until the end of October, while they had not 'been observed in those streams in previous years.
Very few sockeye spawned in any of these streams, and most of them died without spawning.
Great numbers of dead sockeye, which had died without spawning, were found on the bars and
banks of the Fraser between Yale and Agassiz in September and October. The number which R 14 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
reached Quesnel Lake was little more than an eighth of the number which entered that lake In
1909. The run to Chilko Lake was equally small. The sockeye run to Seton Lake was 30,000,
as against 1,000,000 in 1909. The August and September run of sockeye to Shuswap and Adams
Lakes was much less than in any former big year, and the October and November run was also
less. The sockeye-eggs collected there this year totalled but 9,000,000, as against 27,500,000 four
years ago and 18,000,000 in 1905. The run to Lillooet Lake was less than any recent year.
Finally, the run to Harrison Lake was slightly better than in 1909. These facts, in my opinion,
warrant the conclusion that the number of sockeye which spawned in the Fraser River watershed this year was not sufficient to make the run four years hence even approximate the runs
of either 1905, 1909, or 1913."
Conditions in the North.
The catch of sockeye in the waters of northern British Columbia was unsatisfactory. While
it is believed salmon in large numbers entered the rivers and reached the spawning-beds, on
account of the cold, wet weather they swam at such great depth that the nets were unable to
take their toll of the fish.
Rivers Inlet Spawning-beds.
Fishery Overseer Stone, who inspected the spawning-grounds of the tributary to Rivers
Inlet, expresses the opinion that the vast numbers of sockeye which he found on all the spawning-
beds precludes the opinion that the stockeye run there this year was small. He assigns the small
catch entirely to unfavourable weather conditions, and believes that the catch would have been
an average one had the weather been favourable.
Summing up the results of his observations and the information furnished him by the
hatchery officials and Indians, Mr. Stone expresses the opinion that the number of sockeye and
cohoe which reached the beds this year was greater than for many years past. The hatchery at
Owikeno Lake received 12,655,000 sockeye-eggs. His report is given in the Appendix.
Skeena and Nass.
The reports from the Skeena and Nass Rivers spawning-beds are of a satisfactory nature.
Notwithstanding that the catch on the fishing-grounds of both the Skeena and Nass Rivers show a
marked decrease, the spawning-beds appear to have been unusually well seeded. The hatcheries
in the Skeena River received 12,748,000 sockeye-eggs. There is no hatchery on the Nass River.
The reports of Inspector of Fisheries Hickman and Fishery Overseer Birchall are printed
in the Appendix.
The Fishway at the Falls in Meziadin River, Nass River Watershed.
The fishway at the falls in the Meziadin River—Nass River watershed—construction of
which was begun in December last, was completed and the water turned in on September 25th.
Superintendent Gillingham reports that for some time previous to the completion of the work
a large number of salmon had congregated at the foot of the fall and were attempting to get
over. As soon as the water was turned to the fishway the salmon entered it and passed with
ease over the 2-foot drop between the basins and reached the river above the falls. It will
be recalled that the work was undertaken by this Department at the request and expense of
the Hon. J. D. Hazen, Minister of Marine and Fisheries, Ottawa. The fishway was constructed
in accordance with the plans submitted by Mr. Babcock. His report, together with the accompanying photographs, is reproduced in the Appendix.
Egg-collections for British Columbia Hatcheries.
The collection of sockeye-eggs from the Fraser River this season totalled 93,129,000.
Mr. F. H. Cunningham, the Chief Inspector of Fisheries for the Dominion Government,
furnishes the following statement showing the number of salmon-eggs collected for the Dominion
hatcheries this year, to which we have added the collection for the Provincial hatchery at Seton
Lake and that for the hatchery maintained by the British Columbia Packers at the Nimpkish
S 4 Geo. 5
Statement showing Salmon-eggs collected for the Hatcheries in the Province for the Year 1913.
Skeena River ..
Rivers Inlet ...
Fraser River ..
,, - ■
* Eggs collected from Skeena River watershed.
t 5.000,000 eggs collected in Fraser River Canyon.
j 17,256,000 eggs collected in Fraser River Canyon.
Sockeye Salmon-pack * of Fraser River and Puget Sound from 1900 to 1913, inclusive.
Fraser River ....
Puget Sound ....
Fraser River ....
Puget Sound ....
* Given in cases—forty-eight 1-lb. cans to case.
Opening price of
Opening price of
$1 25 R 16
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
Sockeye Salmon-eggs collected from Fraser River Watershed, 1901 to 1913.
Number of British Columbia Hatcheries.
5. | 5.
Record of sockeye
Number of British Columbia Hatcheries.
6. | 6.
Record of sockeye-
The policy of extending additional privileges to white fishermen, along the lines recommended
by D. N. Mclntyre, Deputy Commissioner, and W. A. Found, Superintendent of Fisheries for the
Dominion, the previous summer, was given a trial in the north during the year. Owing to the
unsatisfactory weather conditions aud poor season, it was not as successful as had been hoped.
Nevertheless, substantial numbers of white fishermen operated on the Nass, the Skeena, and
Rivers Inlet, and the Departments have been encouraged to recommend the extension of the
policy next year. Accordingly a larger number of licences has been set aside for this purpose,
and these, should they not be taken out by the independent fishermen, will be reallotted to the
different canneries, only with the proviso that white fishermen be employed in operating them.
The 5,000,000 whitefish-eggs, which through the courtesy of the United States Bureau of
Fisheries were received from Put-in Bay Station, were successfully hatched at the Harrison
Lake Hatchery of the Dominion Government, and planted in Harrison Lake. A further shipment
of 3,500,000 from the Dominion egg-taking stations in the East were also hatched and planted.
No efforts as yet have been made to ascertain the success of the experiment.
As one of the two British Columbia members of the Canadian Fisheries Advisory Board,
D. N. Mclntyre, Deputy Commissioner, visited Ottawa in April and again in October. In
addition to attending the sessions of the Board, he conferred with the department officials upon
various matters affecting the fisheries. He also met officials of the Grand Trunk Pacific and
discussed the facilities to be provided for the shipment of fish from Prince Rupert, and the
inducements to be offered foreign fishing vessels to use that port.
Catch of Whales.
The catch of whales on our Coast shows a marked falling-off from that of the previous two
years. During the year 705 were taken, as against 1,095 in 1912 and 1,199 in 1911. The
following statement of the season's catch was furnished by the Canadian North Pacific Fisheries,
the only company operating for whales in the Province:—
Name of Station.
Rose Harbour, Q.C.L. .
705 M APPENDICES.
THE SPAWNING-BEDS OF THE FRASER.
By John Pease Babcock.
Hon, W. J. Bowser, K.O.,
Commissioner of Fisheries, Victoria, B.C.
Sir,—I have the honour to submit the following report of my annual inspection of the fishing
and spawning area of the Fraser River District:—-
As herein used the term " Fraser River District " includes the straits and channels in both
Provincial and American waters leading from the open sea to the mouth of the Fraser River.
While the fishing area of the district includes waters in both the Province and the State of
Washington, the spawning area is entirely within the Province. The number of sockeye salmon
seeking entrance to the Fraser this year was greater than during any season of which we have
a record. The catch was also the largest ever recorded. The canners in Provincial waters
produced 736,661 cases, and those in American waters 1,665,728 cases. The total for the district
being 2,402,389 cases, each containing forty-eight 1-lb. cans, or their equivalent, of dressed sockeye
salmon. Valued at $16,816,723. The total pack exceeded by 368,624 cases the pack of the former
record year, 1901, and was 727,769 cases greater than in 1905, and 830,069 greater than in 1909,
the two preceding years of the cycle. Allowing an average of 13 fish (we are told the average
is 13%) to each case, the total pack then represents a catch of 31,233,709 sockeye salmon.
The run of humpback or " pink " salmon to the district was large, though not as large as
it usually is every second year. Our own canners' pack of " pinks " was insignificant, being only
9,973 cases. Puget Sound canners packed 788,789 cases. The number of cases packed does not,
however, indicate how large the run was. The pack of " pinks " on the Coast last year greatly
exceeded the market demands and resulted in a large number of cases remaining in first hands,
notwithstanding a very low price.
The run of spring salmon to the district is never of prime importance. This year it was,
however, up to the average. The fish caught in the river were marketed fresh. The catch in
the straits was tierced.
On the Fishing-grounds.
Comparatively light catches of sockeye were made in the district in July. None were taken
this season west of the entrance to Juan de Fuca Straits. The first heavy catches of sockeye
were made at the traps on the south shore of Vancouver Island, in Juan de Fuca Strait, on
July 23rd, one day earlier than in 1905, and nine days earlier than in 1909. The run was, however, comparatively light up to July 28th. On the morning flood-tide of that day an immense
school of sockeye entered the strait, and the run on every flood-tide for ten days thereafter was
very great. The run continued pronounced and the catches large for twenty days of the season,
as against eleven days in both 1905 and 1909. The catches of sockeye at the six Vancouver
Island traps did not in any one day equal the record for 1909, owing entirely to unfavourable
weather conditions, but their total catch for the season was greater than in either 1905 or 1909.
From July 28th to August Sth the waters of Juan de Fuca and Rosario Straits were literally
filled with advancing sockeye. The first of this school reached the Gulf of Georgia on August
1st and began entering the Fraser on August 2nd. In my experiences on the fishing-grounds I
have never before seen any waters so filled with salmon as those of the Gulf of Georgia, in the
vicinity of Point Roberts and the mouths of the Fraser, on August 2nd. For many miles the
placid waters of the gulf were splashed by leaping sockeye.
From August 4th to 19th the run was at its height from the Salmon Banks, off San Juan
Island, to the head of the fishing limits in the Fraser proper. Between those dates the 150 traps
and 250 purse-nets engaged in fishing in American waters and the 2,570 gill-net fishermen in R 18 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
our own waters made enormous catches of sockeye. During the thirty-six hours from 0 p.m.
of Friday, August 1st, to midnight of August 2nd, fishing was prohibited in the American waters
of the district. Fishing in our waters was suspended for the forty-two hours from midnight of
August 1st to 6 p.m. of the 3rd. In addition to this forty-two hour weekly closed period, fishing
in our waters was suspended generally during the following thirty-six hours because of a strike
by the fishermen, which was called as a protest against the action of the canners in lowering the
price of sockeye. The strike was general below Westminster Bridge, but did not greatly affect
fishing above that point. After this seventy-eight hours' suspension of fishing in our own waters
the catches were so large that the receipt of fish at the canneries considerably exceeded their
capacity. The canners then announced that they would not accept more than 200 fish per day
from any one boat. This limit was in force at most canneries from noon of Tuesday, August Sth,
to Thursday morning, August 7th. During that period the fishermen caught, on a part of one
tide only, all the sockeye they could dispose of at the canneries or to other buyers. For the first
time since 1905 the catch on August 5th and 6th exceeded the capacity of the canneries. As a
result cold-storage and market men bought at cheap prices (5 to 10 cents each) all the salmon
they could handle. Many fish were shipped to canneries in the north, and on the west coast
of Vancouver Island. Some of the fishermen refused to sell at less than the price of 15 cents
each paid by the canners, and threw their fish overboard. As the conditions existing on the
fishing-grounds of the Fraser proper at this time had an unusual and important bearing on the
number of sockeye which passed above the fishing limits, the following excerpt from a report
made to the Department by Provincial Fishery Overseer Markland will be of interest:—
" The districts most affected by the strike were the North and Centre Arms of the river up
as far as Eburne, the main channel and Canoe Pass, as far up as Woodward's Slough. Reaches
of the river above these points were less affected as far as New Westminster Bridge. sUiove
the bridge the men did not strike. The gulf and river at this period were filled with fish.
" On Monday morning, August 4th, the five canneries between Woodward's and New Westminster Bridge found themselves literally swamped with fish and placed their surplus among
the down-river canneries, where no deliveries had been made. In consequence of the strike
on Sunday night, August 3rd, cannery managers, anticipating that this strike would last for
several days, ordered shipments of sockeye from the traps on Vancouver Island and from
American trap-owners. Large numbers were purchased from American traps at 10 cents each.
These fish began to arrive on Monday night, and large deliveries were made on Tuesday, the
5th. A few of the down-river fishermen went out on Monday night and the balance resumed
fishing on Tuesday morning. As the river and gulf were literally teeming with fish at that time,
the fishermen began making large deliveries Tuesday morning. By noon the canners were overstocked and w7ere compelled to put a limit on the number of fish they would accept from each
boat. The general limit was 200 per boat. Immediately this situation was created, buyers from
cold-storage plants and Vancouver and near-by markets rushed to the river and bought at 5 and
10 cents each all the sockeye they could handle; 100,000 were shipped to a west coast cannery
and 50,000 to northern canneries; cold-storage and market buyers bought upwards of 50,000.
The average price was 10 cents, sales were made at 5 cents. For several days they were retailed
on the streets of Vancouver at 15 cents each. Some of the fishermen rather than accept less
than 15 cents dumped their fish into the gulf. The fishermen above New Westminster Bridge
were the most affected. Being overstocked, the canneries did not as usual gather from these
men. As a result there was comparatively little fishing done there for two days.
" No positive statement as to the numbers of fish caught on the Sth and 6th, which were in
excess of the cannery capacity and for which there was no market demand, can be given. After
a most thorough investigation, however, I am convinced that the number has been greatly overstated. By noon of the 5th it was generally known to the fishermen that a limit of 200 was all
that any one of them could deliver to the canners, with the result that they confined their fishing
to one tide each day.
" Certainly the surplus did not nearly equal the deliveries to the canneries on either the
5th or 6th. The combined receipts at all the plants on those dates totalled 9S4.000 fish. The
report that millions of sockeye were thrown away is absurd. While I have been unable to get
figures from all sources, I do not believe that 300,000 were wasted during the entire season.
The canners could have taken many more fish from our fishermen on the Sth and 6th had it not 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 19
been for the large shipments received from Vancouver Island and American traps on those dates.
Returns from the Customs records at Steveston show that during the month of August duty
was paid on 182.154 sockeye received from American waters. The total number for the season
was 284,190, S6.382 of which were received between September 16th and 23rd. By the night of
August 7th the fishermen were able to make deliveries of all they could catch."
The abundance of sockeye in the fishing waters of the Province in the Fraser District this
year is shown by the following statement:—
Statement, giving uy Weeks the Total Number of Sockeye Salmon received by the Thirty-four
Canneries operating on the Fraser River proper in 1913.
For the week—
July 7th to 12th 17,206
July 14th to 19th 176,581
July 21st to 26th 32S.210
July 2.8th to August 2nd 856,388
August 4th to 9th 2,287,625
August 11th to 16th 1,6S6,747
August 18th to 23rd 1,546,749
August 25th to 30th 631,137
September 1st to 6th 413,389
September Sth to 13th 216,518
September 15th to 20th 431,468
September 22nd to 27th 192,792
September 29th to October 4th 158,651
October 6th to 11th 106,132
Total for the season 9,049,653
It has been heretofore demonstrated that large numbers of sockeye escape capture in the
years of a big run and pass on to the spawning-beds. Conditions on the fishing-grounds in our
waters this year were more favourable to the run of fish than at any time since 1905, when the
canneries were oversupplied and a limitation was placed on the catch. The number which passed
above the fishing limits at Mission Bridge during this season was apparently as great as in
former big runs. The number which escaped capture during the forty-two-hour weekly close
period of August 1st to Srd, and the following thirty-six hours of the strike, and during the two
days on which the catch in our waters was limited, must have greatly exceeded the average.
It is therefore safe to assume that the number which passed above the fishing limits this year
was greater than in 1905 or 1909. which assumption is further confirmed by the large number
which reached the canyon above Yale.
These conditions existing on the fishing-grounds in the Fraser River District may be
summarized, then, as conclusively showing that the run of sockeye this season was greater
than in any former year of which we have a record; that the catch was also greater; that the
pack was larger; that the duration of the run was longer; and that the number which escaped
capture and passed above the fishing limits was amply sufficient to have stocked all the spawning-
Do Sockeye run to the Fraser through Johnstone Strait?
Until recently it has been believed that all the sockeye that enter the Fraser River came
from the open sea through Juan de Fuca Strait, and thence proceed to the river through Rosario
and Haro Straits and the southern part of the Gulf of Georgia; and also that no sockeye came
from the north and entered the Gulf of Georgia through Johnstone Strait.
Recent observations appear to indicate that a portion of the run may come from the north,
and passing on the east side of Vancouver Island enter the river without passing through
Deputy Commissioner D. N. Mclntyre and F. H. Cunningham, Chief Inspector of Fisheries
for the Dominion Government, on returning from the north on August Sth of this year, report
having observed from their steamer a very large school of salmon proceeding south from Cape R 20 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Mudge, and that the surface of the water for a considerable distance south of that cape was
broken by leaping salmon. Unfortunately the fish were not close enough to determine positively
their species, but both are of the opinion that they were sockeye.
The only river south of Cape Mudge frequented by sockeye is the Fraser. If, therefore,
the salmon Messrs. Mclntyre and Cunningham saw were sockeye, they were apparently proceeding to that river.
Mr. W. E. Anderson, the well-known salmon-canner who has operated extensively on the
Fraser proper, and who is familiar with the Fraser sockeye, has recently been operating the
cannery at Quathiaski Cove, Valdes Island, at the southern end of Johnstone Strait. Under
date of August 25th this year, he wrote me as follows:—
" In re the reported southern movement of sockeye through Johnstone Strait, I am quite
satisfied that part of the sockeye that run to the Fraser pass through Johnstone Strait. We
have followed them from Salmon River down through the strait past our cannery at Quathiaski
Cove and south into the gulf. We have caught a few thousand with our seines. They do not
school up together so that we can get many at a haul. The current in the strait is so swift
and the water so clear that the fish sound and go through the seines. I do not know of any
other stream than the Fraser that the fish could be going to after they pass Cape Mudge.
They are travelling fast. I have seen a few passing here other years, but never so many as
this year. We brought up 8,000 sockeye from the Fraser this year. The fish we caught here
are the same in size, colour, and general appearance. They are quite different from our Phillips
Arm sockeye. Our fishermen who have operated on the Fraser say they were Fraser sockeye.
They do not appear to go through here until the end of July. Our run in Phillips Arm is over
before they make their appearance."
The September and October run of sockeye in the Fraser in both 1905 and 1909 was large.
They were not observed passing through Juan de Fuca Strait or the channels in American
waters which lead to the Fraser. They were not taken in any of the traps operated for other
species of salmon in the above-mentioned waters in September and October of this year. Their
presence was not noticed until they entered the river. Their unheralded coming excited the
attention of every close observer of conditions on the Fraser. Whence they came has been much
discussed. The September and October run of sockeye to the Fraser this year equalled the late
runs of both 1905 and 1909. The late run this year extended over a longer period, but at no
time were the fish so closely bunched. Sockeye were not taken in the traps in Juan de Fuca
, Strait, or in the channels leading to the Fraser south of the Gulf of Georgia, in September or
October, and their presence in those waters during these months was not observed. If these
late-running fish came through Juan de Fuca Strait or passed through Rosario or Haro Straits,
it is remarkable that they were not observed, and that catches were not made there in the traps
operating for fall fish.
It is well known that during the years that sockeye-fishing was permitted in the Fraser in
May and June, considerable numbers of sockeye were taken in those months. Previous to the
change in the fishing regulations Alexander Ewing one season packed 10,000 sockeye in May.
A May or June run of sockeye has never been reported as passing through Juan de Fuca Strait,
or American channels, leading to the Fraser. Large numbers of sockeye were observed in the
Fraser River Canyon in June and early July this year, as well as in 1905 and 1909. Indians
in the canyon made large catches in June this year and had taken all of that species they desired
for drying before the middle of July. These fish were not observed passing through Juan de
Fuca Strait or the American channels. Moreover, while traps in Juan de Fuca Strait made
good catches of spring salmon in June, they did not catch any sockeye. Salmon coming from
the north would not therefore be detected by those operating traps in the Sound. Further
investigation may disclose a southern movement through Johnstone Strait.
CONDITIONS ABOVE THE FISHING LIMITS.
In the Fraser River Canyon.
In ascending the Fraser River, salmon first encounter very rapid currents in the canyon
between Yale and North Bend, approximately 140 miles above the mouth of the river. From
Yale to the mouth of the river there are no rapids, and the channel is wide and the flow is
steady. Immediately above Yale the channel is narrow and the water rushes through the 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 21
canyon in places with great violence. At three points in the canyon the force of the water is
such that the ascending salmon are called upon to exert all their strength and skill to make
the ascent. At these points the water is so swift that at all stages only a limited number
can pass at a time, because in very swift water ascending salmon always hug the shore closely
in order to make headway.
In the years of a big run the major portion of the salmon have always been delayed at the
points indicated, but have eventually all reached the slower waters above and thence passed
on to the lake sections of the river's watershed.
The passage at Hell's Gate (see Plates Nos. 7 to 12) has heretofore been considered the most
difficult wrhich the salmon encounter in the entire course of the Fraser. The river-channel
there and at the Scuzzy Rapids (Plate No. 1), three miles above, is more contracted than
at any point south of Fort George.
This year the greater portion of the sockeye which reached the canyon in August and
September were unable to pass through, the natural difficulties having been increased by the
great amount of rock thrown into the river during the construction of the Canadian Northern
Pacific Railroad. This railroad in passing through the canyon skirts the left bank of the
Fraser. The road-bed was blasted through the solid rock immediately above White's Creek,
Hell's Gate, China Bar, and the Scuzzy Rapids in the fall and winter of 1912-1913.
The rock displaced by these operations, and the great slides incidental thereto, was tumbled
into the river, further narrowing the passage-way for salmon, and so increasing the difficulties
that at times the channel was rendered impassable.
The first fish of the great run of sockeye were noticed this year in the canyon in July
during extreme high water. A considerable number passed through the canyon at that time.
With the falling of the water the ascent became more and more difficult at Hell's Gate and the
Scuzzy Rapids, and for weeks at a time in August and September few sockeye and no humpback
salmon passed above the Scuzzy Rapids, so far as could be ascertained.
Large numbers of sockeye were reported passing through the canyon in July. I did not
observe them there until August 5th, when an inspection of the river-canyon from China Bar
to the Spuzzum disclosed large numbers of salmon in all the stretches between these points.
The water was higher than usual for that season of the year, and it was evident that the
salmon were having serious difficulty in passing through Hell's Gate. Many, however, were
successful in doing so, as was evidenced by the fact that large numbers were found in the more
quiet stretches of the river-channel between that point and the Scuzzy Rapids, a distance of
three miles and a half. At that time, and all through August, September, and early October,
the major portion of the run could be seen in the eddies below Hell's Gate, extending downstream for over ten miles.
Returning to the canyon on August 15th, I found that the number of sockeye in the river
below Hell's Gate had greatly increased—in fact, were far more numerous than at any time
during the big runs of 1905 and 1909. The number of sockeye between Hell's Gate and the
Scuzzy Rapids showed no decrease. After reviewing the situation in the canyon, I passed on
to Lytton and thence up the Fraser to Lillooet. The water was still very high and so discoloured
that it was impossible to see beneath the surface at any point. The Indians along the river
above the canyon were catching but few fish, and stated that but few had been in the river
since the middle of July. The only fish on their drying-frames had been taken during that
month. At the hatchery at the outlet of Seton Lake it was reported that less than 1.000 sockeye
had passed there up to that time. No salmon were noticed at the canyon just above the mouth
of Bridge River, but the water there was so high at the time that fish could easily have passed
without being seen.
Returning to the canyon at Hells Gate on August 19th, where Dr. C. H. Gilbert joined me,
another careful examination of conditions was made of the river from the Scuzzy Rapids to
White's Creek, two miles below Hell's Gate. The entire surface of the large bay at the foot
of and to the right of the Scuzzy Rapids was darkened with a milling mass of sockeye.
Clinging closely to the shelter of the rocks on both banks of the rapids there was a thin line
of advancing sockeye and a few spring salmon, which extended from the bay below to within
a short distance of the head of the rapids.
Immediately above the rapids the channel of the river widens to thrice its width just below,
where the currents are mild and the eddies placid. At the head of the rapid a natural wall of rock projects from the right bank into the channel. Almost directly opposite on the left bank,
immense masses of rock from the railroad-cut above had slid into the channel, constituting a
great wing-dam. The rapid currents striking these two rock projections were deflected violently
towards the centre of the stream. Upon attempting to pass around these two points the sockeye
were obliged to jump at right angles to the current and were swept away from the shore out
into the channel, where the major portion disappeared from view beneath the chocolate-coloured
water, although many were noted as they were swept down-stream. Spring salmon alone were
able to reach the quiet waters above. No sockeye were seen in any of the eddies above these
points. The movement of sockeye up both sides of the rapids as far as the points described
was continuous, but those which succeeded in passing up comprised only those which could
maintain their position close to the rocks.
For a distance of three miles and a half from the Scuzzy Rapids to Hell's Gate below, the
surface of all the eddies and the slack waters were covered with sockeye, a steady stream of
them passing upward at all the rapids. Only at points where the current was violent could any
down-stream movement be discerned.
Immediately below Hell's Gate, and for ten miles down-stream, sockeye were massed in
incredible numbers. Vast numbers were seen approaching the Gate on both sides of the channel.
They filled every inch of space where they could make headway against the stream, and even
in the most rapid parts of the channel fish were seen struggling to advance. It was a' wonderful
sight. In attempting the passage at the left bank at Hell's Gate, only those hugging close to
the rock wall appeared to be successful, the others being swept violently outward and downstream. The number of fish being swept downward at Hell's Gate was at this time, and almost
to the end of the season, pronounced.
Previous to the construction of the Canadian Northern Railway a bay of some considerable
extent existed on the left bank immediately above the Gate. (See Plate No. 7.) Here such fish
as succeeded in passing on that side found shelter. That bay has now been filled with immense
masses of granite, and but little space remains hi which salmon can maintain themselves. (See
Plates Nos. 8 to 10.) The filling of this bay has also greatly altered the currents through the Gate.
Formerly the waters from the left bank were forced across toward the right bank, so that along
that bank, and close to it, a back-eddy was formed, wTiich enabled the fish attempting to pass
on that side to reach the smoother water above. In former years the main portion of the
ascending fish passed through on the right side. Now the currents have been so changed that
no fish were seen passing through, although many thousands were constantly attempting to do
so. No sockeye were observed in the eddies immediately above. Limited as w7as the space
above the left wall of the Gate, it was filled with sockeye struggling to maintain their position.
Many of those which had passed through the Gate and gained shelter immediately above, on
attempting further ascent were swept into the channel and down-stream. That countless thousands were successful in passing was evidenced by the number noted in the river between the
Gate and Scuzzy Rapids. After watching for some hours their efforts to ascend at Hell's Gate,
it became apparent that the number passing was limited to those which could find resting-places
in the pockets and eddies just above the Gate, and that those attempting the passage largely
exceeded the capacity of the passage-way.
The vast numbers seen in the canyon from the Scuzzy Rapids to the Spuzzum, a distance
of thirteen miles, is attributable to the difficulties and narrowness of the passage-way at Hell's
Gate, and to the great numbers which had passed beyond the fishing limits during the forty-two
hours of the weekly closed period between 12 o'clock midnight of August 1st and 6 p.m. of
August 3rd, and also the following twenty-four hours during the strike of the 3rd and 4th, and
to the limitation placed on the fishermen by the canners on the Sth and 6th, and finally to the
increased numbers which are always present in the canyon in the years of the " big run."
The passage of Hell's Gate appeared at the time to be much more difficult than Scuzzy
Rapids. It was not at that time evident that any decided change had been made in the nature
of the currents iii the Scuzzy Rapids or at China Bar. For the reason that no sockeye were
seen in any of the eddies just above the rapids, and that those attempting to pass near the shore
were apparently all swept back, it seemed evident that a sub-surface passage-way existed
through which the sockeye were passing, and they did not show themselves because the channel
above was wide and the current much slower, and therefore they had no occasion to seek
shelter in the eddies close to the shore, where they would have been seen. The currents in 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 23
the Fraser for many miles above the Scuzzy Rapids are similar to those below Yale, where the
fish are seldom seen. In previous years of the big run, few sockeye have been noticed in the
river between the Scuzzy and the Canadian Pacific Railway crossing above Keefer. The conclusion that the fish were passing through the Scuzzy Rapids at this time was supported by
the fact that two Indians were seen catching salmon at a point on the left bank of the river
some half-mile above, and their drying-frames were covered with fish. As their camp was on
the left bank of the river and inaccessible at that time, it was not visited until some weeks
later, when it was discovered that the fish on their drying-frames were spring salmon and not
On August 20th and 21st the situation was discussed at length with residents in the canyon.
William Urquhart, for twenty-one years a track-watchman for the Canadian Pacific Railway,
aud resident at Spuzzum, stated, on August 20th, that sockeye were seen in the river there in
June of this year. The number greatly increased by the latter part of July. In his judgment
there had been more fish in August than he had seen in twenty years. He recalled that some
twenty years ago, a few years after he had located there, there was a similar glut of sockeye;
that there were always large numbers of fish in the canyon below Hell's Gate in the years of
the big run, but on that occasion only had he observed them in any such numbers as this year.
He expressed the opinion that they were held back at Hell's Gate because the passage-way at
that point was too narrow to permit of all passing at the same time, but believed that eventually
all would get through, since they had always done so. He further stated that in the years of
a big run the sockeye always ascended the Spuzzum to the railroad-bridge and rested there
until " the jam at Hell's Gate was over," and that he had never seen sockeye spawn in the
Spuzzum until very late in the season, and then only in limited numbers and in the big years.
James Paul, the Chief of the Indians at the Spuzzum Reservation, wtio resides at the mouth
of the Spuzzum, stated, on sVugust 20th. that sockeye were massed in the river between Hell's
Gate and the Spuzzum in August and September of every year of a big run. That this year
the Indians began to catch sockeye in June, and had caught all they desired by the middle of
July. The fish began massing in the Fraser this year in July, and their numbers had been
increasing ever since. Without being told of Mr. Urquhart's statement, he remarked that he
had " on only one other year ever known so many to be in the river as at that time, and that
was many years ago." When pressed to state the number of years he said it was fifteen or
twenty. He also stated that in the years of the big run sockeye always entered the lagoon at
the mouth of the Spuzzum and filled the stream up to the railroad-bridge, and that only the
very late-running sockeye spawned there, and their number was limited; and that at no time
had he ever noticed large numbers of dead sockeye in the Spuzzum, and that in the humpback
years the latter always spawned there in large numbers.
Henry James, another intelligent Indian residing at the mouth of the Spuzzum. agreed
with the statements made by his chief, remarking that " all the old Indians remember only one
other year, many many years ago, when the salmon had been so thick as this year."
Edward Farr, masonry inspector for the Canadian Pacific Railway, who has been in charge
of the plant at Camp 16, Hell's Gate, for many years, on August 21st gave it as his opinion that
the conditions this year were unusual even for a big year, that there were at that time greater
numbers of sockeye for miles below Hell's Gate than he had seen there at any other time, and
that he believed that there were fewer gettiug»by Hell's Gate than in former years. His attention being called to the rock which had been thrown into the channel immediately above Hell's
Gate, due to the construction-work of the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway in the fall and
winter of 1912 and 1913, he stated that the rock had almost entirely filled up the bay above the
Gate, which in former years had been of material assistance as a resting-place for salmon which
passed through the swift waters on that side. He further stated that by the filling-in of the
bay the channel of the river just above Hell's Gate had been considerably contracted, and the
currents on the right bank had been changed and made so much more rapid than formerly that
sockeye could no longer pass on that side of Hell's Gate, where in former years the major
portion of the run had passed. He agreed with all other residents interviewed by stating that
in every year of the big run sockeye were massed below Hell's Gate in great numbers; that
they had always had difficulty in passing through; but he was strongly of the opinion that
conditions had been changed very materially, not only at Hell's Gate, but at the Scuzzy Rapids,
and that the number of fish then below the Gate was far greater than he had seen there before. He had never seen the fish lingering in great numbers below the Scuzzy until this year. In
former years, he said, the Scuzzy Rapids had not been a serious obstacle to the ascending salmon,
and that he had never before seen them congregated there in such numbers.
D. Creighton, carpenter, and Thomas Flann, foreman, at Camp 16, expressed the opinion that
the number of salmon in the canyon in August this year was greatly in excess of those ever
seen there before, and that while the rock thrown into the river last winter had added greatly
to the difficulty of the passage at Hell's Gate, they believed that all would pass through in time.
I also spent several days in the canyon during the last week in August. The number of
fish observed then, both above and below Hell's Gate, had apparently not diminished, although
the water was falling rapidly and the passage at Hell's Gate was apparently less difficult. In
the eddies and quiet stretches the sockeye were still circling in a helpless kind of way, being
quite different from the actions of any sockeye I had ever seen in the Fraser in former years.
Learning that there had been little change in conditions at Seton or Adams Lakes, and that
only a very limited number of fish were reaching there, I wired to agents at Quesnel and
Chilcotin for information, and on August 26th received replies that sockeye had been running
in both the Quesnel and Chilcotin Rivers in great numbers for some days, even as great as in
former big years. This information apparently confirmed the opinion that a sub-surface passage
existed at the Scuzzy Rapids through which the salmon were passing. So, notwithstanding our
continued failure to find sockeye immediately above the rapids, and while none were entering
either Seton or Shuswap Lakes, w7e were impelled to the conclusion that there was a steady
up-stream movement in the Fraser which could not be observed owing to the discoloured water.
Mr. Mclntyre and myself then proceeded to Quesnel and Chilko Lakes to investigate conditions
On September 4th we left Ashcroft for Quesnel Lake, reaching the dam at the outlet on
the 7th, and were informed by James Moore, the Department's watchman at the dam, that the
first sockeye made their appearance there on August Sth, and that less than one hundred were
noted up to August 15th, at which time a steady run began and continued up to September Sth.
The run then ceased, and only a few were noticed entering the fishway at the time we reached
Mr. Moore recorded his daily count of the number going through the fishway, and during
the period mentioned it appears that 552,960 sockeye entered Quesnel Lake. Further observations at Quesnel Lake are referred to later under the heading " Conditions at Quesnel Lake."
Satisfied that the number of sockeye which had entered the lake was very much less than
that which reached there in 1905 and 1909, we passed over to the Chilcotin River, arriving there
on September 10th.
On visiting the three principal points where the Chilcotin Indians catch and smoke their
supply of salmon, we were told that the run of sockeye began at " Fish Canyon," just below
Risky Creek Post-office, on August 10th; that they ran in considerable numbers up to August
15th, when there was a great increase. This continued up to the 20th, when their number
diminished, and suddenly stopped altogether on the 29th. Between August 15th and 27th the
Indians at Fish Canyon caught approximately 700 per day. They reported that a few thousand
sockeye passed through the canyon between September 4th and 7th, and that none had been
From statements of the Indians it appears ttiat they had caught and smoked about 25,000
sockeye at all their camps, which is slightly above the average for the last three years.
From Indian Bridge we passed up the Chilko River to Chilko Lake. The Indians at the
canyon called " The Hole," and those at the outlet of Chilko Lake, reported that the run had
been very light for a big year, and because of that fact and the high water they had caught less
than last year. We saw very few fish in the river, many less than last year. Along stretches
of the river near its head, where in 1909 many thousands of sockeye were observed, none were
seen this year.
Being now fully satisfied that the conditions in the canyon at Hell's Gate was the cause
of so light a run to Quesnel and Chilko, we abandoned trips to the extreme headwaters of the
Fraser, including Fort George, Stuart, Fraser, and Bear Lakes, and hastened back to the canyon
at Hell's Gate. On reaching there on September 18th, we found little change in the conditions
existing there when we left on September Srd. The eddies and quiet stretches of the river 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 25
from the Scuzzy Rapids to the Spuzzum were still filled with vast numbers of milling sockeye
and humpbacks. There appeared to be no decrease in the number of the former, but an increase
in the number of the latter. The water had lowered some 15 feet. We observed a few sockeye
in the eddies just above the right bank of the Scuzzy Rapids, showing that the falling water
.had improved conditions for the ascending fish on that side of the channel. The water had
fallen some 15 feet; the great masses of rock projecting into the channel from the left bank
.appeared to be a more formidable obstacle to the ascent of the salmon than in August. We
then abandoned the idea of the existence of a sub-surface passage on that side of the Scuzzy
Rapids, and concluded that without the removal of the rocks, or the construction of passageways around and back of them, but few fish would succeed in passing. We also concluded that
it was possible by the use of explosives to open a temporary channel at the Scuzzy through
which numbers could pass; also that the channel immediately above Hell's Gate could be made
much easier for the struggling fish in fighting their way through the Gate. At this time it was
not evident that the passage of the fish was seriously affected at China Bar or White's Creek.
The obstructions there did not develop until later. Upon reaching these conclusions, Mr. Mclntyre
left for Victoria and laid the situation before you, whereupon the Hon. J. D. Hazen, Minister of
Marine and Fisheries, Ottawa, was acquainted of the serious nature of the situation and the
necessity for immediate action, and the assignment of engineers to undertake the work was
recommended. Mr. Hazen at once instructed his Chief Inspector of Fisheries in the Province,
Mr. F. H. Cunningham, and the Department's Engineer, Mr. Wilby. to confer with your officials
and make an immediate investigation, and take the necessary steps to relieve the situation.
Following conferences with yourself, Messrs. Cunningham and Wilby representing the
Dominion, and Mr. G. P. Napier, Assistant Engineer of the Provincial Works Department,
met me at North Bend on September 27th. After an inspection of conditions at the Scuzzy
Rapids and Hell's Gate, and a discussion of measures to raise the blockade, it was decided
to attempt to open passages at the wing-dams in the Scuzzy and in the channel on the left
bank above Hell's Gate. Mr. Cunningham placed the work in the hands of Mr. Wilby. With
men, tools, and powder furnished by Mr. Cottrell, Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway, from his force at Camp 16, Mr. Wilby immediately began blasting out channels at the
Scuzzy and above Hell's Gate. He was successful in opening a passage-way back of the wingdam, at the left bank of the Scuzzy Rapids, on the night of September 2Sth, and in considerably
improving conditions at Hell's Gate. I returned to the canyon on October 1st, and observed
that through the passage-way which Mr. Wilby had opened at this point the sockeye were
passing to quiet waters above at the rate of 100 per minute. Sockeye were also in evidence
in the eddies just above the rapids on the left bank. A steady stream were coming up that
side of the Fraser from the basin below the rapids. Similar channels had been opened above
Hell's Gate, so that larger numbers were passing up-stream at that point than at any time this
Mr. Wilby left on the night of October 1st for Victoria, leaving the work in charge of an
Indian, and I returned to the Coast.
On returning to the canyon on October 10th, I was informed by the Indian who had been
left in charge by Mr. Wilby that the passage-way at the Scuzzy had been used by the salmon
up to the afternoon of October 6th, when the water fell so low that the artificial channels became
dry. No salmon, therefore, had been able to pass above the rapids since that time. When
questioned as to why he had not opened a new channel or communicated with Mr. Wilby, the
Indian replied that the Canadian Pacific Railway men had returned with their tools to their
usual work, and that he had not notified Mr. Wilby because he had expected every day that
some one in authority would come up. Upon investigation it was found that conditions at
both the Scuzzy and Hell's Gate were as unfavourable as they had been at any time during
the season, and that apparently no fish were ascending along the left bank at the Scuzzy.
I at once secured men and materials from the Canadian Pacific Railway force at Camp 16,
and the work of blasting out new passage-ways began. Mr. Napier was summoned, reaching
there on the night of the 11th. He at once assumed charge, and had a passage-way open at
the Scuzzy Rapids on the 12th through which sockeye were passing at the rate of seventy per
minute. He used Canadian Pacific Railway workmen pending the arrival of a force of rock-
workers from the Works Department at Lytton, which he established in a camp at Hell's Gate
within two days after his arrival. R 26 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
During the following two weeks Mr. Napier remained in the canyon studying the situation
and directing the work of opening passage-ways for the salmon. He was assisted by Provincial
Inspector of Fisheries Hickman aud Road Superintendent Sutherland and rock-workers from
the latter's district. Having planned the work at all points, Mr. Napier was called to important
work elsewhere and left Inspector Hickman in charge. He returned, however, to the canyon
every week until the end of the run, and saw that the work there at all times was executed in
accordance with his plans. In his report he states that, upon assuming charge on October 12th,
he directed his first efforts to opening up channels at the Scuzzy Rapids, as a considerable
number of sockeye were blocked there. He then improved the passages at Hell's Gate and
China Bar. On October 17th, noticing a very marked decrease in the number of sockeye below
Hell's Gate (the run had almost ceased), he directed Inspector Hickman to examine the river-
chauuel below, which resulted in the discovery of a serious rock-slide obstruction at White's
Creek, some two miles below Hell's Gate (see Plate No. 13), which had become visible by the lowering of the water. Passage-ways were at once opened there and the fish enabled to proceed up the
river. By the 22nd, passage-ways were opened at all the points mentioned and were maintained
until the end of the run in December. In all, some 2,000 cubic yards of rock were removed at
a cost of $1,500. Pursuant to an understanding with Chief Inspector of Fisheries Cunningham,
the work was financed by the Fisheries Department of the Dominion Government.
Mr. Napier's report is accompanied by sketch-plans and many excellent photographs, which
show in detail the character and extent of the material which was thrown into the river-channel
during the construction of the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, which so seriously interfered
with the ascent of the salmon. His report will afford interesting reading to those interested
in the situation, and will be found in the Appendix of the Department's report for the year.
It is therefore unnecessary for me to say more as to the nature or extent of the obstructions,
or the measures taken this season, or to be taken hereafter, to enable future runs of salmon
to pass unhindered through the canyon.
The success of Mr. Napier's work is unquestioned. It enabled many thousands of sockeye
to pass through the canyon which otherwise would have perished. Inspector Hickman kept a
daily record of the sockeye passing through the channels opened on the left bank at the Scuzzy
Rapids, which showed that 828,000 sockeye passed during October, 412.000 in November, and
9,600 in December, a total of 1,249,600. In addition to this number, a considerable number of
sockeye were passing up the right bank of the rapid at the same time. It has already been
stated that few or no fish appeared to be able to ascend ou the right bank of the Scuzzy in
August and early September. Because of the lowering of the water, by the last of September
the currents there became less violent, and the exposed rock wall offered much better shelter
to the ascending fish, so that large numbers were enabled to pass to quiet waters above.
Inspector Hickman estimates that after the channel w7as opened on the left bank the greatest
number passed on that side. As conditions improved at the Scuzzy Rapids the number of
sockeye in the bay below gradually diminished. Throughout October and November fresh-
run fish reached there daily. The run ceased early in December. While unquestionably large
numbers of sockeye passed through the canyon during October and November, a great many
that reached there did not do so.
I made repeated trips to the canyon and-the river-channels below Yale in October and
November. The number of sockeye observed drifting down-stream at all the rapids below Hell's
Gate was even more pronounced in October than in September. Possibly the clearing of the
water and the decreasing volume made the movement more apparent than during the high
water of August and September. Beginning with October, the large schools of milling sockeye
seen in the eddies in the canyon gradually faded away. Throughout October large numbers
of sockeye remained in the lagoon at the mouth of the Spuzzum, and in that creek's channel
for a mile above. A considerable number spawned there in November. The fish in the canyon
in October were noticeably different in colour from those seen there iu August and September.
They were far more highly coloured, especially the males. Many ripe fish were noted in
Officers from the Harrison Lake Hatchery began the collection of sockeye-eggs in the canyon
at China Bar on November 14th. Operations were continued there and in the bay at the foot
of the Scuzzy until December Sth. The eggs collected for the season totalled 22,256,000. The
first eggs taken were forwarded to Harrison Lake Hatchery. In all, 17,256,000 were shipped 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 27
there, and the rest, 5,000,000, were sent to the hatchery at Shuswap Lake. This is the first
season that eggs have been collected in the canyon. The fish from which the eggs were taken
were fully mature. They were making no effort to spawn or pass farther up-stream, but were
simply lingering in the less rapid currents aud eddies. The eggs were easily expressed; the
percentage of fertilization was up to the average at any of the usual egg-collecting stations,
and the loss in the hatcheries no greater.
Conditions below the Canyon.
During the time of Mr. Mclntyre's absence in consultation with you, I, on September 25th,
26th, and 27th, inspected the river-channel and the tributary streams of the Fraser from Hell's
Gate to Agassiz Landing, a distance of sixty miles. Every tributary stream from Hell's Gate
to Ruby Creek (including the Spuzzum, Yale, Gordon, Mears, American, Coquihalla, and Silver
Creeks) was filled with living and dead sockeye and living humpbacks. Of the sockeye seen,
none were spawning and the many dead examined were found to have died before maturity.
Both eggs and milt were hard and apparently weeks from maturity. There were few dead
humpbacks in any of the streams, although some were spawning.
From Hell's Gate to the Spuzzum, a distance of eight miles, the surface of every eddy and
quiet stretch of river was covered with milling sockeye and humpbacks. There was a steady
up-stream movement close to each shore of both sockeye and humpbacks, the majority being
sockeye. At all the rapids some fish were being swept down-stream. The up-stream movement,
however, was apparently greatest.
The waters of the lagoon at the mouth of the Spuzzum were literally filled with sockeye,
and the stream itself was also crowded for the mile and a half of its length to the falls, which
are impassable to fish. At all the riffles in the creek there was a steady movement of sockeye
both up and down stream. In the eddies and quiet stretches the majority of the fish were lying
motionless, but headed up-stream. Those in the lagoon at the mouth were not milling as were
those in the eddies of the. Fraser proper, but they too were headed to the mild current and
Because of the clear water in the Spuzzum and in the lagoon at its mouth, the fish could
be distinctly seen, while in the discoloured waters of the Fraser only the fish which showed
themselves on the surface could be seen. The unusual massing of the sockeye in the Fraser
and the Spuzzum is clearly and comprehensively shown by my photographs reproduced in the
report of the Commissioner. These photographs have been reproduced without any retouching
of the negatives.
For a mile below the Spuzzum there was little change. The surface of the water was
covered with milling fish, and there was a steady up-stream movement at all the rapids. Many
thousands were seen along both banks as far down as Yale. The channel widens greatly just
above Yale and the current is less rapid. From that point to Hope, a distance of fourteen miles,
comparatively few sockeye were found milling in the eddies and no up-stream or down-stream
movement was observed. From Hope to Agassiz Landing, a distance of nineteen miles, none
were found milling in any of the eddies.
Few of the bars in the river-channel between Yale and Hope showed above water at this
time, where dead and dying sockeye would ordinarily be stranded, but such as were exposed
were covered with sockeye which had died without spawning. Many dead sockeye were lodged
along the shelving shores wherever the water was at all slack, and their dead bodies were also
seen hanging from every snag. There were many shelving gravel-bars in the numerous channels
of the Fraser between Hope and Agassiz Landing on which vast numbers of dead sockeye were
found. It was a condition commonly witnessed in the extreme upper stretches of the Fraser
following the spawning in the years of a big run. except that all of the many dead fish examined
were found to have died without spawning. Their fins were not worn, the jaws of the males
were less distorted, their bodies had not taken on the deep-red colour that characterizes their
maturity, and there were no marks to indicate the cause of their death. In addition to the
dead which covered the bars and those found in the slack water along the shore, a considerable
number of living sockeye were seen drifting down-stream which made no effort to stem the
current, and were apparently helpless. Many were not even headed up-stream, but were drifting
down broadside on. Some were so near to the boat that they could be touched with a pole, and
few of these had energy enough to move away from it. R 28 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
From Hope to Ruby Creek, and for some miles below the latter, the air was foul with the
stench arising from the dead fish that covered the exposed parts of the river. The shelving
bars and banks were covered with great numbers of sea-gulls and crows feeding on the eyes of
the dead sockeye, which rose lazily upon our approach. There was no evidence to show that
they were eating any other part of the fish, and in many cases we observed that only one eye
had been taken. The dead sockeye were so numerous that the appetite of the birds, numerous
as they were, was satisfied without turning over the bodies to obtain the other eye.
I again visited this section two weeks later. The lowering of the water had exposed
additional bars. I found even greater numbers of dead sockeye than before, and further
examination showed that all had died -without spawning. In fact, in no instance was a dead
sockeye found that had spawned. On this second visit I found that there were less living
sockeye in all the streams below Yale, but the dead were as numerous on the bars as before.
All the streams below the Spuzzum contained spawning and dead humpbacks. The majority of
the dead humpbacks examined had spawned.
The Superintendent of the Seton Lake Hatchery, who was detailed to visit all the streams
from the Spuzzum to Hope and report upon the condition of the fish, did so between September
29th and October 2nd, and reported that he found great numbers of sockeye and humpbacks in
all the streams. He caught and examined many sockeye from each stream. In the Spuzzum
he found less than one-tenth of the females sufficiently matured to express their eggs, and that
there were twenty females to one male. The majority of the males examined contained ripe
milt. He found large numbers of dead sockeye near the mouths of all the rivers, all of which
had died without spawning. Dead sockeye w7ere more numerous at the mouths of Gordon and
American Creeks, and the Coquihalla, below Yale, than at the Spuzzum, ten miles above Yale.
He found no mature female sockeye in any of the streams below the Spuzzum. There were
large numbers of humpbacks in all these streams, many of which w7ere spawning. He found
no humpbacks that had died without spawning.
Edward Farr, masonry inspector for the Canadian Pacific Railway, states that he had
inspected every bridge and culvert on the line of that road between North Bend and Ruby Creek
every fall in September for twenty years. He made his usual inspection this year, visiting the
railroad-crossing of all streams between North Bend and Yale on September 22nd, and from Yale
to Ruby Creek on September 23rd. He found every one of the streams literally filled with
sockeye and humpbacks, the majority being sockeye. He further states that it was the first
time he had even- seen sockeye in any of the streams south of the Spuzzum; that humpback
salmon entered all these streams in the years in which they run, but that he had never seen
any sockeye there in former years.
I passed up and down the Fraser on the Canadian Pacific Railway trains many times in
October and November, and on every occasion observed large numbers of dead sockeye on all
the stretches of the river-channel which were exposed to view between Agassiz and Hope.
On again interviewing William Urquhart, of Spuzzum, on December 3rd, he stated that
there were more sockeye in the river in the canyon there this year than he had ever seen in
any former year, and that he had never seen so many dead along the shores. He further stated
that the sockeye had been more numerous in the Spuzzum this season, and had remained there
longer than in any former year of the twenty-two he had lived there. He expressed the opinion
that large numbers of sockeye had been unable to get through Hell's Gate, and referred to the
large numbers of dead sockeye observed along the river-channel as proof of the fact.
Chief Paul, at the Spuzzum Reservation, also stated, on December 3rd, that he had never
seen so many dead sockeye along the banks of the river and in the lagoon at the mouth of
the Spuzzum in any former year as were noticed there in October and November of this year.
He further stated that there were more sockeye in the river this season than he had ever seen
there in any former season.
Fisheries Inspector Hickman visited the Spuzzum and all the creeks between Yale and
Ruby Creek between December 3rd and 7th. He reports having found numbers of sockeye
spawning in the Spuzzum on December 3rd, and that their eggs were observed on the gravel-
beds of that stream, and that most of the eggs were dead. The majority of the dead sockeye
examined had spawned previous to death.
Mr. Hickman found numbers of sockeye spawning in Yale Creek on December 4th. and was
told by Leonard Dodd. Government Agent at Yale, that he had never known so many sockeye 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 29
to enter Yale Creek as were seen there this year from September to December, and that there
were more dead sockeye along the river-bank in September, October, and November than he had
ever seen there in any previous year.
Indians at Yale told Mr. Hickman that there were more sockeye in the eddies of the Fraser,
both above the mouth of the canyon at Yale and below there, this year, than they had ever seen
before, and that they had never known them to die there in any such number.
Mr. Hickman visited American Creek, above Hope, on December Sth, and found many dead
and living sockeye in the stream and at its mouth. The living were not spawning and the dead
On visiting the Coquihalla on December 6th, Mr. Hickman found spawning sockeye numerous
at the mouth of the river, and great numbers of dead sockeye there, and also on the exposed
bed of the river and In the sloughs for some miles upward. Large numbers of salmon-eggs were
also exposed, most of which were dead.
Indians at the mouth of the Coquihalla and on the reservation below Yale stated that there
were more dead sockeye along the river throughout the fall than they had ever seen there before.
They attributed the large number of dead to the great number of sockeye which had remained
there all this season.
Dad Yates, who has resided at Hope for sixty years, stated that he had never seen so many
living and dead sockeye in the Fraser as were noted there this season. He says: " The run was
exceptionally large, and the dead far more numerous than in any former big year." Many other
old residents of Hope confirmed his statements.
CONDITIONS IN THE FRASER ABOVE THE SCUZZY RAPIDS.
At the Canyon in the Fraser above Lillooet.
Indians began catching sockeye in the Fraser at Lillooet Bridge and in the canyon above
the mouth of Bridge River early in July this year. At no time in July or August did they catch
more than they consumed or disposed of locally. Their catch in these months did not equal
their catch in the same months last year.
During July, August, and September the water in the canyon above Bridge River was higher
than in many years, so that the rapids there, through which the fish had such difficulty in
passing last year, were not in evidence. The water was 21 feet higher in September this year
than last year, and covered all the rocks in the channel; consequently the fish which reached
there had no difficulty in passing. At no time until October w7ere sockeye in any considerable
numbers congregated there. No humpbacks were seen in the canyon this year.
The Superintendent of the Seton Lake Hatchery visited the canyon many times during the
season to note conditions, and we together made trips there in September, October, and November.
It will be recalled that the Indians from Bridge River annually take and dry salmon at the right
bank of the canyon, and Indians from the Clinton Section operate on the left bank. Indians
from both sections establish large camps there every year of the big run. They made camps
there this year in August. The Superintendent visited their camps on September Sth and
counted but 138 sockeye drying over the fires under their smoke-frames. On September 12th
conditions were unchanged. On September 15th sockeye were passing, and the Indians were
catching what they wanted. On the 17th the sockeye on the Indians' drying-frames on the right
bank were counted, and totalled 3,000, and the Indians on the left bank apparently had half that
number, and fish were numerous in the eddies below the rapids. The run ceased on the 20th,
and the sockeye were not again in evidence there until the last of October. Throughout the
latter part of that month and during December they were never numerous, although the river
had fallen to within 10 feet of the low-water mark of last year. The Superintendent estimates
that the Indians in the canyon caught and dried less sockeye this year than in 1912, and that
their catch this year did not exceed 10,000.
In both 1905 and 1909 great numbers of sockeye were observed passing through the canyon
throughout August, September, and October, and the Indians took all they desired in the month
of August in both 1905 and 1909. Humpbacks were observed there in large numbers in both
At no time this year were sockeye or humpbacks in evidence in any section of the Fraser
between Lytton and Lillooet. The Indians along the river there caught less fish than last year. R 30 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Several Indians who live on the right bank of the river above Lytton went down into the canyon
at Hell's Gate and caught and dried salmon there, because they were unable to catch them at
their usual fishing-stations near their homes.
Conditions in the Thompson River.
At no time during the past season were considerable numbers of sockeye observed in the
Thompson River from the mouth at Lytton to Shuswap Lake, and no humpback salmon reached
there this year. During the great sockeye runs of both 1905 and 1909, I passed up and down
the Thompson at various times from July to November, and for weeks at a time, in both years,
vast numbers of sockeye were noticed ascending the stream. The track of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, as is well known, is close to the left bank of the river. The stream is in full view all
the way, and the water being quite clear the movements of any considerable number of sockeye
can be clearly seen from the trains which pass over the road during daylight.
During late July and all of August and September of 1901 there was a continuous stream
of sockeye passing up the Thompson River that filled every tributary of Shuswap and Adams
Lakes, and large numbers passed up the North Thompson River also.
There was a heavy run of humpback salmon up the Thompson in September and October
of 1901. There was no run of sockeye up the Thompson in October or November of that year,
though the run up the Fraser to Seton Lake was large in both these months. The hatchery at
Salmon Arm was filled to its capacity of 10,000,000 of sockeye-eggs in August and September
In July aud August, 1905, there was a steady stream of sockeye passing up the Thompson
which was plainly to be seen from the Canadian Pacific Railway trains. During the month of
October and early in November. 1905, vast numbers of sockeye were seen passing up that river;
and the run of humpback was heavy in September and early October.
In the Department's report for 1905, David Mitchell, the Superintendent of the Dominion
hatchery on Shuswap Lake, is quoted as expressing the view that the number of sockeye which
reached Shuswap Lake in October of that year equalled the great run that came in August.
Every stream tributary to Shuswap was crowded with sockeye throughout the summer and fall
of 1905. Eighteen millions of sockeye-eggs were collected there that fall.
The run of sockeye up the Thompson in 1909 was believed to have been as great as in 1905.
In 1909, as in 1905, a steady stream of sockeye were noted passing up the Thbmpson in August
and September, and the run was pronounced during October and the early part of November.
Twenty-seven millions of sockeye-eggs were taken at Shuswap Lake between August 26th and
September 13th in 1909.
Edward Farr, masonry inspector of the Canadian Pacific Railway, hereinbefore quoted as
to conditions at and below Hell's Gate, has for twenty-one years inspected, every fall, all the
bridges and culverts of the railway along the Thompson River. This year he inspected all
stream-crossings between Kamloops Lake and Ashcroft on September 17th; Ashcroft to Spences
Bridge on September 18th; from Spences Bridge to Lytton on September 19th; and from Lytton
to North Bend on September 20th; and he informed me that he did not see a single sockeye or
humpback in any of the streams or in the Thompson proper at this time. Being familiar with
conditions in the canyon below, he gave particular attention to conditions at the crossings. He
was told by many section foremen that there had been but few7 sockeye in the Thompson up to
that time this year, and that the Indians had caught less than last year, and that they had seen
no humback salmon.
Mr. Farr further stated that during his inspection of these same waters in September of
1901, 1905, and 1909, he had seen thousands'and thousands of both sockeye and humpback at
every point. He had always found a few sockeye even in the years of poor runs.
I passed up the Thompson on August 3rd and returned on August Sth of this year, and
could see no salmon in the river. There were very few to be seen hanging on the drying-frames
of the Indians along the river, and where in both 190S and 1909 many thousands were to be
seen. Mr. Mclntyre accompanied me up the Thompson again on September 3rd, during the
daytime. We came down the river on the morning of the 19th, and again were unable to see
any sockeye in the river. The few fish noted on the Indians' drying-frames in August had been
removed and the frames were empty. 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 31
I again passed up the river on September 22nd and came dowm on the 25th, and saw no
salmon in the river, but on the latter date I saw7 Indians near Thompson Siding catching sockeye,
and there were a few hundred fish on their drying-frames at that point and at two points below.
I was told by Nicola and Thompson River Indians, whom we found catching and drying salmon
below the Scuzzy and Hell's Gate the last of September, that there had been so few salmon in
the Thompson this year up to that time that they could not catch more than enough to supply
their daily demands, and that upon learning that there were great numbers of salmon at Hell's
Gate they had come down there with their families and were then engaged in catching and
drying their winter supply. They further stated that there had been less sockeye in the
Thompson this year up to the time they left than last year, and that this was the first time
within the recollection of even the oldest Indians that there had not been many more sockeye
in the Thompson River in the year of the " big run " than they could care for. They said that
they had seen no humpbacks in the Thompson this year.
While the major portion of the run of sockeye which passed through the Scuzzy Rapids
after the channels were opened there in October appear to have passed up the Thompson River,
and the Indians along the river between Lytton and Kamloops caught a sufficient number to fill
their drying-frames, at no time was the run in the river so great as to attract attention from
(For further particulars regarding the run to the Thompson this year, see reports as to
conditions at Shuswap and Adams Lakes.)
CONDITIONS ON THE SPAWNING-GROUNDS.
The number of sockeye salmon which reached Quesnel Lake this year was so much less than
in 1901, 1905, or 1909 as to clearly indicate some unusual condition. It will be recalled that in
my report for that year it w7as stated that the run to Quesnel Lake in 1001 was very large, and
that owing to the failure to provide a fishway at the great dam constructed at the outlet of the
lake in 1898, the fish were unable to enter the lake and died before spawning in the river below
the dam. For this reason the vast spawning-beds of the lake and its tributaries were unseeded
that year. The pack of 1905 was 500,000 eases less than that of 1901, which has commonly been
attributed to the failure to seed the beds of the Quesnel in the latter year.
In 1905 several millions of sockeye unquestionably entered Quesnel Lake through the fishway
built a year or two before by the Provincial Government, so that the large spawning area of the
lake was abundantly seeded that year.
The run of sockeye to the lake in 1909 was stated, by men long resident at the outlet, to
have exceeded that of any former year. The Department's report for that year contained a
description of the dam and fishway at the outlet of Quesnel Lake and the method used to
determine the number of sockeye which passed through it and entered the lake, which is quoted
here for comparison with a similar record kept this season:—
" A dam has been constructed at the outlet of the lake, and at its north end is a raceway
124 feet wide by 430 feet in length, with a fall of only 6 inches in its entire length. At the head
of the raceway there are nine 12-foot discharge-gates. All the water flowing from the lake passes
through these gates into the raceway, varying in depth according to the season, and with a
velocity never less than 12 to 14 feet per second. From July to October the depth is from
4 to 6 feet. A fishway has been constructed in the race, built of hewn timbers running parallel
with and 26 feet from the eastern wall. On the floor of the raceway between these two walls,
at each 25 feet of its entire length, are placed timbers 2 feet high extending from each wall
upward and at an angle of 45 degrees, and meeting in the centre they constitute a cross-wall
which retards the flow of water and causes a series of counter-currents which permit the fish
to pass easily through it and into the quiet w7aters of the lake above. All the salmon which
enter the lake pass through this fishway, and as the w7aters are clear, and at the head perfectly
placid, the fish entering can be distinctly seen by one stationed there. Every season since its
construction this Department has placed a watchman at the dam during the salmon run to
prevent any one catching them in or below the fishway, and to note size and duration of the
run. The watchman placed there this year recorded his observations daily. Many times during
each day he sat at the- head of the fishway and counted for ten consecutive minutes the number R 32
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
of sockeye which entered the lake. The figures given indicate the average for each day and
are based upon an actual count of the fish passing into the lake for a given number of minutes
at a time. No count was made at night, but the movement of fish was observed by means of
artificial lights. The record is approximately correct, though for many days the fish entered
the lake in such numbers that, as the watchman says in his report, ' it was impossible to count
more than half of them, and then only by bunching them as they entered.' The figures given
per minute are for the fish actually counted or ' bunched,' and the latter are in the record
marked with an asterisk. The number which entered the lake on those days was far greater
than the figures indicate.
Record of the Approximate Number
of Sockeye Salmon which entered Quesnel Lake during
Total for month
* Many less than number running. Too thick to count."
Following is the record of the number of sockeye passing through the fishway this year, as
recorded by James Moore, the Department's watchman :—
* First salmon noticed. 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 33
These records show that over 4,000,000 sockeye passed through the fishway and entered
Quesnel Lake in 1909, and 552,000 this year.
Mr. Mclntyre and myself reached Quesnel Lake on September 7th, just as the last of the
run of sockeye was passing into the lake. By means of a launch we passed around the lake,
visiting all its tributaries. As in former years, the major portion of the run into Quesnel Lake
appears to have entered the Horsefly River and to have spawned in that stream and in the lake
at its source. The number which entered and spawned in Mitchell River was also large.
The number of sockeye which sought entrance to Chilko Lake this year did not nearly equal
the number which ran there in 1905 or 1909, and apparently w7as not much greater than last
year, when the run was the largest in any " off-year " of which we have a record.
Sockeye en route to Chilko Lake pass from the Fraser River into the Chilcotin River, and
thence through the headwaters of that stream, which are known as the Chilko River. Mr.
Mclntyre and myself reached the Chilcotin River on September 10th, and passed up that stream
and the Chilko River and reached the lake on the 14th. This was my eighth annual visit to this
section and the third made during the run of a big year.
Through my visits there I have grown more or less acquainted with the chiefs of the
Chilcotin Tribe, as well as with a number of their men who have acted as guides and assistants.
I regard the Chilcotin Indians as the most intelligent tribe in the watershed of the Fraser.
These people recognize, as do all familiar with the run of sockeye to the Fraser, that there is
a phenomenally large run every fourth year. During the week spent there this year I talked
with many of these Indians, who remarked that the run had been light and of short duration
for a year of a big run, and asked me to account for so unusual a condition. They stated also
that within the recollection of the oldest in the tribe the run this year was much smaller than
in any former big year, and that at their principal fishing-stations they had taken no more fish
than last year.
The roads and trails leading to Chilko Lake pass close to the river at many points. The
water above the mouth of the Whitewater River, which enters the Chilko River from the east
some thirty miles below the lake, is so clear that salmon can be easily distinguished, and particularly so after they have taken on the brilliant red colour which marks their maturity. In
passing up the river in 1905 and 1909, vast numbers of sockeye were observed in every stretch
of the clear waters under observation. In the latter year the bed of the river for ten miles
below the lake was entirely covered with salmon. I have never seen such numbers of salmon
assembled in an unobstructed stream as I saw there in 1909. in point of numbers they equalled
those seen in the Fraser for a mile below Hell's Gate in August and September of this year.
Few salmon were in evidence in any stretch of the Chilko River this year. Only three families
of Chilcotin Indians were fishing on the Chilko River near the outlet of the lake. They had
few fish on their drying-frames, and stated that they had netted less fish this season than last.
On August 1st Indians began catching sockeye in the Chilcotin River at " Fish Canyon," a
few miles above its junction with the Fraser. They caught but few fish up to the 10th, when
the run became pronounced, and continued so until it ceased on the 28th. It was at its height
on the 20th. Between August 15th and 27th the Indians at Fish Canyon averaged 700 per day.
Between September 4th and 7th a few thousand fish were reported to have passed through Fish
Canyon. There was no later run. The high water in the Chilcotin River in August and
September was chiefly responsible for the few salmon caught by the Indians at their fishing-
station below Hanceville. Most of the Indians from the Anaham Reservation fished at Fish
Canyon and at Indian Bridge on the Chilko River, the majority at the former. Based upon
counting the fish on their drying-frames, we estimated that the total catch at all points this
year did not exceed 25,000 fish. In 1905 and 1909 I estimated in the same manner the number
of sockeye hanging on the drying-frames at Fish Canyon, Hanceville, and Indian Bridge at
The Run to the Fraser River. Watershed, above the Mouth of the Quesnel River.
After visiting Quesnel and Chilko Lakes and becoming convinced that the number of salmon
which reached them was far less than in former big years, and that the decrease in their number
3 R 34 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
was occasioned by existing conditions in the canyon above Yale, Mr. Mclntyre and myself decided
to return to the canyon without visiting Fraser and Stuart Lakes and the South Fork of the
Fraser River to note conditions there. I am therefore unable to state from personal observation
the extent of the salmon run to that section. I have, however, been advised by correspondents.
A. C. Murray, Esq., Agent of the Hudson's Bay Company, Fort St. James, Stuart Lake, under
date of December 13th, 1913, writes:—
" The run of sockeye to this section this year was at the best only one-twentieth of that of
former big years. Very few sockeye reached here, while in former big years the tributaries of
Stuart Lake in this vicinity literally were massed w7ith them. While the comparatively small
run was on here last September, the Indians here and on Tremblay Lake and Tatla Lake caught
enough salmon to eat in a fresh state, but not enough to provide for their winter's consumption."
W. Bunting, Esq., Agent, Hudson's Bay Company, Fort Fraser, Fraser Lake, advised me
under date of November 17th, 1913, as follows:—
" The run of sockeye this year did not at all come up to expectation. For a big year it was
a failure. The first failure in a big year recorded here. The previous years of the big runs—
1905 and 1909—were satisfactory, and the Indians caught and cured all they desired. Comparing
the run this year with that of the two former years above mentioned, I think 50 per cent, of
the run of either of these years is a very generous estimate of this year's run. Throughout the
season there was a good stage of water in the lakes and creeks, the average stage at salmon-
time, and no unfavourable conditions at this end of the watershed; simply the salmon did not
reach here in the usual abundance of a big year. The first reached here oil August 8th and the
run lasted only sixteen or eighteen days."
The Dominion Chief Inspector of Fisheries, F. H. Cunningham, informs us that 6,000,000
sockeye-eggs were collected this season from Beaver Creek and Fifteen-mile Creek, tributaries
of Babine Lake, in the watershed of the Skeena, and placed in the Stuart Lake Hatchery. He
further states that the officers in charge of that hatchery report that " there was a small run
of sockeye to Stuart Lake about August 1st. On August 11th a few sockeye were entering
Stuart Lake and were being caught by the Indians at the rate of eight or ten per night."
I am informed by a correspondent at Bear Lake, the source of a tributary of the South
Fork of the Fraser, that the run of sockeye to Bear River and Lake this year was " a big run
as runs go nowadays, though very late in reaching here, and not equal in numbers to the runs
of recent big years."
The completion of the Grand Trunk Railway this coming summer will enable the Department
to make a more thorough' inspection of the spawning-grounds in the extreme northern reaches of
the Fraser watershed than has been possible heretofore.
The number of sockeye which sought entrance to Seton Lake this year was small, so much
smaller than in 190.1, 1905, and 1909 that it cannot be classed with the great runs of those years.
Only a few hundred reached the lake up to the middle of September, and less than 30,000 during
the entire season. The major portion of the run sought entrance to the lake in October and
November, following the blasting of the passage-w7ays in the canyon at the Scuzzy Rapids and
Anticipating that the run of sockeye to Seton and Anderson Lakes this year would be as
large and reach there as early as in former years of the big run, weirs were placed at the head
of Seton Lake, at the mouth of Portage Creek (the stream connecting Seton and Anderson
Lakes), early in sVugust to enable the hatchery attendants to collect eggs there. The first
sockeye were seen there on August 13th, and only about 200 reached there during that month.
On September 1st weirs were placed at the outlet of Seton Lake, in Lake Creek, just above the
hatchery. All the salmon that sought entrance to the lake during the balance of the season
were retained there, and when ripe their eggs -were taken and placed in the hatchery.
Up to the end of September not to exceed 2,000 sockeye entered that weir. The major
portion of the run came in October and the balance in November. Egg-collecting began
September 22nd, and 943,000 sockeye-eggs were taken during the remaining days of that month.
In October 19,070,000 were placed in the hatchery, and 6.527,000 in November, a total for the
season of 26,540,000 eggs. 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 35
In 1905 sockeye-egg collecting was begun on September Sth; 36,000,000 were taken that
month, and 7,800,000 in October, a total for that season of 44,000,000.
In 1909 egg-collecting began on September 3rd, and ended on the 27th of that month, with
a total collection of 30,000,000. Operations were discontinued upon reaching that number,
not from lack of fish, but because it had been demonstrated in 1905 that the capacity of the
hatchery was inadequate to care for a greater number of young fish. The Hatchery Superintendent reported in 1909 that the number of sockeye that reached Seton Lake was so great
that 150,000,000 of eggs could have been taken. The run was much greater than in 1905, and
probably equalled the great run of 1901.
In addition to the number of fish manipulated in both 1905 and 1909, hundreds of thousands
of sockeye entered Seton and Anderson Lakes, resulting in all the natural spawning-beds of
those lakes being crowded w7ith spawning fish. This year these beds were unseeded because
the number of fish which sought entrance to those lakes was insufficient to even produce the
eggs necessary to fill the hatchery.
Notwithstanding the fact that this was a humpback-salmon year, and that in former years
of their runs millions of humpbacks have spawned there, not a single one of that species
reached Seton Lake. The run of humpbacks in both 1909 and 1911 exceeded that of any former
year since the hatchery was built in 1903. Siuce no humpbacks reached any stream north of
the Fraser River Canyon this year, I am convinced that none of the species was able to get
through that canyon.
The run of spring salmon to Seton Lake is never large. It was smaller than usual this
year, notwithstanding large numbers were seen above the blockade at the Scuzzy. There was
no run of cohoe salmon to Seton Lake this year.
Shuswap-Adams Lake Section.
This year's run of sockeye to Shuswap and Adams Lakes and their extended and numerous
tributaries was as disappointing as the run to Chilko, Quesnel, and Seton Lakes. The number
which reached this section in July, August, and September was insignificant compared with the
great runs of 1901, 1905, and 1909. And the number which reached there in October and
November this year, though noteworthy, did not even approximate the run during those months
in either 1905 or 1909.
Throughout the season the run of sockeye to Adams Lake was very small. The Department
stationed Fishery Overseer Fall at the fishway on the dam at the outlet of Adams Lake to test
its efficiency and protect the fish at its approaches, and also to secure a reliable record of the
number of sockeye which entered the lake. He remained until the end of September, but again
visited the lake in November, and ou the day of his arrival saw a. few salmon below the dam.
He was told by the Indians that they had taken but few, and that few had entered the lake
this season. There were no salmon on their drying-frames. Overseer Fall's records show that
he did not count more than 200 fish below the dam on any one day from August ISth to 31st.
The total number recorded for that month was 1,410, and he estimated the number from
September 1st to 24th at 070. He left the dam on the latter date to inspect other tributaries
of Shuswap Lake. Returning to the dam on October 31st, he was told by white residents that
few fish were seen below the dam during the last week in September, and none thereafter until
October 13th. During the week following, however, several hundred per day reached the dam
and entered Adams Lake. He estimates the total number that entered that lake this season at
less than 5,000.
The run of sockeye to Adams Lake in August and September of 1901, 1905, and 1909 was
so great that every tributary of the lake extending to Tumtum Lake, at the head of the watershed, was crowded with spawming sockeye. I visited the headwaters in 1905 and 1909, and
saw countless thousands of dead and spawning fish there. An inspection this year showed
very few salmon on any of the beds.
During October and November this year a considerable number of sockeye spawned in the
lower end of Adams River. For several miles above the river's mouth its waters were filled
with thousands of spawning sockeye from the middle of October until the end of November.
During that period there were more sockeye there than had been in any other stream in the
Shuswap Lake Section this season, with the exception of Little River, the outlet stream of R 36 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Shuswap Lake, and which connects it with Little Shuswap Lake. The gravel-beds of Little
River were thickly crowded with spawning sockeye throughout October and November,- and
apparently as thickly covered as in those months in either 1905' or 1909. The gravel-beds of
Little River do not appear to attract the sockeye of the early run, possibly because of the depth
of water at that period.
Eagle River, which empties into Shuswap Lake near Sicamous Junction, and which is
one of the lake's largest tributaries, was completely filled with spawning sockeye from August
to November in the years 1905 and 1909.
The Eagle, like the Thompson River, is easily inspected from the Canadian Pacific trains
which pass along its bank during the daytime. Overseer Fall visited Eagle River the last week
in September and again in November. In his report he quoted Mr. J. H. Johnson, a seven-year
resident of Malakwa, as stating:—
" The sockeye made their appearance here in small numbers about August ISth. The run
was strong for a week or ten days only, and ceased about September 15th. I always watch for
them. I do not believe that there was 10 per cent, of the number of sockeye in Eagle River
this year that spawned there in 1909. I have no hesitation in saying that the run this year
was not as large as in 1912."
Mr. Johnson's statements were confirmed by all the other residents interviewed. Overseer
Fall further reports :—
" I saw only three live salmon and seven dead ones in the stretch of Eagle River between
the four bridge-crossings near Malakwa. Some eight miles farther up-stream I found but
twenty-two living and dead sockeye on gravel reaches of the river-bed that afford room for
thousands of spawning salmon."
Officer Fall again visited Eagle River in November, and reports:—
" I saw no salmon in the river from its mouth to Taft. The Fire Warden, who is a keen
observer and who passes up and down the river frequently, told me he had not seen a salmon
in the river in over two weeks and that there had been no late run this year."
Shuswap River, which empties into Shuswap Lake through Mara Lake, is also one of the
large tributaries of the former lake, and in the year of a big salmon run has always been filled
with sockeye. I visited Shuswap River on September 23rd, going up to the falls east of Lumby,
and did not see a salmon in its clear waters. I was informed by Frederick Schaefer, who lives
on the river, that he had not seen fifty salmon in the river this year, but that there were thousands there four years ago. J. E. Sperling, who was engaged in taking water records at the
falls, told me he had seen few salmon this year, and he wrote me in November that none
reached there after my visit.
Inspector of Fisheries Shotton advises me that he twice visited the Salmon River, which
enters Shuswap Lake at the head of Salmon Arm, and saw but few salmon in its waters.
The sockeye-eggs collected from tributaries of Shuswap Lake this year totalled but 4,034,000,
as against 27,500,000 four years ago and 18,000,000 in 1905. The bulk of the eggs collected at
Shuswap Lake this year were taken between October 19th and November 29th. But 456,000
were secured up to October 19th. In 1909, 27,000,000 sockeye-eggs were collected between
August 26th and September 13th. Five hundred thousand sockeye-eggs taken in the Fraser
River Canyon were shipped to the hatchery at Shuswap Lake.
Harrison and Lillooet Lake Section.
The run of sockeye to the Harrison and Lillooet Lake Section was greater this year than
four years ago. This watershed contributes to the Fraser River, through the Harrison River,
approximately seventy miles from the Frasers mouth. The salmon, therefore, which reach
there leave the Fraser some sixty-five miles below the canyon above Yale, and were unaffected
by the blockade in that canyon. The run to Harrison-Lillooet Lake Section this year evidently
was not affected by the blockade, and it was the only important lake section of the Fraser which
was unaffected. When sockeye were observed dropping down-stream from the obstructed canyon
it was anticipated that at least some of them would drop back far enough to enter the Harrison
River, but such was not the case, so far as I could ascertain. I found no living sockeye drifting
down the Fraser below Agassiz Landing. Mr. Robertson, the capable Superintendent of the
hatchery at Harrison Lake, gave especial attention to the matter, and expressed the opinion 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Fraser. R 37
that none of the fish which were taken at the spawning-stations of the hatchery had dropped
back from the canyon, because they were all in prime condition and showed no signs of undue
The hatchery at Harrison Lake this season received 12,700,000 eggs taken from tributaries
of the lake proper, and from Morris Creek and the rapids in Harrison River a few miles below
the lake; 2,600,000 sockeye-eggs were received from Cultus Lake, a tributary of the Chilliwack
River, and 17,256,000 from China Bar, Fraser River Canyon, above Yale; a total for the season
of 32,595,000 sockeye-eggs.
In 1905, 32,000,000 sockeye-eggs were collected from the waters of the Harrison Lake Section,
which this year produced but 12,700,000. The collections there this year exceeded those of
1909 by 6,700,000.
Though the run of sockeye to Morris Creek was larger this year than four years ago,
the number which reached there did not nearly equal the run of 1901 or 1905. Up to 1901 this
was the only egg-collecting station in British Columbia. In 1905, 16,000,000 sockeye-eggs were
taken there, and in 1909 but 1,000,000. This year's collections totalled 2,400,000. The decline
in the run to Morris Creek is one of the most interesting features in the sockeye run to the
spawning-grounds of the Fraser of the last two big years. The decline in the run to Morris
Creek is attributable to the fact that none of the fry hatched from eggs collected there were
returned to its waters. Plants of fry were made there in 1909. If plants are continued at
Morris Creek for a period of years it will be interesting to note the results.
The sockeye run to Lillooet Lake, the head of the Harrison-Lillooet Lakes watershed, was
smaller than in any big year since the hatchery was established there. The first sockeye reached
the hatchery on August 15th; the greatest number between September 20th and 28th. Egg-
collecting began on August 29th. The last were taken October 6th. Total collections, 25,000,000.
The collections this year were 2,000,000 less than four years ago.
Summary op Conditions above the Fishing Limits and on the Spawning-Grounds.
From the foregoing statement of conditions existing above the fishing limits and upon the
spawning-grounds of the Fraser River, I feel fully justified from my investigations in concluding
that the number of sockeye which passed above the fishing limits was as great this year as any
preceding big run of which we have a record, and I think even greater. The sockeye made
their appearance in the canyon above Yale in June, and during the high waters of that month
and July large numbers passed through to Quesnel and Chilko Lakes. The greater proportion
of the run of sockeye in late July and in August and September were blockaded in the canyon
by rock obstructions placed in the channel, incident to the construction of the Canadian Northern
Pacific Railroad, so that few were able to pass through during that time. No humpbacks
succeeded in passing through the canyon. The blasting of temporary passage-ways enabled a
large proportion of the sockeye run of October and November to pass through the canyon.
Sockeye were seen drifting down-stream, between Hell's Gate and Yale, in August; the movement
was very pronounced in September, and continued until the middle of October. The streams
which enter the Fraser between Hell's Gate and Agassiz were filled with sockeye from the
middle of August until the end of October, while they had not been observed in those streams
in previous years. Very few sockeye spawned in any of these streams, and most of them died
without spawning. Great numbers of dead sockeye, which had died without spawning, were
found on the bars and hanks of the Fraser between Yale and Agassiz in September and October.
The number which reached Quesnel Lake was little more than an eighth of the number which
entered that lake in 1909. The run to Chilko Lake was equally small. The sockeye run to
Seton Lake was 30,000, as against 1,000,000 in 1909. The August and September run of sockeye
to Shuswap and Adams Lakes was much less than in any former big year, and the October
and November run was also less. The sockeye-eggs collected there this year totalled but
9.000,000, as against 27,500,000 four years ago and 18,000.000 ill 1905. The run to Lillooet Lake
was less than any recent year. Finally, the run to Harrison Lake was slightly better than in
1909. R 38 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
These facts, in my opinion, warrant the conclusion that the number of sockeye which
spawned in the Fraser River watershed this year was not sufficient to make the run four
years hence even approximate the runs of either 1905, 1909, or 1913.
I have, etc.,
John Pease Barcock,
Assistant to the Commissioner of Fisheries.
Victoria, B.C., December 31st, 191.3. ■ O 02
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During the construction of the temporary fishways here several falls of rock took place from the
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IS 4 Geo. 5 Obstructed Condition of the Fraser River. R 39
REPORT ON THE OBSTRUCTED CONDITION OF THE FRASER RIVER
AT SCUZZY RAPIDS, CHINA BAR, HELL'S GATE, AND WHITE'S
Hon. T. Taylor,
Minister of Public Works, Victoria, B.C.
.Sir,—In accordance with your instructions, I have the honour to make the following report
dealing with the conditions which for some time impeded last season's run of sockeye in the
Fraser River, with the steps which were taken to ameliorate those conditions, and with the
remedial works which must now be undertaken for the future protection of the salmon industry.
On September 25th, 1913, I visited for the first time two of the difficult passages on the
river—viz., Scuzzy Rapids and Hell's Gate. Prom then to December 17th I was frequently
engaged at these points and elsewhere on the river, with instructions to see that nothing was
left undone which could in auy way assist the delayed sockeye on their interrupted journey
to the spawning-beds.
In carrying out this work, the conditions in the river at different stages of the water-level
were carefully observed, and particular note was made as to how these varying conditions
affected the progress of sockeye, and as to how, where necessary, these conditions could be
modified to advantage.
The points where it is definitely known very large numbers of sockeye were held back
during this period are as follows: Scuzzy Rapids, Township 10, Range 26, about two miles
and three-quarters north of Camp 10, Canadian Pacific Railway; China Bar, Township 10,
Range 26, about two miles north of Camp 16; Hell's Gate, Township 9, Range 26, at Camp 16;
and near White's Creek, Township 9, Range 26, about two miles below Camp 16.
The accompanying sketch-maps and photographs generally illustrate the various points
Very little data has been forthcoming up to the present time with regard to the original
regime of the river from below the White's Creek obstruction to above Scuzzy Rapids, but it
is quite evident, even from a cursory examination of the present channel, that the vast deposition
of immense angular rocks in the bed of the river have at the four sites referred to produced at
certain stages of the water very great difficulties to the passage of fish.
In discussing the changes in the flow of the river, it is, of course, quite impossible to speak
in terms of quantities, for there is no rational theory of turbulent flow, and such empirical
laws as are usually accepted are quite inapplicable to the available data.
On the sketch-map (cut No. 16) is shown what would probably be the water-line along the
left bank of the original channel on December 17th, 1913, as deduced from the position of the
old bed where still exposed at the different sites, or as pointed out by persons who were well
acquainted with the river before the recent interference.
The presence of the waste material from the Canadian Northern Railway construction in
the river-channel has, in general, had no serious effect on the velocity or regime of the river
where the current was originally small and direct, but where the channel was narrow, and
especially where the current was already swift, this intrusive material has In four known
instances caused at least a threefold obstacle to the passage of fish—viz., the raising of the
water-level up-stream, with consequent increase of velocity past the obstruction, a change in
the direction of the main current, and local deflection of the shore current towards the main
stream by the enormous protruding rocks which were disclosed from time to time as the level
of the river fell.
Naturally the effects of the raised water-level—or, in other words, the increased velocity-
are by no means confined to the left bank. The changed conditions materially accentuated the
effect of every natural variation of the entire channel within what may be termed the section
of increased velocity. R 40 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
As might be expected, the conditions at the four sites varied considerably at different
stages of the water-level, and it is to be regretted that it was not possible to make observations
from the time of high water.
Before considering the individual sites in detail, it is well to point out the capabilities
of the average sockeye observed under various circumstances. A vertical jump from still water,
1 foot or more deep, to running water above is certain under a height of 18 inches, and
probable up to a height of 3 feet—a forward jump is generally uncertain. The fish can travel
without rest for about 10 feet up a current of five miles per hour where the stream-line of
that current is steady.
A passage can be effected up a shallow cataract 3 feet long and 1 foot high. Within limits,
the direction and not the velocity of a current is the determining factor with regard to the
difficulty of any passage. A sockeye is apparently unable to pass, even from still water, a
rectangular obstruction of 2 feet side with sharp edges whose up-stream face is flat and placed
square to a current of five miles per hour or more.
It is possible, however, for a fish to pass an obstruction of similar size under the same
conditions if the obstruction is water-worn and the edges are sufficiently rounded. Apparently
these sockeye are able to pass conveniently up a current of five miles per hour when the force
of that current is tending to hold the fish against a rock-face, if slightly irregular or against a
slope of broken stone, when the angularity and size of the stones are, broadly speaking, inversely
The limiting velocity of a steady stream up which a sockeye is apparently capable of
swimming lies between six and seven miles per hour, but only for very short distances, though
a slight up-draft may help or hold a fish steady for a few moments.
Photograph No. 1 in conjunction with the sketch-map illustrates how the material deposited
on the left bank, immediately opposite the natural protruding rock on the right, formed an
effective barrier at this stage of the water-level to the passage of sockeye by increasing the
main current of the river to eight or nine miles per hour, into which the fish were thrust by
the off-shore current flowing round the ends of the opposite jetties.
Photograph No. 2 shows one of the many thousands of sockeye which made an unsuccessful
attempt to jump over the end of the jetty on the left bank.
On referring to the sketch-map and Photographs Nos. 3, 4, and 5, the effect of the China Bar
obstructions Nos. 1 and 2 respectively will be understood. The fall shown in Photograph No. 3,
though not vertical, was nearly 7 feet high.
A comparison of Photographs Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, with Photograph No. 6, taken in
conjunction with the sketch-map, will give some idea to what extent the river-channel at Hell's
Gate has been constricted, while by comparing Photograph No. 7 with No. 12 the change in
the nature of the river will be clearly apprehended.
I am informed by Messrs. E. Farr, T. Flann, and others at Camp 16, who for many years
have been intimately acquainted with the conditions at Hell's Gate, that never, so far as their
knowledge goes, has there been any difficulty until this year for sockeye to negotiate a passage
through the Gate.
I am unaware of the conditions prevailing before September 25th, but since then there
have been no very serious difficulties to be overcome in passing through the Gate itself, though
the state of the river immediately above the Gate, as shown in Photographs Nos. 9, 11, and 12,
was such as almost to preclude the passage of fish without artificial aid.
The great velocity of the main current, in conjunction with the wing-dams formed by
the large protruding rocks on the left bank and the jutting-out points of rock in places on
the right bank, was very similar in effect to the conditions observed at Scuzzy.
The obstruction near White's Creek is shown by Photographs Nos. 13, 14, and 15, which,
taken together with the sketch-map, indicate the amount of material which has been placed
within the bed of the river.
I am informed that the site of this waste material originally presented no difficulty whatever to the passage of fish. This great mass of angular rock which now forms the left bank
of the river in such close proximity to the partially submerged shelf of rock on the right bank
(see Photographs 13 and 14) has, especially during the lower stages of the water, so entirely
altered conditions as to completely prevent the unaided ascent of sockeye. 4 Geo. 5 Obstructed Condition of the Fraser River. R 41
On October 12th I took over the prosecution of the work in connection with the forming
of fish-passages round the obstructions; this work was commenced first at Scuzzy Rapids, for
it was apparent that while a considerable number of sockeye had won their way as far as
Scuzzy Creek, they could not make any further progress.
It was also seen that by first releasing the fish in the lower reaches of the river the eddies
and resting-places below Scuzzy Rapids would become congested, and a great number of fish
lost in their hopeless attempt to navigate the rapids before relief could be given. This work
was commenced by a small crew of men lent by the courtesy of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
On October 10th one of the Yale District road crews under the supervision of Road Superintendent Sutherland and the direction of Fishery Inspector Hickman commenced operations.
On October 17th, owing to a dearth of fish below Hell's Gate, Inspector Hickman investigated the lower reaches of the river, with the result that the serious obstruction near White's
Creek was discovered. Work was immediately commenced here.
By October 22nd a fair passage was provided for sockeye from below the obstruction near
White's Creek to above Scuzzy Rapids, and I am informed that the benefit of the work was
already being realized at the Seton Lake Hatchery.
A considerable amount of work had to be done on the right as well as on the left bank
of the river, especially at China Bar and near White's Creek. In all, some 2,000 cubic yards
of rock were removed at the various sites under somewhat difficult circumstances. This was
done for the sum of $1,500. I beg to state I consider that the efficient and economical manner
in which this work was carried out reflects great credit on Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Hickman.
While the work which has been carried out in assisting the last run of sockeye was. under
the circumstances, satisfactory, the necessity, if the salmon industry ou the Fraser River is
to be maintained, of immediately undertaking some comprehensive scheme of a remedial nature
is too obvious to need emphasis.
I have given the most serious consideration to the question of how, taking all the circumstances into account, the conditions at the various sites can best be transformed to admit of
the unrestricted passage of sockeye without respect to the water-level of the river.
While I fully realize the difficulties to be overcome and the very great cost entailed, I
have not the least hesitancy in stating that the most desirable and expeditious course to be
adopted worthy of the great interests at stake is the immediate and complete removal of all
foreign rock from the channel, with the entire restoration of the river-bed, at the four sites.
Short of this, there is only one scheme that can be considered both practical and economical.
In adopting it, however, it must not be expected that complete immediate success will be
assured, though it is certain that the present conditions will be greatly mitigated, and that
ultimately the river will be rendered navigable at all times to sockeye.
Briefly, I suggest that at the four sites between extreme low water and a point about 80
feet above it, over a length between points some distance on either side of what has been
referred to as the section of increased velocity, every accessible rock should be reduced in size
to a diameter of IS inches or less. The large rocks in the bed of the river (of which there
is undoubted evidence) should, as far as possible, be broken up, and all protruding points
and other obstructions on the right bank removed or reduced in size.
The objects aimed at are to eliminate all jetties and to break the rock to such size that
when the velocity of the river at the sides is too great for the convenient passage of fish the
broken material will be washed away. By thus increasing the cross-section of the river the
velocity of the current will be reduced where required. The eroded material will be carried
down-stream to some point where the velocity is sufficiently low to admit of its coming to
rest, and where deposited will tend to raise the level of the river without Injury, and thus
further reduce the velocity of the current above.
When this scheme is carried to completion and a condition of stability has been secured
for the reformed channel, it will be found that, though the current of the main stream is too
great for the passage of fish, the new sides of the channel are of so rough a nature as to reduce
the bank currents to a reasonable velocity and provide eddies and resting-places for the sockeye.
It is to be expected during the high water following this year's work that a considerable
amount of the reduced rock will be carried away and that more large stones will be uncovered,
but I do not anticipate that the amount of work remaining to be done will be of very great
extent. R 42 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
The whole success of this undertaking must depend on the skill and judgment exercised in
its execution, and very careful study will have to be given to each of the four sites, so that the
result aimed at may be achieved in the least time and for the least money. The carrying-out
of this work should not endanger the Canadian Northern Railway Company's property, though
as a very high explosive will have to be used, care will have to be taken to protect both railways
from flying fragments.
With perhaps the exception of Hell's Gate, where it may eventually be necessary to do some
work on the left bank wall of the Gate, I do not think there is any reason to fear that the eddies
below the present obstructions will be damaged to any extent, for such broken-up material as
may be washed from the face of the obstructions will certainly be carried towards the centre
of the channel and down-stream.
Though it is not possible to make any definite statement of the actual quantities of rock
which will have to be dealt with, it is possible to make an approximate estimate of the cost of
what work should be done this year, so that the w7ork which must be undertaken next low
water may be a minimum. When it is considered that several of the larger stones to be handled
have a volume of nearly 100 cubic yards, that the very large rocks under water on the bed of
the river will be difficult to treat, and that a certain amount of work will probably have to
be done in assisting next season's run of sockeye—though this will depend on the nature of
this year's high water—I cannot see how any less sum than $25,000 will meet the present
I have, etc.,
G. P. Napier, Assoc.M.Inst.C.E.,
Assistant Public Works Engineer.
Victoria, B.C., January, 1914. 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Skeena River. R 43
THE SPAWNING-BEDS OF THE SKEENA RIVER.
Hon. W. ■]. Bowser, K.C..
Commissioner of Fisheries, Victoria, B.C.
Sir,—In accordance with the wish of your Department, we made a tour of inspection of
the spawning-beds of the Skeena River, and beg to submit the following report:—
We arrived at Babine Post on September 11th, and the following day went down the Babine
River, about eleven miles below the bridge. On this stretch of water there is a fine spawning-
ground for salmon. There were a large number of salmon to be seen in the river, but they
were mostly humpbacks, there being a large run of that species of salmon to the Babine this
Most of the Indians of the Babine were congregated in this locality, taking their winter's
supply of salmon, which includes sockeye, springs, and humpbacks. There were eighty-six
families represented here, that being the number of nets authorized by the Dominion fishery
officers. Each net is 200 feet long; they are staked out every evening and are taken up in the
morning. A close season of thirty-six hours is provided for at the week end. In taking spring
salmon, the Indians drift down-stream in their canoes and gaff them.
We called in at a number of smoke-houses on our return. They all seemed to have a fair
supply of salmon in their smoke-houses and on the drying-racks for the time that they had
been fishing, but the salmon they had were mostly humpbacks and springs. On questioning the
Indians, they all said that there were not many salmon this year, but lots of springs and
humpbacks. When they speak of salmon they mean sockeye.
At the time of our visit the Indians were taking from six to twenty sockeye in their nets
each night, and we estimated the number that they had caught at about 10,000. We could make
no reliable estimate of the number of salmon they will smoke this season, as they expected to
fish for three weeks longer.
On our return from the south end of Babine Lake, we heard that there were more sockeye
in the Babine River than there were when we visited it, but could not verify that statement
from the Indians, who were still complaining of the scarcity of sockeye, and requested us to
ask the Government to assist the old and infirm Indians through the winter, as they would be
short of food. In reference to this, we submit that there were plenty of salmon in their waters
for food if they care to take other kinds than sockeye.
About ten miles down the Babine River there is a small creek named the Nilkitkwa. We
went up this creek for a short distance, but there were no signs of sockeye in it, there being
The number of sockeye spawning in the Babine River was much smaller than noticed in
previous years. The spring salmon were more numerous, as also were the humpbacks. The
sockeye made their first appearance at the Babine on July 14th.
On September 13th we left the Babine Post for the south end of the lake, and arrived at
Tachek Creek on the evening of the 14th. On the following day we went up Tachek Creek to
Fulton Lake, a distance of about five miles. There are two falls in the Tachek about four miles
from its mouth, which bar the salmon from entering Fulton Lake.
Fulton Lake, at the place where we saw7 it, appears to be a lake with a muddy bottom.
We did not go all round this lake, so cannot say if it is the same all over.
. Tachek Creek below the falls is an important sockeye-stream, it being a splendid spawning-
ground with a fine gravelly bottom. The spawning sockeye were well distributed all over the
four miles of creek to the falls. There were a few sockeye at the foot of the first fall, but
there were not many leaping, or trying to go any farther up-stream. The falls are between
50 and 60 feet high. There has been some talk of cutting down the falls to let the salmon up
into the lake. We do not think that the benefit to be derived from this would pay for the
large amount of work that would have to be done, and, taking into consideration the four miles
of good spawning-ground below, it does not appear necessary. We opened a number of sockeye R 44 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
that were dead, and found they had spawned. The run of sockeye to Tachek Creek was much
better this season than in 1912, and about on a par with 1911. There w7as only one family of
Indians taking salmon at Tachek Creek, and they had about 700 sockeye on the racks.
On September 16th we arrived at Pierre Creek, a small creek with very little water in it.
There were quite a large number of sockeye in this creek for the size of it, apparently about all
it could carry. This creek could be improved by cleaning out log-jams, etc., and confining the
creek-channel, for when the creek gets low in the fall a large amount of the spawn is uncovered
and lost. We were informed that there were more sockeye in this creek this season than last.
There were no Indians taking salmon here at the time of our visit. In the afternoon we proceeded on down the lake, and for the first time saw sockeye in the lake itself. They were close
inshore near a sandspit running out from a promontory. There was no stream within several
miles on either side of this point.
On September 17th we inspected Fifteen-mile Creek. This creek is a good sockeye-stream,
and there were a large number of sockeye spawning. The spawning-ground runs up for about
one mile, and was well covered with spawning sockeye for the whole distance. The males were
in excess of the females. We were told that the run of sockeye to this creek this season was
far greater than it had been for many years previous, and from all reports and the numbers
we saw there the creek was abundantly seeded.
The Stuart Lake Hatchery people take sockeye-eggs from this creek every year. Their take
here for this season was 4,000,000. Their method of catching the salmon for spawning purposes
is not beneficial to the stream. They use a drag-net, and walk all over the bed of the creek
in their gum boots, and drag the fish to the shore. In doing this they must destroy a large
number of eggs deposited naturally in the bed of the creek, and all this is done for the benefit
of the Fraser River and to the detriment of the Skeena.
Few Indians rely on this creek for salmon, and those that do. take them after the hatchery-
men have spawned them of their eggs. Mr. Crawford, the Superintendent of the Stuart Lake
Hatchery, stated that they made their first take of sockeye-eggs from Fifteen-mile Creek on
After leaving Fifteen-mile Creek we proceeded to the south end of Babine Lake, and reached
the Stuart Lake Hatchery in the evening, remaining there all night. Mr. Cameron and the cook
were the only persons at the hatchery, the remainder of the crew, together with Mr. Crawford,
the Superintendent, having left to obtain their final supply of eggs from Fifteen-mile Creek.
The Stuart Lake Hatchery has a capacity of between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 eggs, and at
the time of our visit they had 7,000,000 sockeye-eggs in the hatchery, 3,000,000 from Beaver
Creek and 4,000,000 from Fifteen-mile Creek, Skeena watershed.
The hatchery people informed us that at the time of their visit to Stuart Lake, and the
creeks emptying into it, for the purpose of taking sockeye-eggs, the sockeye had not arrived.
The time of their visit was early in August, before they started taking eggs from Beaver and
Fifteen-mile Creeks. The Superintendent stated that there were not so many sockeye in evidence
at Stuart Lake this season as there were four years ago, and that there were seventy-five
Indians fishing there with nets, and thought it likely that the nets kept the salmon from entering
the creeks. The Superintendent also stated that there was no fishery guardian to control their
The run of salmon to Stuart Lake is invariably later on in the season, as they have a very-
long distance to travel from the mouth of the Fraser River, and it is only in the year of the
big run on the Fraser that the sockeye are anyways numerous in this vicinity.
There were no sockeye in the hatchery stream at the time of our visit. On September
18th we went over the trail from the hatchery to the spawn ing-beds on Beaver Creek, a distance
of twelve miles. There were very few sockeye in Beaver Creek when we arrived there. The
hatchery people stated that the egg-taking on Beaver had been good this season,, and we think
that they must have taken nearly all that went up there. Their take of eggs there was 3,000,000.
and they started spawning on August 21st. They use a barricade on this creek for taking the
fish, and it is a much better method than that used on Fifteen-mile Creek.
Beaver Creek is a good spawning creek, and conditions were about on a par with last
season. The best spawning-beds are about eight miles from the mouth of the creek.
On September 19th we left the south end of the lake on our return journey, and called
in at a small creek named Four-mile Creek. This creek is very small and is of little importance. 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Skeena River. R 45
After leaving Four-mile Creek we met Mr. Crawford and his crew returning with their final
supply of eggs from Fifteen-mile Creek. On our return trip down the lake we encountered heavy
headwinds, -which delayed us considerably. We arrived at Morrison Lake Hatchery on the
evening of the 21st.
Mr. Gibbs gave us a very hospitable reception, and informed us that this year's run of
sockeye was the best that had ever entered Salmon Creek, upon which the hatchery is situated.
This creek is about two miles and a half long and runs ont of Morrison Lake a short distance
above the hatchery. The creek affords an excellent spawning-ground, having a fine gravel-bed
along the whole length of its course, with two or three very deep pools. It averages about
20 yards wide, and there is an ample supply of water.
Mr. Gibbs informed us that there were three distinct runs of sockeye up the creek this
season. The first run took place early in July, and consisted mostly of large-sized fish. These
fish passed right up past the hatchery to Morrison Lake, and stayed in the lake until they were
ready to spawn, and then dropped back into the creek. The second and third runs were of
much smaller fish. These made no attempt to enter Morrison Lake, but remained in the creek.
Mr. Gibbs concludes from these facts that the first run consisted of fish which had been reared
in the hatchery. He is convinced by this year's results that the work of this hatchery has had
a strikingly beneficial effect on Salmon Creek, since he had been able to obtain his whole supply
of eggs from this creek. In previous years he has had to draw7 on other creeks.
In 1911 Mr. Gibbs took nearly the whole of his supply of eggs for the hatchery from the
Babine River, as the run of sockeye to the hatchery creek was very poor. He stated that last
year it would have been possible to obtain a full supply of eggs from the creek, but he was,
afraid that there would not be left sufficient salmon to seed the creek by natural propagation.
This year, at the date of our visit, 8,500,000 eggs had already been taken from the creek, yet
even then the creek w7as alive with sockeye; in fact, this was the largest showing of sockeye
Mr. Gibbs does'not turn the young fry out into the creek on their attaining the free-swimming
stage, but puts them into retaining ponds for another three months, so that they may become
stronger and more able to take care of themselves when liberated for their journey to the sea.
Mr. Gibbs also stated that the fact that the first run of sockeye to this creek this season went
up as far as Morrison Lake, then turned back, dropping down to spawn close to the hatchery,
would seem to indicate that these fish had been reared in the hatchery; it will be remembered
that these fish were particularly noticeable on account of their large size.
Returning, we followed the creek from the hatchery to its mouth, and saw large numbers
of sockeye in evidence all along. The cohoe salmon were just beginning to arrive at the date
of our visit. This was the last point of interest on our trip.
Excellent rainbow-trout fishing is to be had in Babine River close to its exit from the lake.
The trout are to be had up to 8 lb.
In summing up this report, we wish to draw attention to the fact that, owing to this being
our first trip of inspection of the Babine watershed, we were not able to draw conclusions as
to the conditions on the spawning-beds by comparison with former years. We had to rely for
our deductions on the reports from Indians, from information received from Mr. McKendrick,
the Dominion Fishery Guardian, and from statements of Mr. H. Gibbs and Mr. Crawford,
Superintendents of the Morrison Lake and Stuart Lake Hatcheries respectively.
Judging from the facts at our disposal, we should say that the run of sockeye to the Babine
watershed of the Skeena River was well up to the average, and a considerable Improvement on
the run of last year; that the sockeye were more plentiful on all the creeks, with the one
exception of the Babine River, which was very much below the average.
It was a pleasant surprise to find conditions so good, considering the exceptionally poor
season that had been experienced in the salmon-fisheries at the mouth of the Skeena River.
In conclusion, w7e would like to express our appreciation of the kind assistance and information proffered us by Mr. H. Gibbs, Mr. Crawford, and Mr. J. McKendrick, for which information
and assistance we are largely indebted for a successful trip.
We have, etc.,
K. F. Birchall.
C. P. Hickman. It 4G Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
THE SPAWNING-BEDS OF RIVERS INLET.
Hon. W. J. Bowser, K.C..
Commissioner of Fisheries, Victoria, B.C.
Sib,—Acting upon instructions from the Department, I proceeded, accompanied by two white
men and a couple of Indians, to investigate the Rivers Inlet spawuiug-beds situated at Owikeno
Leaving Rivers Inlet Cannery on September 19th, we made for the head of the lake, a
distance of forty miles, and commenced the investigation at Indian River, one of the three
streams emptying into the lake at this point. Indian River is about half a mile long, good
gravelly bottom, and an ideal spawning-ground for salmon. At the time the w7ater was discoloured, due to recent abnormal rains, but I saw7 large numbers of sockeye breaking water.
Indians told me the sockeye and spring were there in great numbers two weeks prior to my
visit. I am satisfied that it is one of the best early-running salmon streams emptying into the
lake. It terminates with falls 150 feet in height.
The Washwash River—another of the three rivers at the head of the lake—is about two
miles and a half long to falls, 100 feet, in height, which prevent the salmon going farther. At
the time of my visit it was full of sockeye, but from their appearance indications pointed to this
as another early-running salmon stream. The majority there were spawned out. There were
dead bodies lying about in all directions on the bars, and the odour arising was very offensive.
The torn and half-eaten bodies of many testified to the ravages of the bears, which frequent this
river in great numbers. Log-jams are numerous, but do not prevent the salmon going through.
To note whether the later run of sockeye favour this river, I examined several and found
the eggs not fully matured; it is evident, therefore, that they do favour this stream, although to
no appreciable extent. I also noticed small grilse from 12 to 15 inches in length in various pools
on the way up. The river-bottom is admirably adapted for spawning purposes, and the run to
the stream, according to the Indians, was far greater than in previous years.
On examination of the Cheo River, the last of the three tributaries situated at this point,
I found it was in every way a splendid stream for natural propagation. The water was very
discoloured, but in the shallows one could see the sockeye salmon in dense masses.
From the mouth to the falls it is about four miles and a half, free from log-jams, except for
one large one at the bend of the river, three miles from the mouth, which, however, does not
interfere with the free passage of the salmon. Beyond the falls there is nothing but swift-
running rapids and rocky bottom, and the river is here, therefore, unfit for use as a spawning-
ground. The spring salmon frequent this river in large numbers. I saw several dead springs
lying on the bars, the torn and half-eaten bodies again testifying to the ravages of the bears,
whose tracks were noticed all along the banks and on the bars.
Returning from the head of the lake, I inspected a small creek on the north shore, which
the Indians have named Sunday Creek. It is about 200 yards long, with good gravelly bottom,
both at the mouth and in the creek; here the sockeye were seen in great numbers. I examined
several, but found the eggs were not fully matured. The Indians informed me that the cohoe
salmon favour this stream, but I did not notice any7.
The Sheemahant, a swift-running river, averaging eight to ten miles an hour, is without
doubt the best natural spawning stream emptying into the lake. For eighteen miles the fine gravel
bottom affords every facility for the sockeye and cohoe to deposit their ova, and the countless
thousands met with on the way up testified to the use of this ideal spawning-ground by these
salmon. Falls eighteen miles up prevent the salmon going farther, and making use of about
twenty miles of very fine spawning-beds farther on. They are three in number, and have a
total height of about 30 feet, and with little expense could be opened up. I strongly advocate
that fishways be built here. The log-jam referred to in last year's report has broken up, and
allows free passage to canoes; the difficulty of getting supplies past this obstruction is therefore
now removed. April is the time for this, as the river is then low. The Owikeno Indians, who 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of Eivers Inlet. R 47
obtain their winter's supply from the Sheemahant, were more than jubilant over the run. and
expressed the opinion that it is many years since it has been so well stocked with salmon.
Average specimens showed, for the sockeye, 4% to 6 lb., and for the cohoes 10 to 14 lb.
Looking in at Jeneesee Creek, I found the hatchery officials busy obtaining spawn; the
creek from the mouth to the fence was literally black with sockeye. The creek is about a mile
and a half in length, terminating with falls 250 feet high. It is full of log-jams, which must
prevent the salmon making full use of the fine spawning-ground here. Great advantage would
be derived were these removed; the river would resume its original course, and cover the bars
noticed all the way along, which are undoubtedly caused by these obstructions.
The Machmell River did not appeal to me as a good salmon-stream; the water was very
muddy, due to the glacier, and on going up I noticed very few salmon. It is a swift-running
river averaging eight to ten miles an hour. No log-jams were met with, but the bars caused
by the " freshets " split up the river into several channels, all easily surmountable to the salmon.
The bed of the river favours natural propagation for eight miles from the mouth, but beyond
this point the boulders and rapids prevent the salmon using this river. The Indians say that
it is very unfavourable for both sockeye and cohoe, and consequently they do not obtain their
winter's supply here.
The Nookins River is tributary to the Machmell, about half a mile from the mouth, and is
about twenty miles in length. For seven miles the sockeye and cohoe salmon, seen in countless
numbers, were making full use of these ideal spawning-beds. I saw no log-jams that would
interfere w7ith the free passage of the salmon. It is a slow-running stream for the first two
miles from the junction, but above that the river rapidly rises, and we had hard work to get
our canoe up, being compelled to line it in many cases. Taking to the bush four miles up, I
followed the river and noticed between the rapids and in the smooth water the sockeye and
cohoe breaking water in great numbers. I am satisfied that this river is keeping up its reputation as one of the best salmon-streams emptying into the lake. The Indians located here prefer
this river to the Machmell for obtaining their winter's supply.
The Asklum River, another fine spawning-ground for the salmon, is about five miles long
and very swift. I noticed particularly the number of log-jams that obstruct it; notably one
about two miles from the mouth. The sockeye were making up-stream in thousands, the river
being literally black with them. The obstructions do not interfere with the free passage of
the salmon, however, and they can without difficulty reach the head. The Indians camped here
were enthusiastic over the great run of sockeye, and were able to obtain their winter's supply
Going up the Dalley River for about 500 yards, we were confronted with rapids, which
compelled us to take to the bush, proceeding in this way for about a mile. I came to a fine
stretch of spawning-ground with smooth-running water. Here I noticed the sockeye going up.
On reaching the falls, ranging in height from 8 to 30 feet, about four miles farther on, I noted
that they prevented the salmon going higher. The indifferent spawning-grounds above the falls
does not warrant going to any expense to have them removed. No log-jams of any description
obstructed the passage of thousands of sockeye, which were making good use of the fine spawning-
beds in the lower reaches of the Dalley.
The Quap River is about three miles in length and an ideal spawning-ground for the salmon.
The Dominion hatchery officials were obtaining eggs here; the season was just beginning.
Although thousands of sockeye were making up-stream, they were not yet fully ripe for spawning. The officials stated, however, that the number coming in was about double compared with
last year, and no difficulty would be experienced in obtaining all the eggs required for the
From the hatchery fence all the way up the river log-jams obstruct the passage to a great
extent. The great wind of 1907 caused great havoc, uprooting huge rrees which fell across the
stream, and throwing the river out of its original course, thereby destroying some very fine
spawning-ground. In spite of these drawbacks, I noticed the salmon w7ere able to reach the
head. On reaching the hatchery, I was very glad to learn from Captain Hamer, the able
Superintendent, that attention was being directed to these obstructions in the various rivers
and that he proposed clearing them aw7ay. The advantages which will be derived from this
will be incalculable. R 48 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
The creek adjoining the hatchery has been partly fenced off for the purpose of obtaining
spawn for the hatchery. It is significant that seven years ago this creek showed absolutely no
sign of sockeye. Then the Dominion Government erected the hatchery and turned fry into the
lake. Four years after that, the sockeye commenced to favour this creek; and each year since,
increased numbers have arrived. This year the stream has created a record, thousands making
use of the limited spawning-beds, and a fact which has been noted most particularly is the size
of the sockeye, which averaged 1% lb. heavier than those in the other rivers. I draw7 attention
to this matter, as I have often heard the opinion expressed that the small catch obtained by
the canneries this year and the small size of the sockeye was due to the hatchery, and that the
fry turned out each year did not mature to the same extent as those resulting from natural
propagation. It is, I think, obvious that instead of the hatchery being a detriment to the
salmon-fishing industry it is a great help. The real reason, 1 think, of the small catch on the
inlet this season was the unfavourable weather conditions experienced during the fishing season,
causing the sockeye to swim deep and thus avoiding the nets; the countless numbers I encountered during my investigations of the spawning-grounds precludes any idea that the sockeye-
salmon run w7as small.
The Owikeno River, which is four miles and a half from the sea to the foot of the lake,
has an ideal spawning-ground stretching for about half a mile along the upper end near the
lake. The later run of sockeye deposit their ova here in millions. Captain Hamer, of the
Dominion hatchery, tells me that the Indians located here cause great destruction amongst the
salmon. To obtain their winter's supply they indiscriminately gaff males and females, throwing
the females into the water (preferring the males for smoking purposes), thereby destroying
millions of eggs which would in the ordinary course of events have been deposited. I think
this practice should be stopped, if possible.
The Owikeno Lake is forty miles long and 20 feet above sea-level; emptying into it are
twelve rivers and creeks, containing about fifty-four miles of very fine spawning-beds. The
hatchery officials and Indians state that the run of sockeye and cohoe to the lake this year
was larger than that of any previous year known.
The Narrows, about thirty-two miles up this lake, I noticed, make excellent spawning-ground,
and the thousands of sockeye and cohoe seen playing around here no doubt make good use of
Summing up the results of my investigations of the lake and its tributaries, I am satisfied,
from the information obtained from the officials of the Dominion hatchery, from the Indians
located at the different points, and from my own personal observations, that the run of sockeye
and cohoe salmon was this year larger than for many years past, and that one can look forward
with confidence to a big run from this season's spawning.
In conclusion, I would like to express my thanks for the kindness tendered our party by
Mr. G. S. McTavish, of Rivers Inlet Cannery; Captain Hamer, Superintendent of the Dominion
hatchery; and the men at the various spawning camps.
I have, etc.,
Arthur W. Stone,
Rivers Inlet, B.C., October ll,th, 1913. 13HBI
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£5 4 Geo. 5 Spawning-beds of the Nass. R 49
THE SPAWNING-BEDS OF THE NASS,
Hon. W. J. Bowser, K.C.,
Commissioner of Fisheries, Victoria, B.C.
Sir,—In obedience to the instructions of your Department, I made a trip of inspection to
the spawning-grounds of the Meziadin Lake District, Nass River.
Owing to my having made an extended trip into the Lpper Skeena River, I was much later
in starting on my annual trip of inspection to the Nass spawning-beds than usual, and therefore
my time was much limited. The bad weather is likely to come at any time after the commencement of October, so I was unable to reach Lake Bowser this season.
I left Stewart, in company with C. J. Gillingham, the Superintendent of Roads, for
Meziadin Lake on October Srd and reached the head of the lake on the night of the 4th.
The weather had been very wet for some days and the creeks and rivers were much swollen.
On reaching Surprise Creek, a stream about 200 feet in width, w7e found the Government bridge
washed out, and there was nothing else to do but to wade it across, which we did. The water
was waist-high and running pretty strong. On reaching the other side we had four miles to
walk before we could get to camp, and we were feeling anything but comfortable.
We left the head of the lake on Sunday, the Sth, and on our way down the lake there were
signs of spawning sockeye at different places, close in to the shore, and salmon leaping in places
all over the lake. On my return from the interior in 1912, late in September, sockeye were in
great abundance in the lake. This year it did not appear to me that there were as many,
although reports from men who were working at the Government road camps close to the lake
are that there were a large number of sockeye in the lake this year. We arrived at the falls
on Meziadin River on the afternoon of the Sth. There was a large volume of water passing
over the falls. At the foot of the falls there were not many sockeye congregated, the fishway
having been opened on September 27th, and the most of them had passed up into the stream
I went dowm to the mouth of the Meziadin River, where it joins the Nass. The Nass River
at this point was very high and the water very much discoloured, so that I was unable to
observe if there were many still continuing their journey up the Nass.
The Indians, who visit Meziadin for their supply of salmon for food, took between 5,000
and 6,000 sockeye this season. They reported a large number of salmon at the falls this year.
The men who were working at the fishway this summer said that there were a large number
of salmon at the falls.
As mentioned before, water was turned through the fishway on September 27th, and I am
pleased to say that it is in good working-order, has a fine appearance, and will be a great benefit
to the sockeye in their journey to the spawning-beds of Meziadin Lake. The banks of the
fishway, where gravel and sand was encountered, is well cribbed up, the cribbing being drift-
bolted to the rock, and I think is substantial. The steps of the fishway are of reinforced
concrete. I watched the fish ascending the fishway, and they went up without any exertion.
The men who were working there told me that before the water was turned in the sockeye
were massed below the falls. After the water was turned in they started to go through at
once, and some of them were into the above in less than four minutes. They continued ascending until they were nearly all through, and on my arrival there were not many in the resting-
places below the falls, and a few stragglers were still going through the fishway.
Mr. McClelland, the foreman in charge of the work at the fishway this summer, was there
for four days after the water was turned through, and stated that the fish went through the
fishway in good style, continually, and there were still a large number below the falls when
he left for Stewart.
On taking the rock and gravel out of the fishway-cut it was dumped about 100 yards below.
This dump extends out into the river, and I would suggest that some of it be removed.
4 R 50 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
On account of my being one month on the Nass, and the fact that the majority of the
sockeye had passed up above the falls on my arrival there, I was not able to draw a comparison
with other years, but have had to rely upon information received from the men working at the
fishway, and Indians who live around the lake in the summer. From both of these sources,
reports were very favourable as to the number of sockeye on the spawning-beds.
From my own observations, I should say that conditions on the spawning-beds at the
Meziadin Lake District of the Nass watershed was very fair this year, but not so good as in the
past season for 1912.
I have, etc.,
C. P. Hickman,
) Inspector of Fisheries.
Victoria, B.C., March 2nd, 191J>. 4 Geo. 5 Fishway at Meziadin Falls. R 51
THE FISHWAY AT MEZIADIN FALLS.
Hon. W. J. Boicser, K.C.,
Commissioner of Fisheries, Victoria, B.C.
Sir,—I have the honour to inform you that the fishway at the falls in the Meziadin River
■—Nass River watershed—construction of which was begun in December last, was completed
and the water turned in on September 25th.
It will be recalled that the necessity of providing a passage-way for salmon at the falls
in the Meziadin River was first brought to attention in the Provincial Fisheries Report for 1907,
and again strongly urged upon the Department of Marine and Fisheries of the Dominion Government by you last year, and that in response to your request for immediate action the Hon.
J. D. Hazen, Minister of Marine and Fisheries, requested you to proceed to construct a suitable
fishway at the expense of the Dominion Government.
In accordance with the plans submitted in my report of last year, this fishway has been
constructed on the left bank of the Meziadin River, running parallel to the falls and separated
from the river-channel by a natural wall of rock. The timber from the bank was first removed,
and a cut, 126 feet long and 40 feet wide, was made in the rock and gravel-bank at the left side
of the falls. In making this cut some 2,000 cubic yards of rock were removed and deposited
along the left bank of the river, immediately below the falls, in such manner as not to interfere
with the movements of salmon ascending the stream. To prevent sand and gravel from slipping
into the fishway the left side was bulk-headed with green timbers for a distance of 120 feet
and an average height of 12 feet. Two tons of powder were used in blasting, and 4 tons of
cement in constructing sustaining cross-walls. The powder, cement, tools, and provisions were
packed in from Stewart over the Bear River Glacier Trail, a distance of forty miles, and thence
by canoe down Meziadin Lake and River for eighteen miles. Two log houses were constructed
for the men engaged.
The fishway has a length of 126 feet, a width of from 20 to 30 feet, and is divided into five
basins or pools by cross-walls of reinforced concrete. Beginning at the head there is a drop
of 2 feet between each basin.
The entrance to the fishway is located on the left bank at the foot of the main falls, where
previous to its construction the fish congregated before attempting the ascent. It has a width
of not less than 25 feet and a depth of 6 feet at the lowest stage of water. The up-stream or
exit end of the fishway has a width of 20 feet and a depth of 3 feet at low water. On entering
the fishway the salmon pass from one basin to another by leaping over a 2-foot fall.
To prevent drift from entering the fishway a wing-dam of logs and rocks was built at an
angle of 45 degrees to the bank and some 50 feet above the exit. Openings through the wingdam were left for the fish to pass through.
Attached hereto are three photographs: (1.) Showing falls in Meziadin River before construction of the fishway. (2.) Showing falls, entrance and lower end of fishway. The insert on
right gives detail of flow from pool to pool. (3.) Showing upper or exit end of fishway taken
Construction-work was placed in charge of C. J. Gillingham, Road Superintendent, Stewart
District. The amount expended in the construction of the fishway, totalling $15,849.19. The
expense of getting men and material to the site and the cost of removing the gravel-sides necessitated an expenditure slightly in excess of my original estimates.
Superintendent Gillingham reports that for some time previous to the completion of the
work a large number of salmon had congregated at the foot of the fall and were attempting to
get over. As soon as the water was turned into the fishway the salmon entered it and passed
with ease over the 2-foot drop between basins and reached the river above the falls. A few
hours afterwards there were few salmon below the falls. They all entered and passed through
the fishway and none were afterwards seen attempting to leap the falls. R 52 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Provincial Fisheries Inspector Hickman visited the falls and fishway on his recent trip
over the spawning-grounds of the Nass River watershed, and reports that the construction of
the fishway has been successfully completed. He saw salmon going through the fishway with
ease, and states that no salmon were congregated below the falls, and that he saw none attempting to pass over them.
The channel of the fishw7ay and its entrance and exit having been cut through solid rock,
and its cross-walls made of reinforced concrete, the work is permanent. The bulk-head at the
left bank, however, is constructed of green timbers, which have a life of only about eight years.
It will then have to be replaced in order to prevent the filling of the channel with rock and
I have, etc.,
John Pease Babcock,
< Assistant to the Commissioner.
Victoria, B.C., November 15th, 1913. 4 Geo. 5 Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. R 5J
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE LIFE-HISTORY OF THE SOCKEYE SALMON.
By C. H. Gilbert.
(1.) General Considerations concerning Sockeye Structure and Habits.
It is now universally recognized that sockeyes spawn only in lakes or the tributaries of lakes,
and are not found in streams otherwise favourable which fail to have one or more such bodies
of water accessible in their course. Neither the size of the lake, its distance from the sea,
nor its altitude are of importance. The fish will force their way through the rapids of the
Columbia and the Fraser for hundreds of miles to the snow-fed mountain lakes at the headwaters of these mighty rivers. And they flourish equally well in all the numerous insignificant
streams which drain minor valleys in the off-shore islands of British Columbia, and serve as short
outlets of low-lying lakes but a few feet above sea-level.
Among all these widely varying conditions of food and of temperature, of duration of the
fasting period preliminary to spawning, and of the amount of physical work to be done while
fasting, the fish maintain a striking uniformity of structure. Some colonies feed up to the
time they approach the mouths of their short streams, and ascend to their lakes with little
effort. Others, like those which seek the Fraser watershed, spend months on the way, fast
from the time they approach the coast, and consume great stores of energy in fighting their way
past falls and rapids on their way to the mountain lakes. But among these colonies of most
widely varying habit w7e find no change of character in the scales, the fin-rays, the teeth, the
gill-rakers, the branchiostegal rays, the pyloric appendages, or any other of those structures in
which one species of salmon may differ from another. So far as known, they remain in these
respects constant and unchanged. Even where groups of individuals, the so-called " dwarf
redfish," abandon entirely the life in the sea and much reduced in size remain in their native
lakes for thousands of generations, with all the changed conditions of life which this involves,
no modification of the specific characteristics of the species has been shown to occur. It may
be claimed that the " dwarf redfish " is no constant lake-dweller, that some portion of its progeny
proceed to sea and become indistinguishable from the ordinary sea-run individuals. It may also
be claimed, conversely, that from the sea-run form arise now and then individuals which elect
to remain throughout life in the lake, and become therefore stunted and in all respects similar
to the usual lake form. If such interchange should frequently occur between lake-inhabiting
and sea-run forms, this would doubtless aid in holding the lake form constant to type, and would
doubtless assist in thwarting the modifying effect of environment. Experiments should immediately be tried to demonstrate the effect of sea-life on the young of the dwarf redfish and of lake-
life on the progeny of the sea-run form.
But in the meantime, fortunately for our problem, we are acquainted with certain colonies
of dwarf redfish which have been inaccessible to the sea-run form for a very long period. Such
are the colonies w7hich inhabit Lakes Crescent and Sutherland, on the northern slopes of the
Olympic Mountains in Washington. The outlets of these lakes open on the southern shore of
the Straits of Fuca. No run of sockeyes occurs along this shore nor into any of the streams
tributary to it. Furthermore, in the case of Lake Crescent, access from the sea is cut off by
inaccessible falls, which may well date from glacial times. Yet the dwarf redfish from these
lakes, so long isolated, show no deviation in structural details. The long fine gill-rakers are
equally pronounced and are present in the large numbers characteristic of the sea-run form.
Such structural features must be extremely conservative and slow to yield. One must
gravely question the alleged origin of a species of whitefish, * newly described from Laacher-See,
in Germany. During a brief residence of some forty years since its supposed introduction into
this lake, it is considered to have been transformed from a related species, Coregonus fera,
despite the fact that C. fera possesses but little more than half the number of gill-rakers, and
* Die Silberfelchen des Laacher Sees. August Thienemann, Zool. Jahrb., Abt. fiir System., Bd.
1012, p. 173. R 54 Eeport of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
these but little more than half the length. Such extensive modifications of structure within the
life of six or seven generations must appear not " almost miraculous" as the author would
have it, but wholly incredible. It would seem that any alternative theory of the origin of this
species would involve difficulties of a lower order and would be preferable to the one proposed.
Among all the widely differing conditions of its life, the sockeye maintains in general a
strikingly similar habit. The spawning run is at its height in June, July, or August, the period
sometimes differing in closely adjacent streams constantly year after year in accordance with
no known law. The eggs are deposited in nests in gravelly areas around the margins of the
lakes or in their tributaries. They hatch out in late fall or in the winter, and the young on
approaching the feeding stage live on minute crustaceans and on insects. In some smaller
streams, as Chamberlain has shown, all the fry live in the Jake for a year before migrating.
This may be true for the majority of the lakes and streams of no great extent. But in the
larger watersheds, like the Fraser, many pass to sea during their first spring, the others
remaining behind in the lake for another year, and pass out in their second spring. In the
larger streams, therefore, fry and yearlings descend the river together, the one from three to
six months old, the other from fifteen to eighteen months. They can then be readily distinguished
by their size, although the gap separating the largest fry from the smallest yearling is not a
wide one, and may be filled when more material is available.
(2.) Young Migrants in the Fraser River and the Development of their Scales.
In view of a recent discussion, we have re-examined the specimens of migrating fry and
fingerlings, captured by Mr. J. S. Burcham at Lytton, on the Fraser River, in 1903, at a time
when he was field assistant to Mr. J. P. Babcock, of this Department. These still remain the
only young sockeye migrants thus far captured in the Fraser River. A close examination has
shown that the fry of the year were mingled with large numbers of the fry of the chum or
dog-salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), a species which was not known to spawn extensively in this
watershed. The sockeye fry ranged in size from 25 to 41 mm. (1 to 1.6 inches), measured in
the usual manner from the tip of the snout to the beginning of the fork of the tail. The young
chums taken on the same dates were larger, ranging from 31 fo 51 mm. (1.2 to 2 inches), and
were much deeper and more robust.
A minute examination of the young sockeye has verified our statement previously made that
the fry of the year, descending to the sea, had as yet developed no scales. Only in a very few
of the largest size, 39 to 41 mm. long, were rudiments of the scales present, concealed in the
integument, in the form of minute round plates. These represent the nucleus of the adult scale,
that small central area which lies within all the concentric lines of growth. These platelets were
found only in a very few of the larger fry, and were usually blank and without mark, representing the nucleus pure and simple. But in two cases there was present just within the margin
of the plate the first of that series of circular rings which thereafter will continue to be formed
in close succession throughout the life of the fish. Fry were secured by Mr. Burcham from
April 1st to July 15th, but those last taken were no larger and no further developed than were
the earliest to migrate. From these facts it is clear that the vast majority of the migrating fry
of the year reach salt water with no trace of scales, while a very few have developed the nucleus
alone, or the nucleus with one growth-ring.
The yearlings obtained by Mr. Burcham in April, May, and June, descending the river with
the fry, ranged in length from 48 to 97 mm. (1.9 to 3.8 inches), and possessed well-developed
overlapping scales visible to the unaided eye. They exhibited outside the blank centre or
nucleus a series of concentric growth-rings, five to twenty-one in number, the more numerous
rings in every instance marking the larger fish. Even in the smaller scales with few rings, it
is obvious that the outer rings possess that peculiar crowded and broken appearance which
characterizes winter growth, and gives the impression that the materials available for construction are inadequate for even the small amount of growth that takes place at this season.
Beyond the winter lines, around the margin of the scale, may now and then be present from
April to June the new growth of the year in the form of one to three wide rings, often sharply
set off from the narrow rings of the winter. It is with the scales of these yearlings, fifteen
to eighteen months old, that we must compare that narrow-ringed central area found in
practically all adult sockeye scales from the Fraser. As we have previously stated, the 4 Geo. 5 Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. R 55
correspondence is exact. We have examined this central area in some 1,500 adults, and find
it to contain from six to twenty-four rings, the numbers most frequently encountered (run of
1912) being ten and eleven. The outer rings are unmistakably of winter growth, being slender,
crowded, and more or less interrupted, while outside the narrower rings are occasionally found
a few constituting the first of the growth of the new year, but still formed before they had
reached the sea. In view of these facts, we maintain it cannot again be seriously contended
that the central or nuclear area of the adult scale represents growth accomplished by the fry
of the year at the time of their seaward migration, and that this portion of the scale represents,
therefore, but a growth of six months or less. We regret that Professor McMurrich has
reiterated that view in a recent publication, * which merely testifies to his lack of knowledge
of facts vital to this discussion, concerning the downward migration of the young and the
development of the scales. Many of these facts had been placed on record in the Report of
the Commissioner of Fisheries for British Columbia as early as 1904. Others are to be found
in that storehouse of information concerning young salmon, presented by Mr. F. M. Chamberlain
Among that vast majority of adult sockeye scales which testify in no uncertain terms to a
full year's residence in fresh water we have found one rarely which has seemed to point to
an even longer residence before seeking the sea. In these the fine-ringed central area is distinctly
larger than usual and is divided in two portions separated by an unmistakable winter band
of crowded broken rings, while a second similar winter band surrounds the whole area. The only
possible explanation would seem to be that the young fish spent an additional full year in the
lake and descended to the sea in its third spring after hatching. Such an occurrence had been
conjectured by Mr. Chamberlain in the course of his examination of young migrants, on the basis
of the size-groups into which they fell. We shall discuss this matter more at length in connection with the Nass River, where, as we shall show, the phenomenon is one of common occurrence,
and may even be accompanied by residence in the lake for a longer period, as will appear.
(3.) Life in the Sea and the Age-groups of the Spawning Run.
On passing out from the mouths of the rivers on their seaward migration, the young
sockeye are wholly lost to view, and are not again seen until the year of their maturity, when
they draw in toward the stream which they will ascend to spawn. No young sockeyes are on
record from salt water along the British Columbia coast, nor are there any observations of
their movements within this district. The young of all other species of salmon can be taken
by seine along the beaches or are encountered among the fish-traps of Puget Sound, where they
follow along the lead and play in and out of the hearts of the traps. But the sockeye young
must pursue a different course. It is not improbable that they strike directly for the outer
coasts, passing through the deep-water channels; but of this we have no direct evidence.
During the years of their sojourn in the sea their habits are wholly a matter of inference.
That they feed on small pelagic Crustacea, and on occasion eat the sand-lance (Ammodytes
personatus), has been established by the examination of the stomachs of certain individuals
from Swiftsure Bank, off the Straits of Fuca, from Clayoquot Sound, and from Nass Harbour,
captured before yet they had initiated their final fast. Concerning the areas over which they
are distributed, the direction and extent of their movements out to sea or along the coast, and
concerning the amount of their annual growth, nothing until now has been made known.
When again they approach the shore at maturity and the spawning run is levied on for
economic uses, it is found to be made up of individuals not all of the same age, as was
formerly believed, but of three different ages, constituting three distinct age-groups. Thus,
the Fraser River run of 1912, as has been shown, contained some individuals laid down as
eggs in 1907, others in 190S, and still others in 1909. Similarly, in the run of 1913 were found
those dating from the seasons 1908, 1909, and 1910. Three successive years, therefore, though
in widely differing degree, contribute their quota to each spawning run, and thus aid somewhat
in keeping the runs uniform. For if adverse conditions bring about a greatly diminished hatch
in any given year, the few offspring of that year will be joined at maturity by two other groups,
from years which may have been normal or even exceptionally good. Wide as are the fluctuations in the annual runs to the Nass, the Skeena, and Rivers Inlet, they are vastly less variable
: Transactions Royal Society Canada, Srd Ser., 1913, Vol. VII. R 56 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
than would be the case if all members of the spawning run had been hatched the same year.
If all the years in any stream were equally successful and produced the same number of mature
fish, the age-groups would appear from year to year in the spawning run in the same proportions.
If 10 per cent, of the eggs should constantly mature at three years, 70 per cent, in four years,
and 20 per cent, in five years, then, in a series of years of equal hatching, the age-groups would
appear in the proportions of ten, seventy, and twenty. But no constancy in this matter is
observed. On the contrary, in successive years in the same stream, the groups appear in widely
different proportions. This fluctuation is a measure of the inequality of past seasons on the
spawning-grounds, and at the same time testifies to the equalizing effect of the provision that
components of the spawning run should be drawn from different seasons. For a deficiency in
one group—as, for instance, the four-year contingent—due to adverse conditions when the eggs
of that group were laid down, becomes very marked when contrasted with the more normal
numbers of the groups associated with it. Thus it happens that the proportions of four- and
five-year fish for any year in a given stream form a distinctive index for that year, not likely
to be exactly duplicated in subsequent years, and not likely to agree with the index of any
other stream in the same year.
Nothing certain was known concerning these age-groups and the very important part they
play in the economy of the runs, until we had demonstrated by an investigation of the scales
that it was feasible to determine the age of any individual by the records therein contained of
its annual periods of growth.
To review this matter briefly, we present Figs. A, B, and C, which illustrate the scales
characteristic of the three year-groups which seem to occur universally among the sockeyes.
In each of these figures, I. indicates the outer limit of the growth in fresh water, or, in other
words, the actual margin of the scale when the yearling reached the sea. As previously stated,
it contains such record as we have of the first fifteen to eighteen months of the life of the fish.
Immediately beyond it begin abruptly the wide rings indicating the rapid growth which begins
as soon as salt water is reached. But as the fall and winter approach, this growth is checked
and finally almost ceases. This close of the season's growth is indicated by II., which marks
the outer limit of the first " winter band " in the sea, when the fish has completed or slightly
exceeded a full two years of its life. Similarly, III. marks the third full season's growth, with
its alternate summer and winter bands, and IV. the completion of the fourth season. As the fish
are captured in midsummer, before they have finished the last year of their life, each scale is
shown to terminate with wide summer rings, and the tale of the years which they live is not
quite complete. Should they continue to grow throughout the summer and into the fall or the
early winter in which they perish, the last summer band would become somewhate widened, and
a final fall-winter band of narrow rings would be added at the margin. Just such a condition is
occasionally found among those individuals w7hich are the last of the run to leave the feeding-
grounds, and which continue to grow until the eggs and milt are almost ready to be shed.
The scales A, B, and C, therefore, contain records of sockeye in their third, fourth, and
fifth years. Our conclusions in this regard are in accord with those reached independently
by Mr. F. M. Chamberlain, * of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, and by J. A. Milne, f
Only with the hastily drawn conclusions of Professor J. P. McMurrich is there disagreement.
The age-groups on which he has reported correspond to Figs. A and C of this report, A being
considered by him to be two years old and C four years old. The form B was not seen by him,
but as the scale is intermediate between A and C, containing two winter bands outside the
nucleus, while A contains one and C contains three such bands. Professor McMurrich would have
been compelled to assign three years as the age of B. But the form B constitutes the predominant age-group in the Fraser River run, having comprised 54 per cent, of the run of 1911, 90 per
cent, of the run of 1912, and it constituted, as we shall soon indicate, practically the entire run
of the " big year," 1913. It would seem unnecessary to point out the impossibility of maintaining
a constant four-year cycle through the instrumentality of a fish maturing in three years. This
consideration alone would make untenable Professor McMurrich's interpretation, and we need
not concern ourselves with it further.
* Communicated in a letter.
t Proc. Zool. Soc, Lond., 1913, p. 580. 111 4 Geo. 5 Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. R 57
(4.) The Fraser River Run of 1913.
This season offered the first opportunity for investigating the components of the run in a
big year of the cycle, for no method of age-determination for sockeyes had been evolved until
after the last big year, 1909. It had long been taken for granted that the run of the big year
must have originated from eggs laid down in the previous big year of the cycle. In fact, it
would seem impossible on any other hypothesis to account for a large, regularly recurring
oscillation in the size of runs. This consideration led to the theory that the sockeye were
exclusively four-year fish, and when we announced that in 1911 we found the run of that year
to consist of four- and five-year fish in nearly equal proportions, it was objected that such a
condition was incompatible with the maintenance of a four-year cycle. The results of the 1913
investigation, therefore, were rightly considered of high importance. They would surely form the
test of any age-theory that might have been advanced on scale-structure or on any other basis.
The predictions of the writer had been stated in previous reports as follows: " The enormous
numbers of a big year must consist in overwhelming proportion of four-year-olds." And again:
" The five-year fish present would have developed in their due proportion from the few eggs of
an ' off-year,' and would be too scattered to produce any effect among the vast hordes of four-
Recalling that five-year fish constituted nearly half (45.8 per cent.) of the run of 1911, and
nearly one-tenth (6.8 per cent.) of the run of 1912, it was with special interest that we examined
scales of the 1913 run. To make sure of adequate representation and a fair average, scales of
2,580 fish were inspected, collected at Esquimalt, Bellingham, Blaine, * and Steveston. The
localities represented were the southern shores of Vancouver Island, the Salmon Banks, Rosario
Straits, Boundary Bay, and the mouth of the Fraser, while data w7ere gathered at intervals
from the beginning of the run until its close. Of the 2,580 specimens examined, nine were five
years old, derived from eggs laid down in 1908; five were three-year-old male grilse, dating from
1910; all the remainder were of the type we had previously determined to be four-year fish,
from eggs deposited in the preceding big year, 1909, and by their enormous numbers effectually
diluting and concealing the other age-groups.
Among the questions which press for answer in connection with such phenomenal runs is
whether the fish give any evidence of having suffered the effects of overcrowding in the lakes
or in the sea. At the time their eggs were deposited in 1909, Mr. Babcock reported that the
spawning-beds were very copiously seeded, the hatcheries were filled, and the season, it seemed,
proved favourable. It is safe to assume that the lakes later contained incredible swarms of fry
after hatching, and that these bodies of water were drawn on for over a year to furnish food for
enormous numbers of fingerlings, many times in excess of the numbers they support during the
The question of available food-supply in the lakes becomes a pressing one in such a case,
but has as yet received no attention. It should be thoroughly investigated, not only with
reference to such great natural variations in the demand as shown in the present instance, but
also in consideration of conditions artificially caused, where eggs from an extensive watershed
are concentrated in one hatchery and the fry are planted in a restricted area. In the case of
the Fraser, it has seemed entirely possible that so extensive a brood as is provided during the
big years might find itself limited in food to such extent that the individuals would become
emaciated and dwarfed during their year's residence in the lake. It has also seemed possible
that an unusual proportion might be driven to migrate as fry as soon as the yolk-sac was
Taking up the subject of early dwarfing, it must be obvious that such a result would
record itself on the nuclear area of the scale, which is formed during life in fresh water. If
the migrating fingerlings from the big year's hatch were smaller on account of scanty feed than
those of the intervening years, the nuclear areas of the adult fish of the big year would be
smaller than the nuclear areas of other years and would have fewer rings. But an examination
of this area in the scales of the 1913 run has proven that such was not the case. On the
contrary, it is clearly shown that the 1909 brood from which the 1913 fish developed, despite
their enormous numbers, grew more vigorously during their yearling sojourn in the lakes, and
* The Blaine material was collected by Captain J. F. Moser, of the Alaska Packers' Association, and
was kindly submitted for our examination. R 58 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
attained a somewhat larger average size than did the very limited brood of the preceding year.
Thus in the 1912 run the average number of rings of the, nuclear area in four-year fish was 11.66,
while in 1913 it was 13.5. A larger number of nuclear rings is shown by observation to be closely
correlated with increased size of the fish, so we are entirely justified in asserting that the 1909
brood, when it descended to the sea as yearlings, gave no indication of dwarfing. The reason
for increased instead of diminished average is not clear. But it should be recalled that the
average growth of fingerlings in the various lakes of the watershed has not been determined,
and it is very probable that growth is more vigorous in some lakes than in others. Among
the lakes most favourable for growth may be those which are occupied only in the years of the
big run. In such case the progeny from these lakes would bring up the average size of yearlings
in the entire basin.
The question remains whether the crowded condition of the lakes materially increases the
number of young which migrate as fry shortly after hatching, in comparison with those which
remain in the lake and descend in their second spring. If food in the lakes were wholly
insufficient, numbers might be forced out which would otherwise remain. The alternative might
be starvation, or perhaps falling a prey to their more vigorous brethren. If unusual proportions
should migrate as fry, it could be expected that the adult fish of the big year would contain a
larger proportion than usual of individuals which had entered the sea before their scales had
developed, and which would not exhibit, therefore, the small, sharply marked nuclear area of
crowded rings characteristic of growth in fresh water. A careful inspection of all our material
was made to determine this point, but no evidence could be found that the mature 1913 fish
had entered the sea as fry. Of the 2,580 examined, only one seemed to have had this history.
The others had remained in their native lakes for over a year. While this evidence is not conclusive, in view of the excessive mortality experienced by migrating fry of the year and the very
small proportion which become adult, nevertheless we can properly call attention to the fact
that no positive evidence is obtainable either from rate of growth in the year or from their
enforced migration which would indicate that food-supply in the lakes is inadequate.
A further question concerns the ability of the off-shore feeding-grounds to support the hordes
of a big year. It is evident that demands for food will rapidly increase as the school of the
next big year approaches maturity. In 1914 our big-year brood of 1917 w7ill be in the lakes,
and all the sockeye on the feeding-grounds in the sea will be relieved from the competition of
the fish of a big year. The spawning run of 1914 had therefore the last half of its third year
and will have its entire fourth season on pastures relatively unoccupied. In 1915 the yearlings
of the 1913 brood will appear on the banks and will make the phenomenal growth of their second
year, but will average only 12 inches long at its close. The spawning run of 1915, therefore,
will also be favoured, having been free from competition by any big school during half of 1913
and all of 1914, and having encountered in 1915 only such advance guard of the 1917 contingent
as reach the feeding-grounds before the spawning run begins.
If competition in the sea with members of their own race exercises any influence on stature,
this should become evident where the annual runs oscillate so extensively as they do on the
Fraser. There is a widespread impression that the fish of the big runs average smaller than
those of other years, and canners generally assert that the fish run more to the case in the
big years than at other times. To a certain extent this might be due to less economical methods
of butchering in the full years. In part also it might be due to almost entire elimination of
the heavier five-year fish. It becomes important, therefore, to compare the adult fish of the big
run with those of equal age (four years) in other runs to ascertain if crowding on the feeding-
grounds has had any appreciable extent in stunting growth.
The following table gives the lengths of 1,000 four-year sockeye taken in traps, July 25th
and 26th and August 11th and 15th, and examined in the cannery of the Pacific American
Fisheries at Bellingham. Our thanks are again due to the managers of this company for
courtesies extended. 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon.
Table I.—One Thousand Adult Sockeyes of the 1913 Run, grouped by Sex and Size.
Comparing this with similar tables of the 1912 run, it is seen that the range in size is
practically identical, but the average is slightly smaller in 1913. It is true, also, that a number
of mature females were seen in 1913 smaller than any previously observed, smaller even than the
largest of the three-year grilse of 1912. A larger number of ill-nourished females were also
present, lanky snake-like creatures, which nevertheless managed to mature their eggs. But, as
such individuals are usually culled out, their apparent abundance may not have been due to
proportionate increase. The average length in inches of four-year sockeyes of the 1912 run
Bellingham specimens 25.2 24.6
Esquimalt specimens 25.08 24.5
The measurements were taken by different observers at different dates, and fish were
obtained from widely separated localities, yet the results are almost identical. In 1913 the
Bellingham specimens 24.5 23.8
A corresponding decline is shown in the weights of the Bellingham fish, which averaged,
in 1912, 5.98 lb.; in 1913, 5.38 lb. The data for both years were secured in the same manner,
by weighing and measuring individually fish taken at random without selection. The small
differences here observed cannot be accepted as conclusive evidence of the effects of stronger
competition for food as the big brood approaches the adult condition, but it will be of value to
continue observations over a series of years to ascertain whether oscillations in average length
and weight follow a sequence dependent on the four-year cycle of the run.
The statistics derived from the fish examined at Steveston, at the mouth of the Fraser, led
us to consider the screening effect of the gill-nets and the possible bearing of this on practical
As is known, the Canadian sockeye fishery at the mouth of the Fraser is carried on solely
through the use of gill-nets, with a mesh measuring not less than 5% inches; while on the
American side of the line, traps and purse-seines, with very fine mesh, are almost exclusively
used. That the smaller sockeyes can escape through the meshes of the gill-nets is conclusively
shown when male grilse are running abundantly, and are taken in large numbers from the traps R 60
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
and purse-seines, but are little in evidence at Steveston and other points to which the gill-net
fish are taken. It is fair to assume that in years when these precociously developed male grilse
are very numerous (as in 1912, and invariably in the year preceding the big run), the nets at
the mouth of the Fraser screen out the big fish and permit the diminutive males to reach the
spawning-beds in disproportionate numbers. This effect could be observed only in the years
preceding the big runs, for at other times the grilse are present in small numbers and are
No data have been available as to the screening effect of the gill-nets on fish of larger size.
Those w7ho have observed the sockeye ascending the canyon of the Fraser have noted gill-net
marks on many individuals, indicating their escape from capture. Where this has been due to
a breaking of the mesh, it might be supposed that the largest and most vigorous fish would be
most likely to succeed. But when it is recalled that the smaller sizes of four-year fish are but
little larger than the grilse, it must be apparent that many of these escape through the meshes,
as do the grilse, without breaking the thread, with the result, again, of screening out the larger
fish and permitting a disproportionate number of small four-year-olds to reach the spawning-
grounds. A glance at the table of measurements given above (Table I.)—and the same has
been indicated by similar tables of previous years—shows that the females average smaller than
the males, and would pass through the mesh of the gill-nets in somewhat larger numbers than
the latter. This would be a beneficial result, as one male can fertilize the eggs of several
Examination of measurements made during the season of 1913 at Steveston, at Esquimalt,
and at Bellingham seem to support the supposition above made. At Esquimalt and at Bellingham, where fish were obtained from traps or seines, the males and females were found in equal
numbers (Esquimalt, 138 males, 139 females; Bellingham, 598 males, 607 females). But at
Steveston observations from July 7th to August 15th indicate that males were always in the
majority, the totals for these dates indicating 323 males and 210 females. It is obvious that
if males and females were running in equal numbers at the mouth of the Fraser, as they were
at the same dates along the shore of Vancouver Island and in Rosario Straits, then there must
have passed through the gill-nets many more females than males. This is shown by the
following table, in which records of measurements made at Bellingham for trap fish and at
Steveston for gill-net fish are reduced to percentages for direct comparison and are distributed
according to length :—
Table II.—Percentage of Adult Sockeyes of Different Lengths in the 1913 Run, captured by
Trap and by Gill-net.
Length in Inches.
Percentage captured by
Percentage captured by
1.000 4 Geo. 5 Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. R 61
The Steveston records are from only 323 males and 210 females, not enough to furnish an
even curve, but the results are unmistakable. From 24 inches up there is no evidence of escape
through the mesh, but below this length there is found among the trap fish a constantly larger
proportion of small individuals, a proportion which increases regularly as the smaller sizes are
reached, until finally below 22 inches none are found among gill-net fish. Referring to the table
of measurements of 500 grilse given in the Report of the Commissioner for 1912, p. 20, it is
seen that the largest size there given is 21% inches long. While occasional individuals less
than 22 inches are undoubtedly now and then entangled in the gill nets, it is believed that
practically all escape, and that a very large proportion of the next larger sizes also pass through
In addition to the smaller size of the females, they are undoubtedly helped to escape by
their more rounded form. Males of the same length become deeper as soon as the sexual
changes begin to manifest themselves. Turning again to Table II., w7e find that for those sizes
less than 24 inches the gill-net fish exhibited a deficiency, compared with the trap fish, of 248
females and 78 males. These must represent the individuals which actually passed through
the meshes of the gill-nets. No opportunity is presented on the Fraser to examine the remnant
of the spawning run which escapes traps and nets. But in Bristol Bay, Alaska, certain traps
were at one time located well up the Wood River above the gill-netting grounds. It was
universally recognized that the fish from these traps averaged smaller than those from the
gill-nets on the lower river, and that they included a much larger percentage of females. It has
not hitherto been pointed out that this screening effect gives to the gill-nets an advantage over
all other methods of fishing, from the point of view of conserving the run. In proportion to
the fish captured, they permit a larger percentage of breeding females to reach the spawning-
(5.) Growth and Development of the Fraser River Sockeye.
It has been shown by measurement of specimens that Fraser River fingerlings in their
second year reach the sea at a length of 48 to 97 mm. (1.9 to 3.8 inches), but these figures are
based on so few individuals that they cannot be taken to represent the extremes of the series.
Furthermore, the specimens measured were captured with fine-meshed bag or fyke nets set in
the current of the river. As water strains with difficulty through such a net, the current
within it is materially slackened, and the larger and more active fish may well escape.
To throw light on this question and on the subsequent growth of the sockeye in the sea, we
have availed ourselves of a method, devised and thoroughly tested by Dr. Knut Dahl * and his
associates, for computing from the scale of the fish its length at any age. This method is based
on the fact that the scales are permanent structures, which remain constant in number during
the life of the individual, and, as they always cover the fish, their growth during any period
must be proportional to the growth of the entire fish. If we measure along the axis of the scale
those portions which represent the growth of the first, the second, the third and' other years,
we shall find that these are proportional fo the increase in length of the fish during the
corresponding periods of time. If the total length of the adult fish is known, the other lengths
are readily computed.
We have in this manner made out the growth-history of 100 Fraser River sockeyes which
we examined in Bellingham, Washington, in August, 1913. The results appear in the following
table, in which, for reasons which are later apparent, the specimens are arranged in the order
of their length when two years old. At this period they had completed the formation of the first
winter band in the sea. The second column in the table is based on the axial length of the
nuclear area of the scale, measured to the outer margin of the fine rings laid down during the
winter spent in the lake. There are not included any of the wider rings marking the new
growth of the second year, whether this began, as is frequently the case, in fresh water before
migrating, or not until later in the sea. The second column gives the giwvth during the first
summer and winter in the sea, and is measured to the outer edge of the winter band. The
third column gives the growth to the end of the third winter, and the fourth the growth until
captured during the late summer of the fourth year.
■ The Age and Growth of Salmon and Trout. London, 1911. R 62
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
-Giving Annual Growth in Millimetres of 100 Fraser River Sockeyes, Run of 1913, as
computed from their Scales.
616 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of tpie Sockeye Sj
647 R 64 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
In using for purposes of general discussion data obtained by long-range computation, as in
the present instance, it is desirable to seize every opportunity to test the method, and to ascertain to what extent it is reliable. Such tests have been applied by Dr. Dahl, using the trout and
salmon of Norway, and have proven conclusively that the general results may be accepted
without question. Growth-curves were constructed by him from measurements of large numbers
of fishes of known age, and when these were compared with similar curves based on scale
computation, the two were found to be practically identical. There are insurmountable difficulties in the w7ay of pursuing this course as fully as is desirable with the sockeye, inasmuch as
the fish is completely withdrawn from our observation during the greater part of its life. We
can, however, compare our computations of the length of migrating yearlings with the known
range in length of yearlings, derived from actual measurements, and we can compare the
computed length of the sockeye when three years old with the measured length of the grilse,
which return to the spaw7ning-beds in their third year. If close agreement in these shall be
found, the table of measurements will stand approved, and can be used for general discussion
of such laws of growth as may appear.
Referring to the second column of the table for computations of the lengths of fingerlings,
it will be seen that these range from 37 to 118 mm. As our fingerling measurements, based on
a small number of individuals captured with a fine-meshed net, lie between 48 and 97 mm., this
result must be accepted as offering a striking corroboration of the method.
In seeking to compare the computed lengths of sockeye at the end of the third year with
the measurements of grilse obtained in the spawning run in late summer, we are confronted
with the fact that the conditions are not entirely equal. The grilse may well be expected to
average slightly smaller than the computed lengths, for the following reasons:—
(1.) The grilse develop and ripen their milt during their third year, while the other
individuals of equal age devote all their vital energy to increase in stature.
(2.) In common with all mature sockeye, the grilse cease to feed in midsummer, as they
approach the coast, while the other members of their group are busily occupied on their feeding-
(3.) The grilse are taken in the late summer, and have not yet formed a "winter band"
of fine rings at the margin of their scales. Rarely, the beginning of such a band can be
recognized, but nothing further. As our estimate of the third year's growth on the adult scale
includes the full third wnnter band, it is evident that a small increment of growTth is there
recorded which had not been formed in the grilse at the time of their capture.
These considerations lend additional interest to a comparison of the results obtained by
computation, as given in the above table, with those derived in 1912 from a measurement of 500
mature male grilse in their third year (see Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries for 1912,
p. 20). It will there be seen that the grilse ranged in length from 16% to 21% inches, with an
average of 189/,„ inches. Comparing with these our computed measurements of three-year fish
given in the accompanying table (comprising in each case the sum of columns 2, 3, and 4), we
find that these extend from 465 to 590 mm., or 18% to 23% inches, with an average of 20'/10
inches. According to this, the three-year sockeyes which remain on the feeding-grounds average
about 2 inches longer at the close of the season than do the grilse captured on the coast in July
and August. As in the case of the fingerling measurements, we have here a striking corroboration of the reliability of our method. The table, therefore, stands approved, and we are justified
in concluding from the figures there presented that Fraser River sockeye maturing in their
fourth year have exhibited at the periods stated the following average lengths:—
(1.) As fingerlings, descending to the sea, 80 mm. (3.15 inches) :
(2.) As two-year-olds, after one full year in the sea, 312 mm. (12.25 inches) :
(3.) As three-year-olds, after the third winter's growth, 526 mm. (207/,„ inches) :
(4.) When captured in their fourth year, in the spawning run, 616 mm. (24.25 inches).
A larger number of measurements would slightly but not materially modify these results.
The only previous attempt to compute the growth of sockeye by this method is that made
by Mr. J. A. Milne (Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1913, p. 589). Unfortunately, the only scales for
w7hich he had full data were taken from a male grilse which was three years, not four years
old as he believed. The point on the scale considered as designating the second winter band in
reality marks the accessory check or band, which so frequently is formed in the second summer's
growth. Making this correction, Mr. Milne's estimates are as follows:— 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon.
(1.) As yearling, 2% inches:
(2.) As two years old, 12% inches:
(3.) When captured in third year, 20% inches.
It will be seen that these agree perfectly with the conclusion reached by us in the cases
The computation method here employed has certain obvious advantages over any other for
the study of the laws of growth. The actual measurement of many fish of known age gives
accurate data for general averages, but nothing concerning the development of the individual.
Yet it is only by tracing fluctuations in the growth of the individual from season to season
that we can hope to ascertain whether such fluctuations can be correlated with each other, or
with any external factors, and can also ascertain what, if any, regulatory mechanisms are
involved. Obviously this is a matter demanding wide induction. Nothing final will be attempted
on the basis of the single hundred computations here presented, but it seems that certain
tentative conclusions can safely be drawn from this material.
We consider first whether the largest of the migrating fingerlings on reaching the sea
continue to grow more rapidly than their fellows and proceed to develop into the larger sizes
of adults. To throw light on this problem, the measurements in Table III. were rearranged in
such manner that the hundred individuals follow in the strict order of their size when fingerlings,
from the smallest to the largest. Should it appear that the largest fingerlings retain their
supremacy during subsequent years, we should find traces of an arrangement in columns 3, 4, 5,
and 6 similar to the one we had produced in column 2. Each should in general begin with the
smaller sizes and lead up to the larger. On careful inspection, however, no such arrangement
was apparent, and we were inclined to adopt the conclusion that no definite effect on the later
development could be traced to a more vigorous growth during the first year. As general
tendencies are often masked by individual variation, the matter was tested by dividing the
rearranged table in groups of ten, beginning with the smallest fingerlings, and taking the
average for each such group. The measurements employed included columns 2, 3, and 6, which
give the length of the fingerlings, the growth during the second year, and the size of the adult.
The table follows :—
Table IV.—Average Groicth of 100 Sockeyes in Groups of Ten, arranged according to Length
of Fingerlings at Migration.
1 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 30
31 to 40
41 to 50
51 to 60
61 to 70
71 to 80
SI to 90
91 to 100
From this it appears that it is not possible, guided solely by the size of the migrating
yearling, to predict anything concerning the future rate of growth of the individual. Whether
initial vigour does not persist, or precocity in the first year is followed by a later reversal, it
is not possible to state. . The problem is undoubtedly complicated by the fact, already pointed
out, that while superior size of the yearling may indicate unusual vigour, it may in any
individual case result merely from earlier hatching and a longer period of growth. From a
later table, arranged on a different basis, with no direct reference to size of yearlings, we
learn that these may be so placed in groups that their averages shall exhibit a regular progression
5 R 66
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
from smallest to largest, and are correlated with rates of future growth. We are apparently
dealing with something fundamental in this later grouping, now to be considered. Whether the
basis thereto employed enables us to segregate those individuals of inferior from those of superior
initial vigour, irrespective of the mere accident of size due to other causes such as early or late
hatching, is a matter for future investigation.
The second grouping employed is that given in the original table (III.) above presented, and
is based on the total length attained by the individuals at the close of their first year in the sea.
To obtain this length, columns 2 and 3 are added. It will then be found that the arrangement
we have adopted in the table exactly follows an orderly sequence beginning with the smallest.
In this arrangement it is not at first apparent that the lengths of the fingerlings follow any
ascertainable order. The first ten of the table cover the range from 44 to 116 mm., and the
last ten from 46 to 99 mm. Yet by dividing the series into ten groups of ten each and averaging
these groups, we obtain the following average lengths of fingerlings, following the original order:
68.4, 64.2, 71.9, 74.4, 79.4, 81, 90.7, 88.4, 91.2, 87.
Making the necessary allowance for the small number (ten) employed for each average, the
order of succession is obvious and illuminating. It seems that, although the largest yearlings
cannot be depended on invariably to produce the largest two-year-olds, nevertheless any group
of the largest two-year-olds are produced by yearlings of larger average size than those which
produce any group of smaller two-year-olds. When the young migrants reach the sea and
instantly respond there to the extremely favourable conditions for growth, they increase very
unequally and without direct reference to size at time of migrating. The smallest fingerling
of our list, 37 mm. long, reached a length of 305 mm. as a two-year-old. The next to the largest
fingerling of our list, 116 mm., attained a length of only 262 mm. Yet the averages above given
indicate a correlation between the first and second year's growths which demands explanation.
We are at a loss to suggest what principle is involved, unless perhaps we are dealing with
variations in native growth-force, which are masked during the first year by the many modifying
conditions incident to life in fresh water, but express themselves clearly under the uniformly
favourable conditions of sea life and feeding.
While the correlation between the first and second year's growth cannot be denied, still more
obvious and unquestionable is the direct relation between the growth of the second and the
third years. It will be recalled that the order of succession adopted in Table III. is based on
the size of the individuals when two years old. The smallest appear first and the others are
given in the order of their length. This arrangement, we find, brings the figures in the third
column also to a fairly uniform numerical sequence. Only here the order is exactly reversed.
The largest numbers appear at the top of the column and the smaller follow in regular order. To
make this evident within brief compass, we have divided the original table in five groups of
twenty individuals each, maintaining the original order, and have taken the average growth of
the second and third years for each group of twenty.
1 to 20.
21 to 40.
41 to 00.
01 to 80.
31 to 100.
Total for both years
To present all the data in more detail, we repeat the entire Table III. in condensed form,
dividing the hundred cases in ten groups of ten individuals each, and presenting the average
measurements for each group, the original order being preserved. 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon.
Table VI.—Average Growth in Millimetres of 100 Sockeyes in Groups of Ten, arranged according
to Length as Two-year-olds.
G l'owth Second
1 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 30
31 to 40
41 to 50
51 to 60
61 to 70
71 to 80
81 to 90
91 to 100
Examination of this table reveals that the order of growth maintained in the second year
is exactly reversed in the third. The largest fish at the end of the second year are retarded
during the third and make the smallest growth, while the smallest two-year fish are greatly
accelerated in their third year and make the largest growth of the season. A similar but less
pronounced further tendency in the same direction is obvious during the fourth year.
It is evident that we have here the operation of a distinct regulatory mechanism, w7hich
controls growth in such manner as to lead all individuals toward a uniform size at maturity.
Marshalled in the order of their length at the beginning of the third year, to each is assigned
a season's growth equal to the distance they have still to traverse in order to bring all to
that average stature which marks the race. No more impressive case is known to us than
this. The final result is well indicated in the lower line of Table V., in which the sum of the
growths for the two years scarcely differ in the five diverse groups.
As further confirmation of a unifying tendency which works towards the attainment of a
uniform standard size at maturity, we have drawn from Table III. the total range in size for
each year, and have established the ratio between this total range and the average size for the
year. The table follows:—
Range in Length.
Range to Average
37 to 118
234 to 386
465 to 590
578 to 654
101 per cent.
We are not inclined to lay stress on the regular sequence of the percentages—that of each
year equalling half that of the preceding year—for this may be a coincidence. But not so the
fact which stands out clearly, that the percentage of variation steadily and materially diminishes
with each year.
A further question which demands discussion in this connection is the possible effects of
early conditions on the age at which the individual will attain sexual maturity. Will a searching R 68 Report of the Commissioner of Fispieries. 1914
analysis of the details of growth in fishes which have matured at three years, four years, and
five years reveal anything distinctive, which, if not causally connected with a given habit of
maturing, is at least associated with it? If so, the possibility may arise of influencing this
habit, at least in connection with fishes artificially reared.
It has not been possible to examine this question on the basis of materials gathered in
1913, for practically all the sockeyes of the Fraser run in that year belonged to one age-group
and were maturing in their fourth year. Such data as we have were obtained in 1912, but were
not published in the report of that year. They deal with the number of rings developed in the
nuclear area of the scales in series of individuals belonging to the three age-groups. As the
number of nuclear rings gives fairly reliable indication of the size of the fish when it migrated
to sea as a fingerling, our data may throw light on the question w7hether the size attained during
the year in fresh water exercises any influence on the age at which the individual will mature.
On examination of 1,500 specimens of the run of 1912, we find indeed a small average
difference in the number of rings in the nuclear area between the different age-groups, and this
difference is progressive. The three-year grilse exhibit the smallest number of rings, the five-
year fish the largest number, and the four-year fish an intermediate number. Here, however,
we must exercise a certain caution. The three generations in question did not inhabit the lakes
during the same year, for the three-year fish were obtaining their lake-growth in 1910, the four-
year fish in 1909, and the five-year fish in 190S, having been hatched respectively in 1909, 190S,
and 1907. Conditions may well be more favourable in one year than another of the same watershed, bringing about a greater average growth to the fingerlings of a given year. To obtain
data w7hich are wholly reliable, we must follow out the history of a single generation, so that
we are dealing throughout with individuals which were hatched during the same year, inhabited
the lakes together, and were subjected to identical external influences and surroundings up to
the times w7hen they abandoned their mates on the sea feeding-grounds and proceeded to the
spawning-beds. The three-year fish of 1912 must be compared with the four-year fish of 1913,
and again with the five-year fish of 1914. This we hope to carry out subsequently, as the material
for the first two comparisons is in hand. In the meantime we can only use such meagre data as
In the 1,500 specimens of the run of 1912 in which the nuclear rings were enumerated, it
was found that these were practically all included within the numbers 6 to 20. The average
for three-year fish was 10.6, for four-year fish 11.5, and for five-year fish 13.4. The difference
between the three- and the four-year fish is indeed small, but, as we have pointed out, the
comparison should be made with the four-year fish of 1913 rather than with those of 1912. When
substitution is made we find that those individuals of the 1909 brood which matured in three
years averaged 10.66 rings in the nuclear area, while those that matured in four years averaged
13.5 rings. As the averages in each case were the result of several hundred examinations, the
significance of the result cannot be denied. What the five-year fish will show, which will appear
in 1914 and belong to this same brood, is an interesting subject for future inquiry. If the
indications here given are substantiated by further investigation, we shall conclude that the
grilse, which mature precociously at three years and are almost totally valueless for commercial
purposes or for propagation, are drawn principally from the smaller fingerlings, while those
individuals which mature last and reach the largest size are principally derived from the larger
half of the fingerling series. While this generalization is at present insecurely based, it is fair
to add that it is apparently supported in a race of sockeyes from another stream by evidence
w7hich cannot be here submitted in detail. In the run of 1912 to Anderson Lake, Vancouver
Island, the five-year fish could almost invariably be distinguished from the four-year fish by
the large size of the nuclear area of the scale, and this not as a matter of averages, but in each
individual case, and at a glance. This may be a matter of seasonal variation between two
successive broods of fingerlings, but if it is more than that, the results are surprisingly contrary
to what we should expect on a priori grounds. It would certainly seem more reasonable, in case
the size of the individual should have any effect upon date of maturing, that those which develop
most rapidly should mature the earliest. Wide observation alone will enable us to decide
whether the reverse tendency, which we appear to have detected, is a general law among the
salmon, or whether, indeed, size of fingerling has any influence on the result. 4 Geo. 5 Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. R 69
(6.) Rivers Inlet, 1912 and 1913.
The sockeye of Rivers Inlet differ from those of all other streams examined by us in the
very small average size of their second year's growth. Scales from the 1912 and the 1913
runs tell the same story, as do the four- and the five-year fish in each run. Thus our material
represents three generations, the eggs to produce which were deposited in 1907, 1908, and 1909,
and since all agree in this habit of growth, it may be accepted as a constant feature and a racial
peculiarity of the Rivers Inlet fish.
The area on the scale representing the second year's growth, instead of slightly exceeding
on the average that representing the third year's growth, as in the Fraser River fish, is but
little more than half the third-year area. The accompanying figures (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4) make
evident this peculiarity, which is so marked that the scales of any ten sockeye from Rivers
Inlet taken at random could easily be distinguished from an equal number from any other
river-basin known to us. As the number of growth-rings formed on the scale during the second
year (20 to 30) is approximately equal to that found in other streams, or but little less, it
follows that the rings are much more closely crowded, often scarcely wider apart than those
of the nuclear area within them.
As this second year's growth is formed after the fingerlings migrate from their lake and
during the first season in the sea, we are confronted with the problem of accounting for the
phenomenally small growth which the fish from this basin make during their first year in salt
water. It is not occasioned alone by the small size of the fingerlings, although they average
much smaller than those from the Fraser. But, as we have seen in our discussion of the
Fraser run, even the smallest of the migrating fingerlings from that stream may produce a
very large growth in the second year, frequently, indeed, excelling some of the largest fingerlings in this respect. The smallest migrant from the Fraser of which we have record is 37 mm.,
while the largest from Rivers Inlet is 67 mm. So the difference between the two races in regard
to the second year's growth cannot be the result directly of difference in size on entering the sea.
The only other explanation based on direct effect of environment that suggests itself is
that the Rivers Inlet fish during their first year have poorer feeding-grounds than those from
other streams. We do not know to what extent, if any, the colonies from different streams are
segregated in the sea. It is hardly possible that they occupy grounds in the immediate vicinity
of the river-mouths. The Fraser River sockeye come in yearly, as we know, from the open
ocean. It is probably true that the northern races do the same. Natives annually report the
advance guard of the sockeye hordes from the outer islands a month or more before they make
their appearance on the fishing-grounds near the mouths of the streams. If all colonies alike
are in the open sea, feeding on small fishes and on pelagic organisms, it is difficult to imagine
that the colony from one river-basin should consistently find poorer feeding, and this during their
second year only. For during the third year the Rivers Inlet sockeye exceed the growth of the
Fraser fish for the same period in such manner as almost to make up the lost ground.
Is it possible they delay their seaward migration until the close of their first year in salt
water, and spend the intervening months in the long estuary and in the passages between the
islands beyond it? Improbable as this may seem, apparently the only alternative is that we
are dealing with a racial peculiarity, not directly in each individual dependent on the environing
conditions, but passed oil from generation to generation by inheritance, whatever may have been
its origin in the first instance. An interesting fact in this connection is that in other rivers
occasional individuals appear which differ from their fellows in this peculiarity of a small
second year's growth. A peculiarity, therefore, which makes its appearance elsewhere as an
exceptional variation has developed as the prevailing growth-mode of the Rivers Inlet race.
In the following table we have computed the growth for each year of their lives of thirty
Rivers Inlet sockeye, arranging them in the order of their size at the end of the second year,
beginning w7ith the smallest:— R 70
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
Table VIIL—Annual Growth in Millimetres of Rivers Inlet Sockeyes, 1913, computed from the
On scanning the one-year column, it is not evident that any orderly arrangement is presented.
As in the case of the Fraser fish, a large nuclear area at the end of the fingerling stage gives no
assurance of a large size at the end of the second year. Yet if these fingerling measurements
be averaged in groups of ten, maintaining the original order, a definite progression is met with,
following that in the second-year column, from the smallest to the largest. The similarity of
the conditions here found with those characterizing the Fraser statistics is striking and worthy
of attention. In both cases any orderly progression in the fingerling measurements is effectually
masked. It is only when group averages are taken that it becomes apparent that the wide
variations in growth of the second year are but fuller expressions of some primary tendency
which faintly manifested itself during the life of the diminutive fry and fingerling in fresh water.
The following table gives growth for the first four years taken from the preceding table and
averaged in groups of ten :— 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon.
Table IX.—Annual Growth of Thirty Rivers Inlet Sockeye, averaged in Groups of Ten.
1 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 30
Here, again, the compensatory growth of the third year is apparent, despite the small size
of the second season's growth and the small actual differences in the lengths of the two-year-olds.
At the end of their second year they ranged only from 6 to 9 inches long, yet the same law
which operated in the Fraser River fish to reduce them to uniform length at maturity takes
cognizance of these small differences. A glance at the last table shows that, in Rivers Inlet,
also, the rate of development experiences a sudden readjustment at the close of the second year
and thereafter, the largest individuals growing least rapidly and the smallest being spurred on
to greater activity.
For comparison with a similar table under the Fraser River (Table VII.), we subjoin a
table giving total range in size among thirty-seven Rivers Inlet sockeye for each year of their
lives, and the percentage of the range in each year to the average length of that year. The
percentages are strikingly similar to those of the Fraser River table.
Table X.—Percentage of Range in Size to Average Size in Thirty-seven Rivers Inlet Sockeye.
Range in Size.
Percentage of Range
to Average Size.
Two years ..
Four years .
23 to 67
155 to 232
432 to 558
551 to 647
100 per cent.
As seen above, the fingerlings on their seaward migration, when fifteen to eighteen months
old, range from 0.9 to 2.6 inches long, with an average of 1.7 inches. The two-year fish range
from 6.1 to 9.1 inches, averaging 7.6 inches. Three-year fish run from 17 to 22 inches, with an
average of 19; and four-year individuals from 21.7 to 25.4, the average at 23.5 inches. rLarger
numbers would extend the range of these estimated lengths, but the averages would not be
Tables are also presented, giving the distribution by age, sex, and size of 523 individuals
of the 1912 run and 956 of the run of 1913. To permit direct comparison, both tables are reduced
to the basis of 1,000 individuals. As in all similar cases, the fish were taken without selection
and can be accepted as offering a fair cross-section of the run. Those in 1913 were examined
at intervals of one w7eek throughout the season, without any difference becoming apparent in the
length or w7eight of the fish. R 72
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
Table XI.—Rivers Inlet Sockeye, Run of 1912, grouped by Age, Sex, and Size.
Length in Inches.
Four Years old.
Five Years old.
528 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon.
Table XII.—Rivers Inlet Sockeye, Run of 1913, grouped by Age, Sex, and Size.
Length in Inches.
Four Years old.
Five Years old.
The tables agree closely in the size of the two years. The averages for 1912 are: For
four-year males, 23.2 inches; four-year females, 22.8; five-year males, 25.8; five-year females,
24.6. In 1913, four-year males averaged 22.9 inches; four-year females, 23; five-year males, 25.9;
five-year females, 25.2.
The most striking feature of these tables is the wide disparity between the numbers of males
and females in both four- and five-year fish for both years. In 1912, females were greatly in the
majority in both generations, 61 per cent, of four-year fish and 67 per cent, of five-year fish being
females. The actual percentage of females in the run must have been even higher than this,
for, as we have seen in the Fraser River, the gill-nets have a selective influence, permitting more
females than males to escape.
In the four-year fish of 1913 the proportions were almost exactly reversed, the males appearing greatly in the majority, 74 per cent, of the catch being of this sex. But in the five-year fish
of 1913 the females were again in the ascendancy, 63 per cent, as compared with 37 per cent,
males. It should be noted that the five-year sockeyes of 1913 belonged to the same generation
as the four-year sockeyes of 1912. The eggs for both were deposited in the same nests in 190S,
the fry and fingerlings lived together indistinguishable in the lake and later in the ocean, until
the four-year fish withdrew. It is interesting, therefore, to find that both presented the same
excess of females, 61 and 63 per cent. Until this question has been further investigated we must
treat the above possibly as a mere coincidence. We are wholly without suggestion as to the
causes which could operate to produce such widely variant proportions of the sexes in any run.
Usually, the numbers checked by observers in widely distant localities have been equal, if the
catch fairly has represented the run. In the Rivers Inlet case the disparity cannot be the result
of selective fishing, for the methods were identical in the two years, and on no possible hypothesis R 74 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
could an excess of females in one year and an excess of males in the next result from fishing
the same gear with the same size of fish. Neither is it a question of the time in the season
when the test was taken. For in 1913 weekly examination was made throughout the fishing
season, and the same proportion of the sexes prevailed throughout. We are compelled to conclude, therefore, that the figures given represent differences that occurred in the entire run
of fish to Rivers Inlet in these two years. How, then, can we account for such differences?
Are they to be traced back to unequal sex production at the fertilization of the eggs and the
development of embryos and fry? If the newly hatched young could have been investigated in
1907, 1908, and 1909, or the fingerlings as they later entered salt water, would it have been
found that the sexes were in unequal numbers? Chamberlain, in 1904, investigated that matter
at Yes Bay, Alaska, and after determining sex in 1,550 fingerlings, found that males and females
showed equal development, 51 per cent, of this number being males.
But in this same Alaskan district the two sexes were found in equal numbers also in the
adults. If in the Rivers Inlet district it were ascertained that sockeye fry are equally distributed
between males and females, while adults continue to manifest an inequality in this regard, we
should be reduced apparently to one of two hypotheses. Either there was selective destruction
of one sex in the course of development, or a larger proportion of one sex than of the other
would mature at a given age. But there seem to be fatal objections against both of these theories.
If either the males or the females constantly predominated, selective destruction might seem not
impossible, but with first the males and then the females appearing in excess the position seems
untenable. As regards a different average age for maturing, it may be recalled that practically
all individuals which mature at three years old are males. Females almost invariably wait until
one or two years later. It would not be incredible that either males or females might react
differently at the age of four. But if the original numbers of the sexes were equal at hatching
and an excess of males, let us say, should mature in the fourth year, there would be constantly
a corresponding excess of females in the fifth year. But these conditions do not appear in such
Rivers Inlet records as we have. The season of 1914 will be of great interest in this regard.
If the five-year fish of this year show an excess of males corresponding to that exhibited by the
four-year fish of 1913, we shall conclude that the cause for disparity of the sexes is to be sought
far back in the history of the brood of 1909, to which they both belong.
In addition to inequality in the development of the sexes, the Rivers Inlet runs of 1912 and
1913 exhibited violent oscillations in the numbers of four- and five-year fish represented. In
1912 nearly four-fifths (79 per cent.) of the entire run was composed of fish maturing in their
fifth year, while in 1913 the proportions were exactly reversed, 80 per cent, of the run being
composed of four-year fish and 20 per cent, only of five-year fish.
We do not yet know what proportion of Rivers Inlet sockeye-eggs normally develop into
four-year and what proportion into five-year fish. We have as yet no evidence that the proportion
which obtains in the brood of one year will be found constant also in the following year and
with successive years. But we must distinguish clearly between proportions in a given brood
which will become mature at these two ages, and the proportion of these two ages which we will
find in a given run. If the broods were found to vary in this respect, it might be because age
of maturing was influenced by external conditions which might themselves vary from year to
year. But we have as yet no reason to believe that external conditions influence age of maturing,
and for purposes of the present discussion we are assuming that the proportions in successive
broods from the same stream which will mature in four and in five years are approximately
constant. Observations extending over a term of years will be needed to verify or to disprove
this assumption. If the assumption is well based, then wide variations in the runs, as regards
the age-groups of which they are composed, can be explained, as has already been pointed
out in this paper, only on the ground of widely different success on the spawning-grounds in
successive years. We have before us the fact that five-year fish, dating from 1907, appeared
in the run of 1912 in very unusually large proportions'. Did this signify that 1907 was verty-
successful on the spawning-grounds, furnishing a large quota of four-year-olds to 1911 and a
correspondingly large number of five-year-olds to 1912? Or was 1908 a very poor year, maturing
so small a number of four-year fish in 1912 that the five-year fish appeared excessive in comparison, although not present in unusual numbers? We have not yet adequate data for the
solution of these questions, but it is along these lines that fruitful investigation must proceed. 4 Geo. 5 Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon. R 75
Among the occasional variations in habit among Rivers Inlet sockeyes we find that of
spending two years instead of one in the lake. In these cases the nuclear region is larger than
in the usual run of fish and is divided by a definite winter band in the middle of its extent.
The first or central half then corresponds in size and in number of rings with the nuclear area
of those which spent but one year in the lake. We have record of sixteen fish which remained
thus two years in the lake before migrating. None of these matured after two years in the sea;
i.e., when four years old, fourteen matured in their third year at sea, in the fifth year after
hatching, and two spent four years in the sea and were in their sixth year when mature. It
would seem, therefore, that when the sockeye spends an additional year in fresh water, this
counts little or not at all toward the completion of the span of life of the individual. It takes
apparently the same number of years to mature an individual in the ocean, whether it migrates
seawards the same year in which it hatches, the following year, or after the lapse of an additional
We record here for the first time the discovery of individuals which have attained the age
of six years, by spending one year in the lake and five years in the sea. In more than ten
thousand specimens examined from a number of river-basins w7e have but three specimens with
this history, and two of these are from Rivers Inlet. It must be considered one of the rarest
occurrences among the sockeyes. The specimens are in no way remarkable for length or weight.
One is a male, 26% inches long, weighing 6% lb.; the other a female, 25% inches long. The
average four-year fish from Rivers Inlet weighs 5 lb., the average five-year fish 6% lb.
(7.) Sockeye Run, Nass River, 1912 and 1913.
The Nass River presents the most complicated conditions in its sockeye run of any river-
basin thus far investigated. The following groups of individuals are represented:—
(1.) Those that migrate as fry of the year, and mature after two or three winters in
the sea, therefore in their third or fourth year.
(2.) Those that migrate as yearlings, and mature after two, three, or four winters in
the sea, in their fourth, fifth, or sixth year. (Figs. 5, 6, 7.)
(3.) Those that remain in the lake for two full years after hatching, descending to the
sea in their third spring, and maturing after two or three winters at sea, in their
fifth or sixth years. (Figs. S, 9, 10.)
(4.) Those that remain in the lake three full years, until their fourth spring. (Figs.
11, 12, 13.)
The few specimens that w7e have examined of this latter group have remained two winters
in the sea, returning to spawn when in their sixth year. Whether any remain another year at
sea, maturing in their seventh year, has not been ascertained, but must be considered doubtful.
The most striking peculiarity of the Nass run lies in the fact that the majority of the fish
tarry in the lake more than the single year which is almost universal with other river-basins.
Occasionally in the Skagit, the Fraser, in Rivers Inlet, and the Skeena are encountered individuals
with the nuclear area of the scale divided near the middle by a well-marked winter band of fine
more or less broken rings, indicating two full years in fresh-water. But in these streams such
a habit is very exceptional and must be considered one of the rare variations from the normal.
In the Nass, however, this habit has become the predominant one. In 1912, 65 per cent, and in
1913, 74 per cent, of the run was composed of individuals that had spent more than two full
years in the lake. These facts are exhibited in the following tables, which account for all
groups of individuals having any commercial value. No grilse were obtained, as they usually
escape through the meshes of the gill-nets, and none are included which migrated as fry, for
these are too rare to have any significance; 486 individuals were examined in 1912, 1,149 in
1913. Both are given in the tables on the basis of 1,000 for purposes of easy comparison. R 76
Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries.
Table XIII.—Nass River Sockeyes, Run of 1912, grouped by Age, Sex, and Size.
Number of Individuals that spent
One Year in Lake.
Two Years in Lake.
Length in Inches.
Two Winters in Sea
(Four Years old).
Three Winters in
Sea (Five Years old).
Two Winters in Sea
(Five Years old).
Three Winters in
Sea (Six Years old).
25.6 in. 4 Geo. 5
Life-history of the Sockeye Salmon.
Table XIV.—Nass River Sockeyes, Run of 1913, grouped by Age, Sex, and Size.
Number of Indiv
lduals that spent
Two Years in Lake.
Length in Inches.
Two Winters in Sea
(Four Years old).
Three Winters in
Sea (Five Years old).
Two Winters in Sea
(Five Years old).
Three Winters in
Sea (Sis Years old).
Inspection of the tables shows that a very large proportion of the fish of the Nass mature
in their fifth year, in whatever way this period may be divided between lake and sea. In 1912,
83 per cent, and in 1913, 90 per cent, had spent either one year in the lake and four (three
winters) at sea, or two years in the lake and three (two winters) at sea. In all other basins
examined the four-year fish normally predominate.
Another point of interest is this: that those fingerlings which migrate at the end of their
first year are more likely to mature in five than in four years. Is there anything in connection
with early passage to sea which favours retarded maturity? There is no such influence apparent
in other river-basins, where the great majority of successful young migrate at the end of their
first year and mature rather at the end of their fourth than their fifth year. We are unable to
account for this change of habit in the Nass fish, though not improbably it may have relation
with that other racial habit to which attention has been called, of an unusual period spent in
the lake before migrating. This period does not shorten the time required for maturing in
the sea. Whether one, two, or three years are spent in fresh water, three years at sea (two
years in a single instance, after three in the lake) is the shortest "time within which any individuals will mature, with the exception of a few precocious males. If a race adopt the habit,
then, of tarrying two years in fresh w7ater, the individuals so doing cannot mature until their
fifth year, and the race may become one which matures principally in its fifth year. Two other R 78 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
streams have been found—report on w7hich must be deferred—which, like the Nass, contain
races of sockeyes which remain two years in fresh water. Both are short streams on Banks
Island. In one of these about half the individuals have this habit, the other half passing to
sea as yearlings. But in the second Banks Island stream practically the entire race adopts this
habit; only a few individuals can be found which passed to sea in less than two years after
hatching. It would seem that in these two short island streams physical conditions would be
as different as possible from those obtaining in the Nass. It is not clear why all three streams
should have agreed in specializing on this one racial peculiarity.
We must defer until later a determination of the growth-curves for the Nass River fish.
From the few facts before us, it seems probable that the fingerlings which migrate after one
year are slightly larger than those which will remain another year.
The measurements taken in 1913 were spaced at intervals during the fishing season. From
June 30th to July 24th no definite increase in either length or weight was apparent, but those
taken July 31st were suddenly larger, averaging more than an inch longer and two-thirds of a
pound heavier than the earlier fish. Whether this sudden increase signalled the appearance
of the white-nosed sockeye of the Nass, we have no data to show.
We have computed the yearly lengths of one member of each important class. A four-year
fish which passed out at the end of the first year was 3.2 inches as migrating fingerling, 13.2
inches after one year in the sea, 22 inches when three years old, and 26 inches when captured.
A five-year fish of this same class showed annual lengths in inches as follows: 2.4, 12.4, 20.3,
25.3, 27. One that remained two years in the lake was 1.8 inches at the end of the first year,
4.1 at the close of the second year in the lake, 14.1 after a first season in the sea, 22.7 after two
years at sea, and 26.1 when captured in its fifth year. The small additional growth in the
second year in the lake is well shown, as is also the case in the following example which
remained three years in fresh water. In this the annual length in inches are as follows: 1.5,
3.9, 6.5,17.1, 24.4, 26.5. A most interesting study can be made later of the growth-curves of these
(8.) Comparative Study of Races.
In addition to the river-basins above considered as to their sockeye runs, six other streams
were investigated in 1913, and a series of scales was examined representing in all over 10,000
individuals. The amount of labour involved in making these examinations and in tabulating
the results has precluded the possibility of including all within the present report. But this
may be said in general: Each stream contains a separate chapter in sockeye history and will
surely throw light on certain problems, not elsewhere to be Obtained. A comparative study of
sockeye races, by means of scale-structure and whatever other instrumentalities are open to us,
forms a most promising field of research, both from the standpoint of pure science and of fish-
conservation and fish-culture. The sockeyes of every stream in British Columbia should be
known in their structure, and, above all, in that special modification of sockeye habits which they
have adopted. For it is clear from such investigation as has been made that habit yields first
to whatever influence is effective in producing change. Another feature of extreme interest is
that the peculiarities of each race in the matter of habit do not lie outside but within the total
range of variation as found in other river-basins. Nothing new to the species, then, is found in a
given racial habit or combination of habits. All the elements are found, though perhaps as
rare phenomena, within the range of variation as exhibited elsewhere. A given race differs
from other races in that it has taken for its own a special portion of the field of variable factors,
and it specializes within that area. I Fig. 9. Nass River sockeye. Centre of scale shown in Fig. 7. Observe two years in lake. Fig. 10. Nass River sockeye. Centre of scale shown in Fig. 7. greatly enlarged to demonstrate
two years in lake. Observe crowded broken '• winter " rings at I and 2. Fig, 11. Nass River sockeye in sixth year, three years in lake. Female, 2(i1/2 inches long,
weighing T1/^ lb. Fig. 12. Nass River sockeve. Centre of scale shown in Fig. 10. Observe three years' record
in lake (1, 2, 3). Fig. 13. Nass River sockeye. Centre of scale to show record of three years in lake before
entering sea. Male, 20 inches' long, 7% lb., in sixth year. 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 79
THE NATIVE OYSTER OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.
(OSTREA LTJRIDA, CARPENTER) .
By Joseph Stafford, M.A., Ph.D.
At the request of the Provincial Fisheries Department of British Columbia, I spent last
summer (May to September, 1913) in the vicinity of Vancouver, investigating the local oysters
and their conditions of existence.
In the markets and fish-stores of Vancouver, Victoria, and other cities and towns of British
Columbia and adjoining Provinces and States are to be found the common little native Western
American or Pacific oyster (Ostrea lurida, Carpenter) and the locally grown but transplanted
Eastern American or Atlantic species (Ostrea virginiana, Lister = Ostrea virginica, Gmelin). Up
to the present the latter, either on account of its larger size, its different flavour, or the tastes
of the people, is in greater demand—a demand which has prompted the organization of two
British Columbian companies and a number of others in the State of Washington to enter the
field of oyster-culture, notwithstanding the distance and expense of procuring and transhipping
the young oysters from the Atlantic and their high death-rate while being grown to marketable
size in local waters. But the demand for the western oyster has been rapidly increasing; it
is being used in a greater variety of ways; there is the prospect of its improvement in size and
flavour by cultivation; and the possibility of conveniently procuring a sufficient stock near at
With the increasing settlement of a comparatively new country, the growth of cities, and the
opening of new commercial enterprises, there is always occasioned a drain on the most readily
accessible local food resources. In the hurry of developments a great waste results, and the
inhabitants do not stop to think of a possible future exhaustion until perhaps the rate of decline
is already too evident. This has repeatedly occurred with reference more especially to native
game animals, fisheries, and economic plants.
In the eastern parts of Canada the steps taken to control waste and wanton destruction, to
conserve the most useful natural productions, and to turn to account a greater proportion of
the resources of the country are of quite recent origin in comparison with the history of its
people. In the West it is very satisfactory to recognize a foresight, alertness, and progres-
siveness with regard to such questions, in seeking to obtain, almost at the outset, that expert
knowledge of specialists without which there can be no safe pilotage into the future.
British Columbia has already surpassed every other Province of the Dominion in the value
of fisheries. The rapidity with which this distinction has been brought about may be taken as
an indication of the efforts being made to exploit this source of wealth. The removal, year
after year, of such tremendous numbers of the finest and most mature breeding animals from
the coastal waters of this Province cannot but have a reflex action upon the reproductive, and
consequently upon the productive, capacity of those waters. The student of fishery problems
and of fisheries history cannot fail to look with misgivings towards the probable outcome. It
is not only necessary to curtail waste and to preserve a breeding stock, but it is highly advisable
to encourage the culture of those fishes or other animals of economic value that admit of it,
and to seek to discover means of increasing the productivity of others that are as yet too
imperfectly known. The fine example set by the most successful salmon-hatcheries should be
imitated in other lines.
The extent of coast-line of the Province surpasses that of the whole of eastern Canada.
Its mountain-ranges and river-valleys, rugged promontories, peninsulas, and islands break up
the coastal waters into numerous straits, gulfs, bays, estuaries, and coves of varying areas,
shapes, depths, salinity, and temperature, and the sea-bottom possesses every gradation from
crags, rocks, and boulders to stones, gravel, sand, and mud.
The numbers and varieties of animals and plants observable along the beach or procurable
by dredge, line, and net are reflections of the physical, biological, and climatic variations that R 80 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
obtain at different places. It would seem surprising if suitable circumstances do not exist at
some place along the coast to satisfy the requirements of almost any species of animal. There
are animals that have been accidentally or purposely transplanted from the Atlantic or elsewhere
and have done well in their new habitat.
But it must not be thought that marine animals can be deposited in any convenient place
in the sea and be able to adapt themselves to the new conditions and give rise to successful
colonies. While certain species possess a wide range of adaptability, it must be understood
that for the most part animals are somewhat nicely adjusted to the special conditions of their
environment, and any tampering with either themselves or their surroundings is liable to result
more or less detrimentally in a quick, fatal shock, in a slow retardation of growth, or in the
inhibiting of spawning.
In investigating the conditions favourable to any particular species there are open especially
two methods of procedure: First, the observation of the special conditions under which the
species thrives in nature; and, second, the subjection to experiment by way of changing the
conditions or of transferring the animals to regions where the conditions are different and noting
the effect. The rapid swimming and migratory movements of fishes and Crustacea occasion
difficulties in finding and observing the animals. Not so, however, with the oyster, which in the
adult state is devoid of all locomotory activity, and possesses many other characters fitting it
as a subject for experiment in transplantation and culture.
Referring to the oyster in particular, it may be mentioned that there is already a mass of
observations, experiments, and theory, gathered at various periods and in various countries.
That these do not refer to the particular species under consideration does not matter much.
Species of the same genus are sufficiently closely related to make methods that have been found
useful in one case of some value in another. Methods need to be tried not only with regard to
each species, but for each locality. When I inquired what particular phase of the subject the
Department would like me to begin with, I was told that I was free to pursue the subject as
I thought best; that the country furnishes the problems, the Department supplies the means,
and it was up to me to do the rest. Such a straightforward profession of confidence is assuredly
destined to bring out the best efforts of the investigator.
The two species of oyster best known to zoologists are the common oyster of Europe (Ostrea
edulis, Linnaeus) and the common oyster of America (O. virginiana, Lister). The former has
a broad distribution around that portion of Europe washed by the Mediterranean Sea, the
Atlantic Ocean, and the North Sea; the latter along the east coast of the United States and
Canada. The former w7as first to be studied and cultivated; the latter is best known in the
details of its life-history. The most observable external differences lie in the small size and
rounded or fan-like shape of the former, and the large size, long shape, and rough surface of
the latter. Internally the scar of the adductor muscle of the European oyster is light coloured;
that of the American species is dark. Both agree closely in their mode of life, breeding, and
development from the egg. But there are two rather important differences which are not likely
to be known to the greater number of men who have to do with oysters and oyster-culture. The
first is a question of sex, the other one of development.
The European oyster is hermaphrodite, i.e., each individual is like every other individual in
that there is no separation into sexes—every oyster producing both male and female reproductive
cells, although perhaps not in equal abundance at the same time. The American oyster is always
described as being sexual, i.e., either male or female—the males producing sperms and the
females producing eggs. In reality, as I have determined, there is not such a sharp distinction
between them. Females contain sperms between the eggs, and males very often have a few7 eggs
distributed among the sperms. At and just previous to the time of spawning the quantity of
one kind of reproductive cell predominates almost to the exclusion of the other. For practical
purposes in relation to culture they may still be considered to be male and female.
To point out the other difference it will be necessary to give a brief forecast of the process
of individual development or embryology. Embryological development begins with the fertilized
egg or oosperm (Plate I., Fig. 1) as the simplest form in gross structure assumed by the
individual at any period in its life. The oosperm by successive divisions soon gives rise to a
simply constituted cellular organism, the embryo (Fig. 12), and shortly afterw7ards to a more
highly organized, swimming and creeping, feeding and growing little animal, the larva (Fig. 18).
At the end of a period of free life the larva settles on to some solid object, such as a rock or 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 81
shell, fastens its own minute shell thereto and becomes a spat (Fig. 24), which has but to grow
and complete its organs to become an oyster. Egg, oosperm, embryo, larva, spat, oyster, and
again the egg, are the chief stages in the cycle of its life-history.
In the European species fertilization takes place within the shell, i.e., within the mantle-
cavity of the parent oyster, and the eggs are detained there until their development has reached
the stage of the half-grown larva with shell and velum (swimming organ) of its own, when the
young as larvae first issue from the mantle-cavity of the parent and begin an independent life in
the sea-water outside. In the American species the eggs pass at once from the oviducts through
the mantle-cavity into the sea, where fertilization and all stages of development take place. In
this, again, there is not such a great difference as may at first sight appear. Development passes
through the same stages in both cases, but in the one the brood is protected for a time by the
A Portuguese oyster (0. augulata) resembles the common American species in the above-
mentioned respects, while our little Pacific oyster (0. lurida) is in the same respects like the
common European species.
All four species are constructed upon the same general plan, having the same parts or
organs. Differences in size, shape, relative positions of the organs, and the like, are of minor
importance, and occur to a less degree in individuals of any one species. The special study of
these phases of an animal or of animals is what is called anatomy or morphology. Each organ
usually has some particular work to perform, e.g., the shell protects the internal soft living parts
against injury from external objects and other animals. The study of the duties or activities
of the different organs of physiology. Embryology, anatomy, and physiology cover most aspects
of the lives of animals and furnish us with ideas and the words for expressing them. We might
pursue these subjects for the pleasure they afford, or for the satisfaction of knowing them, or
for the grasp they give of a great mass of events going on around us, or for the intellectual
training, the insight into literature, history, art, etc., or for other reasons. I suppose the most
practical reason that can be assigned is that the information gained may be applied in the
culture and production of marketable animals and animal products, and at the same time furnish
occupation, livelihood, and wealth to large numbers of people, opening up new industries and
bringing a larger income to the country. It is impossible to tell beforehand what importance
may come to be attached to a seemingly valueless observation. So far as it is possible to foresee,
it appears desirable to gather information on all questions relating to the structure, activities,
development, and environment of oysters—more especially, perhaps, on reproduction and growth.
The observations and experiments made during the previous summer cover ninety large
pages of closely-written notes and initiate research into many different lines, some of which
may take several years before conclusions can be reached. The greater part of this work was
done at Crescent, on Boundary Bay, B.C., about twenty miles south of Vancouver, with which
there is convenient railway connection via the Great Northern. The chief advantages of this
situation for my purposes are that a large part of the bay is naturally seeded with the native
British Columbia oyster, and, besides, it is the seat of operations of a prosperous oyster company
that brings in annual shipments of spat or older stages of the Atlantic species. To the manager
of this company I am indebted for much assistance in supplying accommodation and boats, as
well as in furnishing oysters for my experiments and in giving me useful information about
the earlier years of operation of the company.
The British Columbia oyster—common Pacific oyster of Canada and the United States—:
is distributed from Queen Charlotte Sound southward along the coasts of British Columbia,
Washington, Oregon, and California. It was named by Philip P. Carpenter, B.A., Ph.D., in
the Report for the British Association for 1863 (published 1864), p. 645, where it is thus briefly
described: " Ostrea lurida, n.s. Shape of edulis: texture dull, lurid, olivaceous, with purple
stains, 2-3 fm. on mud-flats, Lord." Since the period referred to there have been recorded a
few brief references to localities of occurrence or the condition of the reproductive organs, but
nothing on the embryology or other important questions above mentioned.
Eggs may be found in some mature individuals from about May 20th until about August
20th, but in the greatest number of individuals, and in greatest abundance, from about June
10th to about the last of July. During the period of greatest abundance every well-grown
individual, or every second or third, may be found to contain a thick, granular, white to dark-
6 R 82 Eeport of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
grey fluid, lying in the cavity of the shell, between the two flaps of the mantle and surrounding
the gills. The exact time at which any given individual will be found in this state depends
upon a number of circumstances, such as the age, individuality, state of health, nourishment,
locality, depth of water, whether exposed or not at low tide, the nature of the substratum, in
an estuary or in a bay, warm or cold season, and other such variable internal or external
conditions that could be mentioned. The most important of these conditions are maturity on
the part of the oyster and warmth on the part of its environment, because, w7hen analysed, most
of the others can be resolved into these.
Fresh eggs just liberated from the oviduct are white. The dark colour arises in the course
of their development, when they are, properly speaking, no longer eggs, but embryos. Such eggs
are spherical or nearly so, and measure exactly or approximately 0.1 millimetre (=y25(1 inch)
in diameter. They are free to roll over one another in the sea-water retained within the mantle-
cavity of the parent oyster, where, in a large individual, there may be about a teaspoonful of
eggs or spawn. Each egg or ovum (Plate I., Fig. 1) is a cell, although a much-specialized large
cell (germ or reproductive cell) as compared with other cells (somatic cells) taking part in the
structure of the parent. It is bounded by a cell-membrane enclosing a thick, fluid protoplasm
(cystoplasm) in which are deposited an abundance of albuminous food-granules. In the centre
of the cell is situated a nucleus, also surrounded by a membrane and containing protoplasm
(nucleoplasm) in which are to be found granules or rods called chromatin-bodies (chromosomes).
A complete and detailed account of all the contents of an egg with their actual or probable
physiological function is beyond the scope of this work. What is chiefly aimed at is the mention
of those parts which can be observed with cheap miscroscope appliances, and that will be found
of some service in recognizing the different stages referred to.
Before an egg can develop into a new oyster it is necessary for it to be fertilized, i.e., it
must have united with it a sperm-cell or spermatozoon (Plate II., Fig. 30) from another oyster.
Spermatozoa are microscopically minute compared with ova, and each possesses a head and a
vibratile tail by means of which it can propel itself in a swimming movement. They do not
delay in the branchial cavity of the oyster as the eggs do, but issue into the sea and disperse in
every direction until some of them come within reach of the ciliation of oysters containing eggs.
Sperms are wafted into the branchial cavity of these oysters with the respiratory current, where
mutual attraction between egg and sperm assists in effecting union. The head, which contains
chiefly the nucleus of the male germ-cell, becomes freed from the tail and wanders towards the
egg-nucleus. The latter has already prepared for its reception by two successive divisions and
the extrusion of half its chromosomes in the polar bodies (I. 2), which take no further part
in the process, although they may remain clinging to the surface of the egg for some time. The
sperm and egg nuclei now unite and form a new nucleus, ready to begin the process of cell-
division or segmentation which follows. On account of the large size and dense structure of
the egg it is difficult to follow all the events thus briefly referred to—events so essential to the
development of a new oyster and to the transmission of inheritable characters to the offspring.
The egg-like cell resulting from the union of ovum and sperm is no longer merely an egg—it is
a fertilized egg or oosperm (ovo-sperm).
Fresh unfertilized or fresh fertilized eggs may be found by opening numbers of oysters and
examining with a microscope a few taken from the branchial cavity of likely-looking specimens
until the proper kind is found. These may be poured in quantity from the open shell of the
oyster into a beaker of fresh sea-water, and kept in a suitable part of the room where they
may have the advantage of a proper temperature without being allowed to get too w7arm in
the sun or too cool in the shade. It may be taken for granted that the water from which the
oyster was procured is about right in temperature and salinity.
Ten or twelve hours after fresh unfertilized eggs have passed from the oviducts of the
mother into her branchial cavity, where they meet with sperms and become fertilized, they may
be found in two or three stages of cell-division or segmentation. They do not all develop exactly
alike—some going a little faster than others. From the numbers observed in a microscopic
preparation it is possible to pick out and arrange in order stages of progress, but it is best to
also verify this order by selecting an oosperm and watching it continually as it passes through
the succeeding stages. The first product of segmentation is a two-celled stage (I. 3), of which
one of the cells (blastomeres) is larger than the other. After the first sharp division there is
always a relaxation of the dividing forces, such that the blastomeres partly flow together again 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 83
(resting stage). We may select three-celled, four-celled, five-celled (I. 4, 5, 6) stages, and so
on, but it must be remembered that this is only a method of convenience in description, and
that intermediate conditions are just as important as what we choose to call stages.
Division is from the first somewhat irregular—not only in the production of unequal
blastomeres, but also in the order in which these themselves divide. As a result there soon
comes to be a group of small cells (micromeres) on one side, forming a sort of cap above a
larger cell (macromere) of the other side (I. 7-9). This stage represents what has been termed
a morula (or mulberry mass) in the embryology of many other animals. With the continued
more rapid multiplication of micromeres there is formed a sphere which now represents a
blastula (blastosphere) containing a space in the centre (segmentation cavity, blastoccele, I. 10,
11; II. 31). The macromere or its successors become gradually engulfed by the cap of small
cells and pressed into this space, occasioning for a time a marked depression (blastopore) on
the surface of the sphere (I. 11, 12). This is a very characteristic form, recurring frequently
in microscopic preparations from the spawn of this species. It is useful to know where it
belongs in the evolution of the young oyster. It occurs at about four and a half days from
fertilization, and represents the beginning of a process of invagination of one surface of the
blastula, which soon brings about great changes in the arrangement of the cells. A median
section (II. 32) would show a shallow inverted cup of few large cells surrounded down to the
rim by a cap of more numerous and smaller cells, while between the two is the enclosed
blastoccele. When the process of invagination is completed there results a form called the
gastrula—a form of great significance in the development of animals, for it not only represents
the beginning of folding of cell-layers (tissues) into the first important organs of the embryo,
and a differentiation and rearrangement of cells, but it is a form which recurs in nearly all
the great phyla of the animal kingdom. There are already represented two germ-layers—the
ectoderm and the endoderm—the first being composed of the cap of small cells which are destined
to give origin to the epidermis, shell, and nervous system; the second being made up of the
cup of large cells now forming the outer wall of an organ, the archenteron, which will go to
form the major part of the alimentary canal. Between the two is the blastoccele or primary
body-cavity, and opening from the archenteric cavity to the exterior is the blastopore or gastrula-
niouth. The blastoccele is occupied by a fluid into which wander cells that will originate a third
germ-layer—the mesoderm—eventually giving rise to the muscular, blood, and connective tissues.
From the time of the first division of the oosperm the cell-mass is properly neither an egg
nor an oosperm—it is an embryo. It has increased very little in size, but great changes have
taken place in its structure, any apparent growth being due rather to the cavities it develops
and to the absorption of water instead of to the addition of new solid matter. With the
successive cell-divisions the cells themselves have become more numerous, but smaller, until
it is almost impossible to distinguish them, and quite impossible to keep track of their lineal
succession. The same may be said of their nuclei, which may at times be evident, especially
in a slide that has been made up for a time and begun to dry out. Polar bodies may still persist,
but are generally lost soon after their origin—often only a single one to be seen.
The embryo lengthens a bit in a direction transversely to the entrance of the blastopore;
it becomes more pear-shaped, and in some there is to be seen a second more shallow depression
on the opposite side near the smaller end. Slight movements may now be detected, and close
examination of the surface will discover a circlet of cilia surrounding the larger end, much as
a hoop does a barrel, but the cilia on the edges are most easily seen (I. 13). Freshly mounted
specimens are opaque, but in preparations that have been standing it is possible to follow7 the
band of cilia all around the circlet, as well as to focus down through the superficial ectoderm,
and to observe the archenteron and the shell-gland, the latter accounting for the shallow
depression opposite the blastopore.
The observer may now be surprised to behold some of the gastrulae rise and swim about—a
phenomenon which convinces him that he has to do with a real animal. The observance of
locomotion first puts us in position to arrive at some important conclusions. The end that
precedes in the swimming movement is the anterior end; the shell-gland is dorsal; and w7ith
that other surfaces become fixed. The blastopore is ventral, the smaller end is posterior, the
right and left sides are determinable.
The first locomotory or swimming organ is a very simple structure consisting only of a
pad-like thickening at the anterior end carrying cilia. Such a simple propelling organ is called R 84 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
a prototroch, and the young organism bearing it is a trochophore (trochosphere, I. 14). Many
kinds of marine animals develop through a typical gastrula stage, a limited number through a
trochophore stage, but a shell-gland is found only in molluscs. A bivalved shell is soon observed
sitting straddle of the shell-gland and covering only a small part of the trochophore (I. 15).
About the same time the intestinal system acquires an anus and a liver and becomes sufficiently
perfected to begin taking nourishment, and the little animal starts to grow larger. The shell
increases faster than the soft parts, which are soon overtaken, and all the body except the
prototroch becomes enclosed. This soon assumes a greater freedom in its movements, becomes
capable of folding and being withdrawn into the anterior part of the shell, as well as relatively
larger and more efficient, and is now called a velum, while the animal bearing it has been called
a veliger (I. IS).
In this condition the early veligers, their stock of food-yolk being doubtless exhausted, and
perhaps feeling the pangs of hunger, begin to leave the protection of the parent and swim out
into the sea, where they become independent animals, although far from possessing the complex
structure of the adult, and pursuing a somewhat different mode of life. Such an organism is
a larva. Morula, blastula, and gastrula are structural stages of the developing embryo; trochophore and veliger are succeeding stages of a higher organization, capable of a free existence—
that of the larva.
The trochophore stage is reached in about five days from fertilization. While the spherical
egg measures 15 units of the micrometer scale, the youngest trochophores go about 18 in length
and 16 in depth.
Eggs, embryos, larvae, and small spats were measured under a Leitz ocular V and objective
4, each of the 100 units of the micrometer scale being equal to 6.9 micra (short for micromilli-
metres and represented by the Greek letter m). To find the actual size according to a hand-scale
graduated in millimetres: multiply the number of units of length as shown in the microscope
by 6.9, and move the decimal point three places to the left. Thus, 15 X 6.9 = 0.1035 mm.
Trochophores and veligers from 18 to 27 in length may be found in the branchial cavities
of mother oysters. Trochophores and veligers from 23 to 37 in length may be found free in the
sea-water about oyster-beds. Stages from 23 to 27, occurring both in the parent and in the sea,
show that the young do not all swarm out from the brood-chamber of the mother at the same
time, age, or size, but filter out gradually, perhaps during the gaping condition of the shell while
respiration is going on in the parent.
The shell-gland begins as an invagination of the ectoderm of the postero-dorsal surface and
extends downwards and forwards above the invagination of the archenteron, which slants
upwards and backwards from the median ventral blastopore (II. 32). The invagination of
the archenteron is the first to originate and is generally the larger. The shell-gland at first
forms a simple sac, which soon spreads right and left, while its broad mouth becomes constricted. The shell-valves are secreted from the epithelial (ectoderm) cells forming the walls
of the bifurcated sac and lie at first covered above as well as below. With the growth of the
shell the outer epithelial membrane stretches, thins out, and ruptures near the middle of each
valve, leaving the edges of the valves enclosed by what is now the margins of the mantle. The
two flaps of mantle grow downwards, becoming free from the body of the larva on each side,
but retaining their connection along the dorsal line. The shell-matter is at first in the form
of irregular drops of thick glistening fluid that become moulded into shape by the enclosing
sacs and hardened, especially after the exposure of the outer surfaces of the valves. The
rupture of the outer walls of the sac takes place when the prototroch is about 22 and the shell
about 15 units in length (II. 33). When the larva is about 26 and the shell about 24 the soft
parts can be nearly covered by the shell, and comparative measurements from this time are
best made from the shell, since the length of the larva will vary according to the extent to
which the velum is protruded.
After the migration of the older trochophores or younger veligers from the branchial cavity
of the mother to the open sea, larval stages have to be procured by towing a fine net (plankton-
net) through the water. Up to stages approaching 30 units the shell has a straight hinge-line
of 10 to 12, but when the larva reaches a length of 30 the posterior end of the hinge begins to
be obscured by the growth of the umbos, which bulge outwards on each side and project upwards
and backwards. From this time onwards the increasing height of the umbos and the asymmetrical advance in size of the left beyond that of the right are the chief features of the shell 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 85
of the larva. This gives to the shape of the shell a very different appearance (I. 20-23), which
is added to by the change in colour from transparent grey to more opaque horn-colour. Anterior
and posterior adductor muscles, between the valves, and retractor muscles of the velum may be
seen. A muscular protrusible foot is developed on the ventral surface of the abdomen (II, 37,
38, 39). In its base is a closely approximated pair of pedal ganglia with a pair of otocysts
containing a few movable otoconia. On each side of the body, between foot and mantle, is a
row of three or four gill-filaments. A dark pigment-spot appears at a length of 36 (sometimes
at 35), and at a length of 37 (= 0.255 mm.) most larvae are full-grown (I. 23, II. 39) and
seek to become set as spats on to shells or other solid objects in the water. A few pass slightly
beyond this limit of size. The age at which they become fixed must be a month or more.
At this point there is another important change in the mode of life of the young oyster. It
ceases to swim or to creep and becomes fixed by its shell fast to some solid object in the sea-
water, such as a rock or another shell. We have to change our method of research to find
specimens for study. Egg, oosphere, segmentation stages, morula, blastula, gastrula, trocho-
sphere may still be found by picking oysters at low tide and opening their shells; veligers may
still be obtained by means of a plankton-net; but to procure this new stage—the spat—it is
necessary to pick up and examine with a magnifying-lens many kinds of objects, such as living
and dead shells, stones, sticks, and seaweeds. Where these are not to be found it may be
necessary to put out clean shells or other so-called cultch for the capture of the young oyster.
The youngest fixed stage, i.e., a spat just attached, is in every way like one of the oldest
free larva;, except for its fixation. But it does not long remain so. The first observable change
is a deposit of new shell (spat-shell) around the margins of the old shell (larval shell). The
larval shell is the first shell built by the developing oyster—the protoconch or prodissoconch;
(I. 15-23). The spat-shell is the additional portion of the complete shell or dissoconch (I. 24,
25; II. 40-42). It is added to, layer by layer, until the spat comes to be large enough to be
observed and distinguished from other small objects without the use of a lens or microscope.
The spat grows up, without any further change of habit, into an oyster. The prodissoconch
either remains at the tips of the umbos or becomes corroded and chipped off. In either case
the area covered by it is so small, compared with what the dissoconch soon comes to be, that it
may be neglected, except as a vestige of the early history of the shell.
More important internal changes of organization take place. Within a few days after
fixation the velum and foot have disappeared along with their sense-organs. A rotation of the
body occurs within the shell, carrying the mouth from the lower to near the upper margin.
The anterior adductor muscle disappears and the posterior adductor becomes large and travels
downwards to near the centre of the spat (II. 42). Palps are developed on each side of the
mouth. The gills become enlarged and the intestine lengthened. The young oyster feeds
voraciously and grows rapidly.
The first spats may make their appearance in the first days of July, but the masses do not
come on until late in the month and in August. As the youngest spats measure only % mm.
( =1/sm inch) in length and are at first scarce, it will not be surprising if the very first spats of
the season may go unobserved, and the first to be recognized are likely to be as big as a pin's
head (2 to 2% mm.), i.e., S to 10 times as broad as the just attached spat, and having 64 to 100
times the surface. These may be about three weeks old from the time of fixation. At the
beginning of August spats may be found up to 0 mm. in diameter, but they are the early
individuals. At the first of September they may be 15 mm. and by the middle of the month
20 mm. in length. In May of the succeeding year spats of similar size and appearance may
be found, except that they are likely to have a thicker and lighter-coloured shell. During the
winter they grow very little, but advance their organization. This year's spats of 15, 17, 20
mm. (= % inch) at the middle of September have no sperms or ova. Those of last year of
20, 18, and even 12 mm. at the first of June of the present year contained developing sperms.
The oyster attains to sexual maturity when about a year old, but in the second season of its
existence. In the autumn of the Second season the largest specimens reach about 45 mm.
( = 1% inches), and these may become full-grown in the third season. Most of them grow
to 2, 2%, and 2% inches in length. Oysters over 2% inches in length and 2 inches in breadth
are very large for this species.
The shell is rather thin and soft, so that it is easily worn and chipped, especially by
alternate exposures to the solvent action of water and the drying action of the air, sun, and R 86 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
frost. The old shells upon which young spats set soon begin to crumble, so that by the time
the oysters are two or three years old they may be found free and loose on the surface of the
flats. In cases where the spats were set on clam, cockle, eastern oyster, or other hard shells,
they do not become free so early, and many loose bunches are found. In some places they are
fixed to large boulders or rocks along rocky banks or on the under-sides of flat stones, in which
cases they remain too small, too few, or too difficult to procure to be of any economic value.
The fact that the oyster in its development passes through a free locomotory stage possessing
a swimming velum and a creeping foot, with such sense-organs as brain, eye-spot, and otocyst, is
doubtless an indication that it sprang from a symmetrical freely moving ancestor similar to most
other living genera of molluscs. These are all normally swimming animals at first. But they cannot
swim continually. They have to take periods of rest, when they settle to the bottom. Here they
are constantly subject to danger by sinking into ooze, mud, or sand, which is liable to smother
or crush them by means of its vibratory movements in obedience to the mobility of the great
mass of water above. Those that fall upon solid rocks, shells, or weeds are safer from such
dangers. Consequently it is not surprising that many genera have taken to anchoring to such
objects by means of byssus-fibres secreted by a gland situated in the axis of the foot and spun
out through a pore in the heel of the foot. This is w7hat mussels do. Young scallops likewise
cling to seaweeds and bryozoa by a byssus. Even clams may be temporarily attached in the
same way. Oysters become primarily attached by pouring out the byssus-secretion between the
lower valve and the substratum upon which the full-grown larva chooses to set. Millions upon
millions that must otherwise have been overwhelmed and lost must be saved by this process
and kept up in the w7ater where they can respire and obtain food. By the time the shell upon
w7hich they may have set has disintegrated they are already large enough to lie on the surface
of sand or mud without sinking to a great extent.
The food of the oyster consists of microscopically small plants (diatoms and the like) that
live floating in the sea, with some admixture of minute animals and debris of vegetable and
animal matter. This is gathered from the water drawn into the respiratory cavity (branchial
or mantle cavity) by the ciliation of the gills during respiration.
Events having a Practical Value in Oyster-culture.
In the practical application of the knowledge of embryological development the events most
readily turned to useful advantage are spawning and spatting. Eggs and spats are the two
objects looked for by the oyster-culturist who seeks for some indication of the probabilities of
a future supply.
Spaioning is the extrusion of ripened eggs from the reproductive organ of the mother oyster.
For an understanding of the process we should consider the origin and ripening of the eggs,
the time, place, and manner of deposit, and the duration of the period.
The fully developed and ripened egg is a somewhat large and specialized cell that originated
as one of the small and less specialized cells of the reproductive organ (ovary) of the mother
oyster. The ovary is situated inside the body (abdomen) of the oyster, between the intestine
and the epidermal surface. During the greater part of the year many of its cells are occupied
in multiplying and growing. When the warm weather of spring and summer arrives, and there
is a greater amount of food for the oyster, some of these cells grow more rapidly than others
and become specialized into young eggs (ovarian eggs), while the masses of smaller cells around
them contribute to their nourishment. The increased size of eggs over other cells is occasioned
by the necessity for a store of albuminous nutriment deposited in their protoplasm for the
purpose of carrying the future embryo over to stages when they will be able to procure food
for themselves. When eggs are grown large enough and otherwise matured they are said to be
ripe, and they break free from their nests of surrounding cells and pass out through the
oviducts into the respiratory cavity surrounding the gills and between the two mantle-flaps and
shell-valves of the parent.
It may be mentioned here that sperms originate in a similar way, but instead of one of the
cells in a group growing large and becoming specialized in a particular way it continues subdividing until a large number of very small cells is formed, and these become specialized in
their own characteristic fashion, of which the chief features are the exceedingly small size, the 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 87
formation of head and tail, and the ability to swim. The egg and the sperm are specializations
in opposite directions. In the species we are considering eggs and sperms are produced in the
same individual and in the same organ—often in adjoining nests of cells. Such a reproductive
organ is not strictly an ovary or a testis—it is an ovo-testis or hermaphrodite gland. Since the
term " gland " is not altogether applicable, on account of its products being cells instead of a
liquid secretion, the name " gonad" has been used, as a word without any previous meaning
attached to it. In like manner the duct is neither purely an'oviduct nor a sperm-duct, but a
gonaduct. It follows that the parent is not properly either a mother or a father, though it
happens that, because eggs and sperms are not ripened in abundance at the same time, it may
be convenient to distinguish the parent as a female at one time and as a male at another, or,
in fact, as both mother and father. Sperms are produced earlier than eggs.
In order to study these subjects it is necessary to examine numerous oysters, of various
sizes, and at different times in the year. Upon my first arriving at Crescent, May Sth, 1913,
I set about examining both native British Columbia oysters and transplanted Connecticut oysters,
to learn at the earliest opportunity the condition of the reproductive cells. This I was all the
more anxious to do, because a statement I had made in a recent publication, about the British
Columbia oyster being hermaphrodite, had been questioned by one high in official authority.
I had not the slightest doubt about the correctness of my earlier observations, but I was glad of
the opportunity of extending them over a greater part of the year, as well as to a greater number
of individuals, both old and young. There need be no question about the subject. It is easily
settled when we have the oysters before us and go about it in the right way.
The state of the reproductive cells of oysters is most easily and most quickly determined
by removing the upper valve of the shell, nicking into the side of the soft body, extracting a bit
of the gonad, and examining it fresh under the microscope.
On the date mentioned the native oysters showed developing stages of sperms and eggs, but
no ripe eggs. On the 11th I examined fifty more, ready for market, none containing ripe eggs.
On the 13th, of six natives one seemed to be completely male—the others contained some eggs.
On the 14th I examined oysters fresh off the beds, and the 5th, 7th, and 14th contained eggs as
well as sperms. On the loth, while walking over the mud-flats near to hand, I opened about
twenty natives and found no spawn.
The first ripe eggs, extruded on to the surface of the gills or other soft parts of the oyster,
were observed on May 21st, while walking over the beds and opening oysters from different
locations. I carried the oyster home, to be sure about it, and examined the white seams of eggs
lying in the creases of the gills, palps, and mantle with a microscope. Some of the eggs thus
obtained I poured into a beaker of sea-water, into which I put a little seminal fluid from several
other oysters. Next morning the eggs were segmenting. The body and most of the loose eggs I
preserved in a little bottle of formaline, to fix them in the condition in which I had first found
them, to be re-examined if further information should be required.
The fresh eggs, as they flowed from the ducts of the reproductive organ, measured, with
a No. V ocular and No. 2 objective, 7 units of the micrometre (1 unit = 15.3Sm). With
oc. V and obj. 4 they gave 15 units (1 unit = 6.9m). With oc. V and obj. 7 they went 75
(1 = 1.45m). When read correctly and worked out they all give the same result. It becomes
a question of using whichever is most convenient. Those that were not quite spherical gave
nearly always 75 in the long diameter and 72 or 70 in the other. Taking that of 75 as being
the commonest, it gives 75 x 1.45 = 108.75m = 0.10S75 mm.
The eggs I have mentioned as having been taken from the gonad were not of this size—they
were immature. Many of them measured only 40, 50, 60, etc. The largest I found on the 13th
of the month measured 50, but on the 14th I found one oyster with ovarian eggs of 75 x 60, so
that I was prepared to expect ripe extruded eggs very soon. All the eggs of this oyster did not
measure 75 x 60. These were the largest. Some eggs develop in advance of others. There were
some measuring 42 x 42, with much less protoplasm and yolk and a more evident nucleus. As
eggs develop towards ripeness they grow larger. Not so with sperms—sperms become smaller.
In all the oysters containing eggs there are also sperms, and these generally in different stages
of development and maturity. Individual sperms are so small it is necessary to use a high
magnifying powrer in recognizing them, whereas eggs are most easily found under a low power,
where there is a larger field and better light. It thus happens that when studying one kind
of cell the other may not be especially noticeable. R 88 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Spermogenesis and ovogenesis are parallel processes, traceable backwards fo indistinguishable, primitive germ-cells that are undifferentiated from primitive somatic cells. The primitive
germ-cells pass through successive periods of proliferation, growth, and maturation. It is
especially during the period of growth that the cells destined to become either eggs or sperms
are first recognizable as such. Two stages of developing sperms appear over and over again,
sometimes side by side, in separate bunches or sperm-balls. The larger are highly refractive
to light, and the individual cells (spermoblasts) measure about 5 (oc. V and obj. 7) in diameter.
The smaller are darker, and the individual cells (spermatids) are about half the size of the
others. The clusters of small cells may be found in motion resembling certain infusoria, and
upon close examination are seen to have flagella-like processes on the surface of the spermatids.
These are in fact the beginnings of the tails of the spermatozoa. When the spermatids have
ripened into spermatozoa the bunches fall apart and the spermatozoa may swim away freely.
The bunches of smaller cells often measure about 40 x 25. or approximately half the diameter
of a mature egg.
In the early part of the season to which we have been referring all oysters will show-
spermatozoa in some stage of development. Eggs are not so frequently met with. They occur
scattered among the sperm-balls singly or in small groups or in larger patches. As the summer
comes along greater and greater numbers are to be found, until it may be that eggs are the
chief product of the gonad, and at the time they are ripe and flowing from the ducts there may
be no sperm-balls mixed with them and only a relatively small amount of spermatozoa. As
soon as the eggs are spawned a fresh brood of sperms is brought on. Sperms are produced
earliest and latest in the season. From the day of my arrival to the day I left Crescent most
of the oysters contained developing or ripened sperms, but there were times when several would
have to be examined before ripe spermatozoa in quantity could be secured. Eggs are to be
found during a shorter period of time. Ripe eggs first occurred on May 21st. On May 23rd
I opened three dozen native oysters, to find one with eggs advanced but not extruded. On the
same day I repeated this, -with the same result. On June 3rd I found a couple w7ith ripe eggs
in the branchial cavity. On the 4th I found four in thirteen. On the 9th, one in four; 10th,
two in seven; 11th, two in eleven; 12th, two in eight; 13th, five in thirty and four in twelve;
14th, nineteen in sixty; 15th, eight in twenty-one, and opened 120 without finding early blastomere
stages; 17th, fifteen in sixty; 19th, forty-eight, and 20th, seventy-two with no early stages;
30th, five in twenty-four; July 2nd, six in thirty-six; 7th, five in thirty-six; 9th, eight in forty-
eight ; 27th, six in sixty; September 1st, one in twenty-four and none in forty-eight; 18th. none
in twelve. From July 7th spawned-out individuals that were shrunk, thin, and watery appeared,
and from September 1st scarcely a specimen could be found containing spawn.
The spawning season appeared to extend from about May 20th to about the last of July,
and to have reached its maximum about the middle of June. Throughout August a few straggling
late specimens contained spawn, but, of course, this had left the reproductive organ somewhat
earlier than on the dates observed.
As sperms are the first to be produced in the season, so they are first also in the life of
the developing spat. Spats from 12 mm. upwards and one year old may develop and ripen
sperms, and I have found a spat of 16 mm. with ovarian eggs. Ripe eggs are spawned through
the oviducts and come to lie in the branchial chamber, between and below the gills, and
especially in the concavity of the lower valve, from which they are separated by the mantle.
It is possible that in the processes of feeding and respiration, when the valves have to be
slightly open, a few eggs may filter outside, or even be carried into the mouth of the parent.
The fimbriated edges of the two approximated flaps of the mantle, along with the inflowing
current, would tend to prevent the former; the apposition of the palps, together with the large
size and weight of the eggs, would combine to largely prevent the latter. The emaciated
condition of the oyster at this time no doubt reduces the feeding and breathing to quiet filtering
Ripe sperms are similarly spawned, but do not lie for any appreciable length of time in
the mantle-cavity. Their small size and swimming activity suffice to scatter them in a very
short time throughout the water for some distance surrounding the location of the parent, and
bring many of them within range of the respiratory currents of other oysters on the bed.
It is within the power of everybody who has to do with oysters to open them and recognize
the spawn when it occurs. A few examined from time to time will be sure to disclose when the season is on, and even give some idea of the stage of the eggs or developing young. Eggs
and embryos are white, older stages are greyish to drab, or even dark in colour. A simple
lens will give slightly more information, but accurate knowledge can only be obtained by means
of a compound microscope. Whatever the information, it can be turned to use by the cuiturist.
To know that spawning is not yet commenced, or that it is on, or that it is over, is of itself of
great value, for he will avoid selling oysters that are in spawn, not only with a view to the
replenishment of his beds, but for a consideration of the tastes of his customers as well. To
apply the information with greatest advantage in his own cultural processes it is necessary
to have a more extensive and more accurate knowledge, both of the condition of the eggs and
the time before they will be ready to set as spat.
Spatting is the setting and fixation of the free larvae of the oyster on to shells, rocks, or
other objects in the sea. The presence of spats is the second indication commonly looked for
by oystermen. Like spawning, spatting does not occur without a previous preparation leading
up to it. Just as ripe eggs cannot come suddenly into existence without passing through a'
series of changes from smaller and simpler cells, neither can spats be suddenly precipitated out
of the sea, as if by a chemical process, unless there are suitable previous stages in the sea. To
the man unacquainted with the process of embryonic and post-embryonic development the
occurrence of spats where formerly there were none may be a surprise, as it must have been
to the earliest culturists. It is easier to grasp ideas of the origin of spawn, since it is first
found in connection with oysters, but the same process of thought doubtless linked up the
presence of spats also more or less closely with the parent oyster. Until quite recently there
was a prevalent opinion that the spat succeeded the spawn either immediately or after a very
brief interval of time. But the trend of the most recent research has gone to show that spawning
and spatting are separated by a considerable interval.
The size of the egg is 0.1 mm. in diameter, i.e., approximately 0.001 c.mm. in volume. The
size of the youngest spat is 0.25 mm. in length, or approximately 0.015 c.mm. in volume. The
cubic contents of the youngest spat is about fifteen times that of the egg, and it would be
impossible for such a growth to take place suddenly, to say nothing of the increase in complexity
During last summer the first ripe eggs were observed on May 21st. The first spat-shells
were seen July 3rd and the first living spats July 22nd. From this it is, of course, impossible
to estimate the exact interval between spawning and spatting, but it serves to support the belief
that there is a considerable interval. In these cases it may well happen that the first ripe eggs
observed were not really the first, or that they were abnormally early, and similarly with regard
to the spats. The spats, at any rate, were of some age as spats when first discovered. By
weighing these considerations with other evidence it may be possible to cut down the period
somewhat, but even then the conclusion would still stand.
If, again, we calculate the time of the height of the spawning season by judging of the
proportion of spawn-holding individuals to the number examined, and also calculate the height
of the spatting season by judging of the abundance of small spats, then the interval between
the two periods will also remain considerable. It is impossible to determine the real interval
by keeping eggs in small aquaria. They can be kept alive for some time, but they are bound
to die off long before they are ready to set as spat. By piecing together separate observations
upon growth and development during different periods, the time can be calculated up to the
point when the shell of the larva is two-thirds the length of that of the youngest spat, and the
period is about sixteen days. Even considering the possibility that under the best artificial
conditions the development may be not quite as fast as under natural conditions, this again
goes to substantiate the former conclusion of a considerable period. The last third of the growth
in length takes place while the larva is free in the water and seeking its own nourishment.
Considering the conditions under which it lives and the advance in organization, it is hardly
probable that growth in size at this period is any faster than in the previous, even if it is as
rapid. The whole period between spawning and spatting must be at least a month.
The time at which the first living spats were observed was July 22nd. That this is
sufficiently near the mark is shown by the fact that I was looking for spats at intervals of a
day or two before that time and did not find any, but that after that date I could find them R 90 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
every time I searched for them. From then until the middle of September small spats of this
size could be found, but the greater number had grown considerably by the latter date. The
time during which small spats could be found most plentifully was the first three weeks of
August. Those that occurred before were the few early sets; those afterwards the straggling,
late sets. It must not be forgotten that spats of 2 to 3 mm., found on, say, August 20th, must
have set considerably before that date—maybe about the first of the month.
Spats when first set measure (oc. V., obj. 4) 37 units = 0.255 mm. = % mm. =yloo inch.
Such small objects are not easily seen, let alone recognized, even with a lens. They occur on
objects of pretty much the same colour; there may be sand grains, specks of mud, ooze, or fluff,
colonies of bacteria, diatoms, alga;, bryozoa, and many other things clustered about them.
Nobody would be likely to see them unless he had some knowledge of them and were purposely
looking for them. On this account I prepared artificial spat-collectors, calculated to offer the
best opportunities for the setting of spat, as well as to facilitate the task of recognizing them.
Straight-sided crocks containing vertical glass strips held apart by wire racks were planted
and made fast on selected spots of the beds and examined at intervals. Still water ini the
crocks would perhaps facilitate the process of fixation. As the tide fell the crocks would retain
the water and larva; they held. The vertical position of the glass would let most of the sediment drop without clinging to it, offering clean surfaces for attachment. The strips could be
held up to the light and looked through or placed on the stage of a microscope. They could
be easily rubbed off and exposed afresh and for definite intervals of time. Another method
consisted of. putting clean, white, bleached shells in closed wire trays and fastening them t0
stakes here and there. Young spats could be surrounded by lead-pencil marks and dates written
on the shells. Other experiments were made by punching holes through shells and suspending
them on a rope supported between two stakes. The shells could be kept off the bottom and
placed at any height in the water.
These methods were of advantage in catching, recognizing, taking care of, keeping records
of date of fixation, rate of growth, comparison of different localities, and many other things.
Besides, there was open the method of examining shells, stones, etc., naturally disposed over
the grounds, as well as the usual distribution of cultch at what was judged the proper season.
As may be suspected from a comparison of the mode of occurrence of the spawn, the spats
are also at first few, as well as small. Later they are more numerous, and consist of the first
set, now grown larger, and the more recently attached small spats. Towards the end of the
season the number of really small ones falls off, and nearly all come to be somewhat grown.
The spatting season may be considered to have begun about July 20th, to have risen to a
maximum about the end of the first week of August, and then to have fallen off to September.
The best set was observed on August 12th, but from a consideration of their size they must
have been fixed about the 7th of the month. As compared with spawning, it would appear that
there was a period of about seven weeks between the maximum of spawming and the maximum
of spatting, which would suggest that the period of development from the spawning of the egg
to the setting of the spat might be seven weeks. But this, as we shall have evidence to show,
must be too great, and we are forced to conclude that in the considerable interval there is time
for many exigencies in the life of the developing oyster. Of the great numbers that start out
but relatively few reach the goal, and proportions in numbers do not keep constant throughout
The place of spatting is, of course, in the bays where the eggs are spawned, where the parent
oysters,live and have found suitable conditions, where there are shells or other objects upon
w7hich the young can set. The manner in which spats are fixed is that the left half of the shell
becomes solidly cemented to the rock, stone, shell, or other object upon which it rests. The
time, place, manner, and duration of the period of spatting depend upon the development,
organization, and mode of life of the larva; which precede the spats.
By examining shells and stones from time to time the culturist may be able to discover
when the setting of spats is taking place. If those he first observes are somewhat numerous
and a few millimetres in length, he w7ill know that the spatting season is already advanced,
and all he can do is to wait and make the best use of what there are. If he has any reason
to judge beforehand that it is time for spatting to commence, he may keep a sharper look-out
for them, and perhaps be able to recognize some of the very first to set while they are still young,
small, and scarce. In this case there may still be time to make some preparation for a larger 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 91
set before the masses become fixed or are lost. In any case the knowledge that it is not yet
spatting-time, or that spatting is proceeding, or that it is over, will not only be a satisfaction,
but of great use to the culturist. He will avoid selling oysters that may carry away spats on
their shells of more value than the oysters themselves. He will be careful to not do anything
in the region to disturb the young spats or stir up sediment.
Methods of Research.
The two methods of obtaining useful information—the searching for spawn and the searching
for spats—are simple processes within reach of everybody. They do not require any particular
ability or any special apparatus. The information they yield is valuable. This information is
either strictly negative or strictly positive, i.e., there is no spawn or spat, or there is spawn or
spat. If there is none, there is no explanation for it except that the time is either not yet
arrived or it is past. The oysterman has but to continue his search without the satisfaction
of knowing what the result is likely to be, until perhaps he comes upon spawn or spat. He may
be unknowingly wasting his time. Spawn and spat w7ill appear to him suddenly or they will not
appear at all. If they do not appear at all he is left in a dilemma. Either they did not occur
or he missed them.
It is possible to follow these questions more closely and to arrive at satisfactory conclusions
with regard to the cause of each success or failure. But the methods of doing so are more
technical and require a greater practical ability, as well as the use of instruments unfamiliar
to most people. It has been already shown that ripe eggs, that may be rather suddenly extruded
from the gonad to the branchial chamber, do not and cannot suddenly come into existence in
the reproductive organ. This gives an opportunity for studying their origin and growth, and
for learning beforehand when to expect ripe eggs to be extruded. In a similar manner the
spats, that suddenly make their appearance as minute fixed objects on shells or stones, do not
and cannot suddenly come into existence as highly organized living animals. They must have
existed as living and growing organisms elsewhere and under different conditions—in fact, they
must have had a continuous living existence from the time they were cells taking part in the
formation of the body of the parent. These, if we can find and follow them, will teach us when
to expect spatting to take place, and also give us an understanding as to w7hy it takes place or
why it is delayed. We need no longer mechanically perform our periodic observations, in ignorance of what is going on, until the final result bursts before our eyes. Just as after fixation we
can watch the growth of the spat into the oyster, so before spatting takes place we may be able
to observe the development of the organism and the events leading up to and preparatory to the
setting of the spat.
From spawning to spatting is, as we have found evidence to show, an interval of at least
a month. We cannot be satisfied to remain in the dark with regard to w7hat is going on during
this period. For about half this time the spawn lies in the branchial cavity of the parent, but
after that it disappears and remains lost from ordinary view until it reappears as spat. While
being protected in the branchial cavity the eggs develop into well-organized swimming larvae,
w7ith straight-hinged shells about two-thirds as long as the umboned shell of the just-set spat.
The organization and activities of these larva; cannot fail to indicate the succeeding mode of
existence. They must live a free life, sometimes swimming in the sea, sometimes resting or
creeping on the bottom. Since they cannot be found by either of the two formerly used methods,
we have to employ a new method. Some of the surface ooze, mud, sand, or stones might be
examined at low tide or dredged up in deeper water and searched. Fixed or floating seaweed
might be looked over. Water in tide-pools or in shells may be examined. Some of the sea-water
itself might be strained and the sediment examined. A net might be dragged through the w7ater
of the bay or other body of water, either near the surface or just above the bottom, and its-
collected contents examined. This last is the most productive of all methods. Special fine-
meshed nets made of cheese-cloth, bolting-cloth, or other suitable material, when towed behind
a boat, allow much water to filter through them, while the more or less solid particles floating
in the water are retained within the nets. The collected matter may largely consist of broken-up
parts of plants, cast-off portions of animals, drift, and even sand, but it is pretty sure to contain
also many minute living plants and animals. Such minute plants and animals, living suspended
in and drifted to and fro with the water, constitute what is called " plankton," and a net used
for its collection is a plankton-net. R 92 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Plankton varies writh the place and the time of the year. Some animals occur in plankton
collections nearly the whole year round, others only at definite periods; some are broadly distributed, others only at special places. The animals collected are usually small representatives
of most of the great groups of animals, and the young of small as well as of many large species.
It requires a zoologist of considerable knowledge of the subject to recognize the classes to which
they belong. Even if he confines himself to but one class, he may find it needs a great deal of
work to learn what they are and how to distinguish them. This is especially true of the
bivalves, to which the oyster belongs. The great numbers of mussels, clams, scallops, quohogs,
cockles, and the like, make it very difficult to learn them all, and this is increased by the fact
that older and younger of the same species are different from each other. The western oyster
is one of the very easiest to learn to recognize, since we have only to search in the plankton for
little straight-hinged bivalve larvse of the same size, shape, colour, and appearance as the largest
that can be found in the branchial cavity of the parent. At this size there is no other species
very closely like it. By recognizing it in the plankton in this way, and then by picking out
larger and larger specimens that form a series with it, it is possible to follow its whole growth
while it follows this free mode of existence. When living in the branchial cavity of the parent
there are hundreds of thousands together. These sw7arm out and swim about in the water in
which the parent is living. I have named the process " swarming," and compared it with the
processes of spawning and spatting, from which it is quite distinct.
Swarming is the emigration of the swimming or larval stage of the young oysters from the
branchial cavity of the parent, in which they have been protected as in a brood-pouch, and their
distribution for a limited distance throughout the body of water surrounding the parent. Since
oysters habitually live together in beds, and since they reciprocate and breed together at the
same time in the year, and also since the number of larva; produced is exceedingly great, the
water over oyster-beds at this season must be literally swarming with the swimming young.
Further, since all the oysters on a bed do not become sexually mature at exactly the same time,
but between the first and the last that do so there is a considerable period of time, so the issuing
of the young from the parents into the sea is spread over a considerable interval, as is also the
growth and development of each larva; it follows that the whole swarming period is one of very
Swarming is interposed between spawning and spatting, from both of which it is quite
distinct—distinct in the stage of development of the young, in their mode of life, in the time
and manner in which it occurs. In the restricted sense, spawning, sw7arming, and spatting
represent separate and distinct points of time in the development of a new generation, or
separate acts on the part of the progeny. In the broader sense, each is a process extended
over a period of time. Spawning and spatting have been known and turned to practical
advantage for hundreds of years. Swarming is of recent recognition and has not yet had time
to find useful practical application among culturists, but, on account of its filling in exactly the
information left lacking by the other two, is sure to speedily do so. It must be added as the
third source of information within reach of the oysterman.
From my first arrival in Crescent to my last day there I took plankton on forty-seven
different days, which would average once every three days. On many occasions besides I
collected two or three times on the same day, for comparisons from different places or for
different states of the tide. I kept preserved samples of the most important of these collections,
as well as notes on them all, taken at the time when they were examined fresh. I shall mention
here only the more noteworthy observations having a bearing upon the subject in hand.
The first plankton collections—that for May 10th, for example—contained a good deal of
filamentous algae, which clogged the pores of the net, together with various copepods and larva;
of crabs. There were few7 larvae of bivalves—chiefly of mussels and clams of small size. A week
later the water had cleared somewhat and there were annelid larvae, appendiculate tunicates,
and bivalve larvae of larger size. In the latter half of the month there were added Ceratium (a
protozoon) and several kinds of floating eggs. The amount of plankton became considerably
The first oyster larvae were seen and recognized in the plankton on June 6th, and -were
most abundant over the beds of the western oyster—there being few over the beds planted 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 93
chiefly with eastern oysters. They were straight-hinge shelled larva; varying from 23 to 30
in length, those of 23, 24, 25 being identical with the larger larva; found in the branchial cavity
of the western oyster. It may be recalled that the first extruded eggs were observed on May
21st, and now the first free larvae on June 6th—a period of sixteen days, which corresponds
with the growth from fertilization to the time of swarming, as calculated by adding together
observations of short stages of growth. Such a remarkable agreement, of course, I do not
build upon alone, since it may have been simply a coincidence. Another thing worth mentioning
is that a single specimen of length 37 occurred, which show's that somewhere—perhaps in a warm
cove—there were a few larva; further advanced, that had been swept out and dispersed by
On June 10th, w7hich may be compared with May 10th, there occurred in the plankton:
diatoms, foraminifera, annelid larvae, copepods, nauplii and zoaea of crabs, bivalve and univalve
larvae, appendiculariae, and fish-eggs. The oyster larvae w7ere a bit larger and more plentiful
than on the 6th, and a couple with black eye-specks measured 39 and 40. By June 13th the
oyster larvae were so plentiful that I could count twenty-five and thirty in the field of view of
the microscope. They measured 27 to 35 in length. I had by this time seen in the plankton
every length from 23 to 40, but from 35 to 40 only an odd specimen. On the 16th and 20th
there were good catches, and on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th I made shift to keep in
touch with the progress of the larvae at this important point by taking plankton from a rowboat
or by tying the net up to a stake in a tidal current when the company's motor-boat was otherwise occupied. A power-boat is of great advantage, since it is possible to keep a suitable
uniform speed and to cover a larger area, both of which result in better catches and a fairer
comparison. On the 28th I again had a satisfactory catch. The larvae measured up to 34, the
larger with foot and gills.
July 1st gave the same kind of sample. On the 4th the larvae were plentiful and on the
Sth not so numerous. On the 14th there was not a good catch, on the 17th few, 22nd few,
25th good and large. It will be seen that after the 4th and up to the 25th the catches were
not good in numbers. Another thing is that few seemed to grow past 34 or 35 in length. From
the large numbers and large sizes between June 13th and July 1st I expected a considerable
number to reach the size of the full-grown larva (length 37) during the first half of July, and
I was surprised and worried because they did not. On the 14th I made an observation that
suggested a possible explanation. A reading of the specific gravity (salinity) gave 1.011 (i.e.,
II parts salt in 1,000 water) over the oyster-beds, whereas it was usually from 1.018 to 1.021.
The reason for this fall w7as that the melting snow on the mountains had flooded all the rivers,
and that a rising tide with high wind had turned a great deal of water from the Fraser River
into Boundary Bay. By the 23rd the salinity had again risen to 1.017, and on the 25th the
plankton again showed an average catch of larvae. On the 28th many of them measured 37,
and I advised the putting-out of cultch.
On August 1st and 3rd I obtained good catches, and fairly good on the 7th, but after that
the numbers rapdily fell off, so that for the 1.3th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 28th, and 31st there
were few to be had. This continued into September, and on the 18th, the last plankton taken,
there were still odd oyster larvae. The period of greatest abundance w7as from June 13th to
The study of the oyster larvae of plankton can be made of great advantage in oyster-culture.
To the oyster-culturist the obtaining of spats is the all-important thing. Spats grow into oysters.
To get oysters you must begin w7ith spats. Information that will lead to any provision for
capturing a greater number of spats than would naturally occur will meet the greatest need
of the oystermen. Spats are the young fixed stages of the oyster. There must be something
upon which to become fixed or there can be no spats. The multitudes of larvae preceding the
spat stage must die off from this lack alone, if from no other. Rocks, stones, shells, earthenware, wood, almost anything that is solid and w7ill lie at the bottom of the water without being
drifted away will do. Some things are better than others. Some are more easily obtained than
others. Some are cheaper. Oyster-shells are sure to be obtainable in oyster regions and form
the very best spat-collectors, or cultch (clutch) as it is called. The empty shells of dead oysters
or other shell-bearing animals and the outer surfaces of the shells of living oysters already in
the water are useful. But they may not be sufficiently plentiful. Neither are they as good as
they might be. They are more or less buried in the substratum or covered w7ith mud or sand. R 94 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
V / July
/ A /
/ / \ /
/ / \/
BRITISH COLUMBIA OYSTER
A / \
\ \ / \
\ V \
\ A \
X \ Aug-
/ x \
\ \ \
\ \ \
\ \ \
The dotted wave.
represents the change
caused by the flooding
from the Fraser River"
II 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 95
Exposed parts become largely covered with growths of plants or animals or with a slimy layer
of microscopic organisms. These conditions reduce the available surface and make it difficult
for the oyster larvae to find suitable places upon which to set. Empty shells can be vastly
improved by removing them from the water and spreading them out in the sun to dry and
bleach. Clean, white shells offer the best surface for spats. But such shells placed back in
the water become coated again in a short time. If they can be held ready and planted at the
proper time—viz., when the larvse are large enough to begin to set as spat—they will serve the
very best purpose. Attention to this point is the most important part of oyster-culture. This
is where the information on the swarming of the oyster larvae comes in. The study of plankton
is the only way to follow up the life of the developing young from the time it leaves the
branchial cavity of the parent to the point when it is ready to set as a spat-oyster.
All the facts that can be acquired from a knowledge of spawning alone are too far distant
from the time of spatting to be turned to any very practical account. During the month that
separates spawning from spatting there is room for vast changes in the climatic, physical, and
biological conditions about an oyster-bed. In that time the eggs or succeeding stages may be
entirely or for the most part destroyed. All the facts derivable from a study of spats alone
refer only to those individuals that have already been successful in setting, and the information
comes too late to be put to much use. It is of some value to know that there are spats, for
then it may be attempted to protect them. But this does nothing towards increasing the number
of spats. To increase the number it is necessary to know7 beforehand w7hen the set is likely to
take place, so that preparations may be made to facilitate the set and to accommodate a large
number. Of all the stages in the progeny of the oyster the egg is the one of the greatest abundance. From the egg onwards there is constant and ceaseless reduction in numbers. All eggs do
not become larvae. All larvae are not successful in spatting. Spats are destroyed in great numbers.
The lucky ones become oysters. There is no more reproduction between the egg and the mature
oyster. It is only the successful oyster that can reproduce again. From egg to oyster it would
seem that all nature is lying in wait for destruction. The frailty of the developing organism,
the rapacity of larger animals, the accidents from natural forces combine to effect the decimation.
If it were not so, all oyster-bays would soon become choked -with oysters that would finally
destroy themselves. As it is, natural oyster areas preserve about the same number of oysters
from year to year. Of the several millions of eggs produced by a mature oyster, perhaps but
one egg comes to be a mature oyster again. The hosts of others have fallen by the wayside.
This reduction gives an indication of the emergencies through which the developing oyster has
to pass. It has not only to successfully accomplish the separate acts necessitated by spawning,
swarming, and spatting, but it has to run the risk of scores of other dangers while developing
from one of these stages to the next.
Spawning, swarming, and spatting are not only separate acts on the part of individual
oysters, but processes on the part of a community of oysters. Each process begins with a few
individuals, advances to a great number, and then falls off again. The rise, height, and fall can
be determined and recorded for any season or series of seasons, and serves as a guide to what
may be expected in a succeeding season. All three processes are interdependent. Spatting
depends upon swarming, and this upon spawning. The origin in a minimum number, increase
to a maximum, and decline to a minimum again are parallel processes separated by intervals
but overlapping. Swarming starts before spawning has reached its maximum. Spatting
originates while spawning is still in decline and swarming on the increase. Each successful
individual develops continuously from egg to oyster, but the numbers that come into existence
and the whole number of each stage in the water at one time are constantly changing. The
decline of one stage means the increase of the succeeding stage—the whole passing on as a
succession of waves that may be represented in a diagram.
Spatting and spawning have had their application since early times. The ancient Romans
knew how to procure spats. Spawn has been known at least since 1690. But little was known
about either before 18S0. The early knowledge consisted of isolated observations that could
not be systematically arranged into a continuous and logical history. This had reference to
the European oyster. Since 1880 much has been done on the eastern American oyster in
extending our knowledge of eggs and spats. The first fruitful application of plankton methods
was made by myself so recently as 1904. This was on the Prince Edward Island oyster. In
1911 I applied the same method to the British Columbia oyster, and the present work is the R 96 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
first account of the development of this species. Spats could be captured and cultivated without
a knowledge of their origin and early development. Spawn could be observed and the information gained could, to a limited extent, be applied without knowing its origin and development.
But a scientific method could not be proposed without a more complete knowledge extending
from spawning to spatting. This involves a knowledge of the life of the oyster throughout its
free larval existence as a plankton organism. This is precisely the information I have furnished
—first for the Atlantic oyster and now for the Pacific species.
EXPEKIMENTS ON THE RATE OF GfiOWTH.
In order to observe and measure the rate of growth it is necessary to reckon from and to
stages that can be definitely recognized. Development may be considered to begin at the time
of fertilization. Artificial fertilization in this species is not so easily performed or so sure as
in the eastern oyster. It is necessary to search for individuals that have not spawned, but are
just on the point of spawning, so that ripe eggs may be extruded by stripping, and there is a
pretty clear certainty that they cannot be already fertilized. To be sure they are not fertilized,
some of the artificially extruded eggs may be kept in a separate beaker of sea-water. The rest
may be put in a second beaker of sea-water, to which ripe sperms from another individual are
added. If the first do not develop while the second do, it is clear that all the eggs were
unfertilized to begin with, and that development in the second case was due to the sperms added.
Sometimes it is possible to find individuals that contain extruded eggs in the branchial cavity
that look quite fresh from the gonad. These may be similarly treated. It is necessary to be
very careful in such cases, for some blastula stages and even some gastrula stages may be easily
mistaken for eggs, because of their opacity and regularity of surface.
Eggs washed off the gills and body of the first spawning oyster of May 21st w7ere kept, and
live sperms from several other oysters added and left from evening till 9 next morning, when
they were found to be in the first stages of segmentation. Similarly, on June 30th ripe and
apparently unfertilized eggs were found in the mantle-cavity of the twenty-second native oyster
opened. These were kept until evening of the same day without any visible change. Then eight
more were opened in search of ripe sperms, when another in similar condition was found. Eggs
from both were placed in separate beakers and sperms added. At 9 next morning one lot was
in segmentation, the other was not. The lot that did not develop shows that self-fertilization is
impossible, since they were sure to have been mixed w7ith some sperms from the same oyster
from the time they left the gonad. They had perhaps been kept too long before the addition
of sperms from the other oyster. The lot that did develop shows that cross-fertilization is
essential. The experiments on both dates support each other and indicate that from fertilization
to the tw7o-, three-, or four-blastomere stage requires from twelve to fourteen hours.
Segmentation stages of generally four blastomeres of 4.30 p.m. of July 2nd were in the
gastrula stage at 5 p.m. of July 6th, i.e., four days. Gastrulas of June 4th were in shelled stages
by June 9th. There were variations in the size of the shell; in some it measured in length 13, in
depth 13, hinge-line 7; in others the measurements were 15 ,x 15 : 7% ; in still others, 20 x 18:11.
The period was five days. Shelled larva; in the first stages of the shell of July 9th were still
living on July 16th and with shells measuring 24 x 21:11, a period of seven days.
Putting these together: from fertilization to three-blastomere stage is half a day; from
this to non-motile bean-shaped or heart-shaped gastrula is four days; from this to the con-
chiferous larva in the first stages of the shell is five days; from this to the straight-hinged
shell stage at the time when the larva leaves the brood-chamber of the mother is seven days.
The whole period from fertilization to the earliest free larva of the plankton will be about
This estimation is not as good as if the observation could be made on a single specimen,
or on one lot of eggs for the whole period; but it will serve the present purpose; it is far better
thaii nothing at all to go upon. It shows something of the possibility of experiments in this
line, and forms a basis for more accurate observations and verifications in an ensuing season.
The cases given were selected because they combine with one another to stretch over the period
from egg to free larva. Others could be added to support them. One of these I shall mention
here because of the method.
On July 9th three oysters were found, by prying the shells slightly open, to contain larvae
in the first shell stage. As the oysters could scarcely have been damaged, they were placed in a 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 97
wire cage in a good place in the bay. On July 17th I took up one to examine, and found the
larvae all gone. The second and third proved the same. These were under natural conditions,
and prove that from the first shell stage to the free larva is less than eight days, partly verifying
one of the preceding experiments. Next time I shall know to start examining them at the sixth
or seventh day.
During the period of the free larva it is more difficult to procure any definite information
on the time required in growing from one stage to another. Larvae taken from the brood-cavity
of the mother at a time when they are large enough to migrate will not grow in a beaker of
sea-water. The conditions are unnatural. They have no food. Frequent drawing-off of the
upper portion of the water and pouring-on of fresh sea-water, while it will help to keep them
alive and active for a longer time, will not make them grow. It is impossible to keep a current
of sea-water flowing into the beaker without having an overflow which will carry away the
larva;. A piece of apparatus was constructed by tying bolting-cloth over the top of a beaker,
fitted into a hole in a shingle, fastened under a short portion of plank. The shingle was
separated at the ends from the plank by intervening cleats, so as to permit free flow of the
water over the mouth of the beaker, and the whole was fastened by a rope to a stake, so as to
allow for rise and fall of the tide. This preserved the temperature of the sea-water and
permitted diffusion, but did not change the water in the beaker.
A lamp-chimney with both ends similarly covered with bolting-cloth was kept in a similar
way immersed in a tidal current, but the water would not flow through it. A bag of bolting-
cloth was tried. In all these the larva; made little or no progress and soon died. I judge this
was for lack of food. It would appear that food stored in the egg is sufficient to carry the
developing organism to the larval stage, after which it has to begin feeding for itself.
From the first shell stage to the beginning of migration is, as we have seen, seven days.
During this time it grows from between 18 and 20 in length to between 23 and 27 in length. If
we take the average, the growth will be from 19 to 25—a growth of 6 units. Supposing it to
continue this rate after it becomes free, it would reach a length of 31 in seven days and a length
of 37 in fourteen days; i.e., it would reach its full size as a larva in fourteen days from the
time it leaves the brood-cavity of the mother.
In the study of plankton the maximum (so far as numbers were concerned) was about
the middle of July. But at that date there were relatively few at the full size of the larva.
The time of the greatest proportion of these did not arrive until several days later—nearly ten
days. In the study of spatting the maximum fell about August 7th. So that from these two
points the period of free larval life would appear to be between two and three weeks, with the
probability inclined towards the shorter time. This tends to support the calculation from the
rate of growth. For present purposes this is near enough. From fertilization to the free larva
is sixteen days, and from this to the spat is fourteen days—making the whole period from egg
to spat one month.
When we come to the growth of the spat we are on firmer ground, for the determination
depends solely upon experiment and observation. There are difficulties, but they are clearly
surmountable. The greatest is to find spats so soon after fixation that there is no addition of
spat-shell—and to find them in sufficient numbers to ensure that some of them will escape all
the accidents to which they are exposed. I have found many such spats, but was so pressed
with other work at the time that I could not make the best use of them, with the result that
I have no direct observation on growth of the very youngest stages. I have found, carried
home, measured, selected, kept a record of, carried back, and carefully planted in approved
manner, in well-calculated places, scores of young spats, only to And that after the lapse of a
suitable interval they were dead or had disappeared. Without stopping to inquire, at this place,
what had happened to them, and without making use of more than a small part of the data to
hand, I shall select a few cases that combine fairly well.
A spat measuring 25 x 24 (oc. V, obj. 2) on August 27th had grown to 40 x 35 by September
2nd, and to 96 x 96 by September 17th. Taking the first and last, the measurements in length
would be 0.384 mm. (25 x 15.38m) and 1.476 mm. (96 x 15.38m.), or a growth of 1.092 mm. in
twenty-one days; i.e., a growth in length of 0.05 mm. per day. If we use the intermediate
measurement we will find the growth a little less than this while the spat is below 0.5 mm.
in size, and a little more while above. The slower growth of the first part was perhaps due to
the short growing period between two disturbances.
7 R 98 Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries. 1914
Another spat measuring 0.69 mm. on August 20th had not grown any by August 21st, but
increased to 1.31 mm. by August 27th; i.e., nearly doubled in seven days. I could give another
case to show that a spat of similar size more than doubled its length in seven days. Growth in
size varies according to the individual, the initial size, and the physical conditions.
A larva or a spat is 0.255 mm. long at the time of fixation. At the same rate of growth
as the first spat mentioned above, viz., 0.05 mm. per day, it would take five days to double its
length or reach a length of 0.5 mm. From the second selection it would take seven days to
double this again or reach a length of 1 mm. This is to say that a spat might reach a diameter
of 1 mm. in twelve days from fixation.
A size of 1 mm. is large enough to be seen and measured without the use of a microscope.
The best ruler for this purpose is a transparent celluloid one, graduated in centimetres and
millimetres. From a size of 1 mm. I have numerous observations of growth, but shall select
only a single set as being typical (but leaving out those to which accidents occurred).
August 2 — August 10 — August 16 — September 2 — September 17.
1% mm. to 2% mm. to 3% mm. to S mm. to 10 mm.
1% „ 3% „ 4% „ 9 „ 10%
3 „ 5y2 „ 6% „ 10x12 „ 15
4 „ 7% „ 9 „ 13x15 „ 15x20
6 „ GVs2 „ 7% „ 14x16 „ 17x20
Experiments on the Action op Water.
On May 16th one specimen of Ostrea luria and one of Ostrea virginica were placed: —
(1.) In a 5-gallon can of sea-water to remain unchanged.
(2.) In another to be changed w7eekly.
(3.) In the air (sun) beside them.
(4.) In a can of rain-water to be unchanged.
(5.) In another to be changed weekly.
(6.) In the air (shade) beside them.
In one month (June 16th) they were examined and showed:—
(1.) Living, apparently healthy, genital organs developed.
(3.) Wanting (carried off by birds, dogs, etc.).
(4.) Ostrea lurida recently dead, decomposing. Ostrea virginica living, genital organs
(6.) Ostrea lurida wanting. Ostrea virginica dead, not decomposed.
From which it follows that Ostrea lurida cannot withstand adverse conditions so long as
Ostrea virginica. Rain-water alone is injurious. Air alone is injurious. Air is more injurious
than rain-water. Oysters are best kept or transported in sea-water, but can be kept or transported in air for short periods.
Adult oysters are too resistant to prove a satisfactory test for water. Larvae from the
mantle-cavity of the mother are much more delicate, and show the effects in briefer time.
June 5th. Transferred with a pipette some large, active larvae from the branchial cavity
of an O. lurida into a watch-glass of spring-water. Instantly they ceased swimming and
remained quiet as if dead, leaving vela expanded and cilia standing straight. Drew off the
spring-water and added sea-water. They soon revived.
Prepared three such experiments, allowing the spring-water to act for 1, 5, and 10 minutes
respectively. After changing to sea-water they revived, but in the second case a few seemed
dead, and in the third case a greater number. 4 Geo. 5 Native Oyster of British Columbia. R 99
Tried 15 and 20 minutes, and then 25 and 30 minutes, with similar results. When longer
exposed to spring-water it takes longer to recover in sea-water.
Made a preparation to stand overnight. At 7 next morning they all looked dead and
ragged, as if going to pieces. Changed to sea-water, they never recovered.
The larva; that had been immersed for 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 minutes in spring-water, and
revived in sea-water, were now given 40, 50, 60, 75, 90, 105, 120 minutes respectively in spring-
water, and then returned to sea-water for a couple of hours. Those of 1 and 40 minutes'
immersion were all dead. The 5 and 50 also. Those of 10 and 60 were a wonder. They were
nearly all alive, having cast off their shaggy surface and portions of the vela, and exhibited
weak ciliation. They did not rise and swim, but glided about on the bottom of the watch-glass,
their vela reduced in some cases to a mere knob or peg, and often with a few or a bunch of
long cilia in the centre of the velum, or in front of or behind the mouth. The 15-75 larvae w7ere
nearly all dead, with vela lost and turbid contents in the shells. Only one here and there alive
and similar to the preceding. The 20-90 were all dead—did not see a sign of life. The 25-105
same. The 30-120 showed three or four still with slight movements.
There is an individuality about larva; which shows itself in the greater resisting powers of
some over others. Well-water acts the same as spring-water. Rain-water acts the same, but
perhaps a little more energetically, because spring and well water, especially near the coast,
are likely to be slightly brackish.
July ISth. Larva; were immersed in rain-water for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 minutes
and then returned to sea-water. Those exposed for 5 minutes began to wake up in 20 minutes.
Those exposed for 10 minutes began to revive in 60 minutes. After about six hours all of the
first, some of the second, and none of the rest had recovered.
Rain-water with i/2, Vs> %> %, VM> V» of sea-water was tried. In the first the larva;
remained active. In the second also. In the third some died. In the fourth many lived
overnight. In the last two they all died.
At 10.15 a.m. larvae were put in deep watch-glasses containing (1) sea-water; (2) pressed
wet sand on the bottom; (3) wet bottom, all of which were stood on wet sand in the sun;
(4) wet bottom, stood on wet sand in the shade. At 12.45 (after two and a half hours) the
first lot was active—about half swimming. The second lot w7as dead and glued to the sand
grains. Put in sea-water they never recovered. The third lot was very dry and parched. Put
in sea-water at 12.50. There were two or three swimming at 3.30. Next day were all dead.
The last lot was also dry, but the larvae were not so badly shrunk. None recovered in sea-water.
Sea-water from beside lumber and also from puddles of brown water with a brown scum
did not kill the larva;. Artificial sea-water, made by putting table-salt in rain-water until it
floated an hydrometer at 1.020, acted same as sea-water in keeping larva; and in restoring them
after immersion in fresh water. Saturated salt-solution acts very much like fresh water. The
larva; cease swimming, but after short immersions may be restored in sea-water.
These experiments are very important. Rain at low tide will kill all the larvae exposed on
mud-flats, except where the tide returns soon afterwards, or where there is sea-water retained
by eel-grass or other means. The sun's heat will also kill them where it can act for a sufficient
time. Sand absorbs the heat and increases the effect. Rain on sea-water can do no harm, for
it will not penetrate far down, and will remain at the top on account of its less specific gravity.
It would take a good while, and a great deal of rain, to so far dilute the water of a bay as to
affect the bottom. If a beaker of sea-water grey with larva; swimming throughout have water