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clusive interest, justifying him in so occupying the sea as to prevent others from fishing in his vicinity. For example, if a line-fisherman shoots a line of three miles, he has no right to say that no trawler shall work near it, so as to run the chance of working over it or destroying it; he lays his line at his own risk, with the knowledge of the danger, and subject only to a remedy at law, if it can be shown that the trawler wilfully or negligently damaged it.’ They consider that there would arise a fair case for legislation, if it could be clearly shown that a given mode of fishing is by far the most profitable, but is impeded, or prevented, in consequence of another and less profitable mode of fishing being carried on over the same ground. But that, if two or more modes of fishing are carried on at the same time, subject to certain unavoidable losses arising from their mutual interference, unless it be clear that a larger supply of fish would be acquired by restricting the use of one of them, it is the interest of the public that no such restriction should be made. With respect to the third question which the Commissioners had to consider, viz., whether any existing legislative restrictions operate injuriously upon any of the seafisheries, it is necessary first of all to say something about the practical working of existing laws. The fisheries are either unrestricted or restricted. ‘Upon certain kinds of fishery no restrictive legislation has taken place. There is none, for example, upon line-fishing. Any person is at liberty to catch fish, with hooks, when, where, and how he pleases; unless, indeed, he is limited by Art. 57 of the Convention Act, which prohibits the setting of fishing implements in any place where herring or drift-net fishing is going on. There is no restriction upon the size of the mesh, or the moke, of the net used in drifting for pilchards; nor upon any net used in sprat-fishing or lavidnian-fishing; nor in respect of the time of the year at which these fish may be caught. There is no restriction upon the taking of any kind of shell-fish (save oysters), except so far as such may be involved in the regulations af. fecting nets and other fishing implements.’ The restricted fisheries are such as are either (1) the subjects of general rules, or (2.) those which are limited by special regulations. As relates to the first division, ‘modern legislation, in respect to the sea-fisheries of England, may be said to date from the Convention entered into between this country and France in 1839.” Certain injuries, it had been alleged, had been committed by French fishermen fishing within Brit
ish limits during the breeding seasons, and quarrels arose in 1837 and 1838 between the fishermen of France and those of the Channel Islands; hence the origin of the Convention, whose object was threefold:— 1. To define the limits of exclusive fishery all round the coasts of both countries ; 2. To provide regulations for preventing collisions between the trawlers and the line and drift fishermen in the seas lying between the coasts of Great Britain and of France; 3. To settle the limits of the oyster fisheries between Jersey and France. Now, according to the ninth article of this Convention, British subjects were to have the exclusive right of fishing within three miles of lowwater mark along the coasts of the British Islands, and French subjects similar rights on the coasts of France. ‘In bays not more than ten miles in width, the three miles are to be measured from a straight line connecting the two headlands.’ It appears that, in pursuance of the eleventh article of the Convention, which provides that, with a view to prevent the collisions which from time to time took place on the seas lying between the coasts of Great Britain and of France, between the fisherinen of the two countries, a commission should be appointed to prepare a set of regulations for the guidance of the fishermen of the two countries, a code of regulations was drawn up and confirmed by the respective Governments in June 1843, and was on this side of the Channel embodied in an Act of Parliament, dated August 1843, popularly known as the Fishery Convention Act. This Act embraces other subjects than those contemplated by the Convention. It contains eighty-nine articles, some defining the boundaries and the limits of the exclusive fisheries between Jersey and the coast of France, others providing for the numbering of all fishing-boats, both British and French, others regulating trawlfishing, defining the size of net, length of beam, etc., and the distance trawlers may fish from herring-boats; others regulating the herring-fishery, others mackerel-fishing or oyster-fishing, others giving rules concerning nets, or instructions as to fishing on the Sabbath day. According to the sixth section of the Act, the Queen has power to suspend the operation of these articles with respect to the fisheries on the coast of Ireland, and an order in council did, on the 23d of August, 1843, “suspend the Act with respect to the fisheries on the whole of the coasts of Ireland, so long as such fishery should be carried on exclusively by the subjects of Her Majesty. As foreign fishermen have never been known to fish off the coasts of Ireland, the Convention Act has, in vir
there are great differences of opinion among the legal advisers of the Crown with regard to the limits within which this Act operates,
10 Vict. c. 346. So very restrictive are the orders of this Act, that “if it were enforced, every description of sea-trawling
whether, in fact, it has any operation within and shrimp fishing would be practically pro
the three-mile limit from the shores of this country. “The better opinion appears to be that it has not, on the grounds—(1.) That the Act is penal, and is therefore to be construed strictly; (2) That the policy of the Act extends no further than the obligations under the Convention; (3.) That under the Convention, the obligations of this country extend no further than the enforcement of the regulations outside the three-mile limit. Within that limit, where no Frenchmen may fish, there is no obligation whatever arising out of the Convention, but this country is entitled to carry out what municipal laws and regulations it pleases.’ The anomalous character of the Act, if it has no operation within the three-mile limit, is thus pointed out by the Commissioners—
“If this contention be right, there is in Great Britain a code of rules minutely regulating the boats, nets, modes, and even times of fishing of nearly all orders of fishermen, who fish beyond the three-mile limit of the coast, and of bays of less than ten miles' width; but, with certain possible exceptions, to be mentioned below, there is no law which in any way affects the fishermen who fish within the three-mile limit. They may fish with what boats, or gear, or mesh, or wherever or whenever they please, without interference of the law; if, however, they use their nets beyond that limit, and they are such as are contrary to the provisions of the Convention Act, they are liable to have them seized. For example, the Convention Act forbids the mesh of a trawl-net to be less than one inch and three-quarters from knot to knot, with the plain intention of preventing the taking of fish below a certain size; so that if a trawler, using a mesh of only one inch from knot to knot, take care to confine himself to bays and creeks, where it is alleged the destruction of small fish does most harm, he is free from prosecution under the Act, and his nets cannot be seized; but if he goes beyond the limit into deeper water, where he is probably less likely to take young fish, he is liable to be fined £10, and i. nets may be seized and condemned.”
Another objection to the Convention Act is, that it operates upon the French and English fishermen only. The Belgian and Dutch boats may, in the absence of any treaty engagements between their countries and ours, fish when, or where, and in what manner they please.
The Commissioners next comment upon an Act, 1 Geo. I. c. 18, which appears to be
hibited.” One provision of this repressive Act was that .." nets, excepting those used to take herrings, pilchards, and sprats, should have a mesh not less than three inches and a half from knot to knot ; the consequence would be that fish of 6 lbs., or even 10 lbs., would pass through such nets.
It appears that in England there is no board or public office whose special duty it is to make any regulations or bye-laws respecting the fisheries. ‘Orders in Council have in some cases been made for the enforcement of or in restriction of the Convention Act; the Customs officers have, under that Act, the power of seizing nets, and the Admiralty have from time to time placed cruisers upon various parts of the coast to enforce observance of the Convéntion on fishermen, both British and French, who frequent it for the purpose of fishing. The cases which come most within their cognisance are such as arise out of the herring-fisheries on the north-east coast of England, where considerable numbers of French boats resort every year to prosecute the herring-fishery, and where at times disputes arise between the fishermen of the two countries; and in the English Channel, where, at the instance of the French Government, the regulations with respect to the oyster fishery have been strictly enforced since 1852.”
The legislation with regard to the seafisheries in Ireland has for many years been in the hands of the Commissioners of Public Works, who “ have had an almost absolute authority to make regulations with respect to the different modes of fishing carried on there.” Now, although the Board is possessed of almost unlimited powers, the policy which it has pursued in exercise of those powers has been one, as far as possible, of non-interference with the fishermen; they say—
‘We have been frequently urged to restrain particular modes of fishing, on the plea of their being injurious; whereas, in general, it was their effective results and novelty that occasioned the complaints against them; the objections chiefly arising from the competing interests of persons or communities who had habitually pursued different and probably inferior systems; and occasionally originating in some old-established prejudices, or assumed peculiar rights.'
With respect to the fisheries of Scotland,
the Acts which have been passed bear almost entirely upon the herring-fishery; we shall confine our remarks with regard to the laws enforcing restrictions upon particular fisheries to their bearing upon the Scotch herring-fisheries. And here, as the Commissioners have pointed out, there are several and large anomalies. The herringfishery was at one time free on all the coast of Scotland during the whole year, but in 1860 an Act was passed enforcing a closetime between January 1st and May 31st, during which time it was illegal to take herrings on any part of the west coast south of the Point of Ardnamurchan; between the Point of Ardnamurchan and Cape Wrath the close-time was between January 1st and May 20th. What have been the practical effects of the enactment of this close-time 2 Let us hear the Commissioners. They have been—
‘1. To make illegal, and punishable by fine and imprisonment, on the west coast of Scotland, that which is not only legal, but is specially taken under the protection of a Government. Board, on the east coast. Ardrishaig and Anstruther are within a day's journey of one another. Last spring a person in Anstruther might catch and cure any quantity of herrings; and on his giving due notice to a Government officer, the latter would have been bound to inspect his cure, to see that his barrels were sound and of the right sizes, and finally to place an official stamp of approbation (whereby the sale of the herrings abroad would be facilitated) upon all those which came up to a certain standard of cure. If his fellowcountryman at Ardrishaig had attempted to do the same thing, the boat in which the herrings came ashore, and the nets by which they were caught, would have been seized, and he himi. might have been imprisoned and heavily
“2. To reduce the population of some of the Western Islands to misery and starvation, while abundant food was lying in front of their doors, by preventing them from taking herrings.
“3. To destroy, or greatly impede, an important branch of fishery, by preventing the use of herrings as bait for codfish.
‘4. To require the introduction of a special police, and to introduce a habit of smuggling, and a spirit of disobedience to the law, among an orderly and well-disposed, though very poverty-stricken population.
‘5. To produce all these results without a shadow of evidence to show that the enforcement of a close-time has a beneficial effect upon the supply of fish, or in any way promotes the public interest; though without doubt the closetime is exceedingly convenient for the curers, in its twofold effect upon the labour market and the herring market.’
Here we have another anomaly:—
“The close-time which is enacted for Scotland
and the Scotch seas, whatever force it may possibly have for persons domiciled in Scotland, fishing within the limit of three miles from the coast, or bringing the fish into Scotch coasts, cannot apply to Englishmen and Irishmen fishing beyond the limit. And thus the Closetime Act is practically a prohibition to Scotch fishermen to do that which English, Irish, or foreign fishermen may do with impunity, so long as they do not bring their fish into Scotch ports.”
The Government very promptly put a stop to this state of things, and in 1865 passed an Act repealing the Close-Time Act absolutely to the north of the Point of Ardnamurchan; and limiting close-time to the months of February, March and April, and a portion of May, to the south of that Point.
The Commissioners give us some infor. mation with regard to the Board by which the herring-fishery on the coast of Northumberland and in Scotland is in some respects controlled. The Board sits at Edinburgh, and is called the ‘Board of British White Herring Fishery; it was constituted in 1808 by the 48th Geo. III. c. 110. It has been placed in a difficult position by the repressive legislation of recent years. Consisting as it does of many members of high social position and of professional standing, the views of the Commissioners have in general been more advanced than those represented by the Acts which they were obliged to enforce. These Acts have therefore been put into operation with as little severity as possible. Trawlers have thriven under the administration of the Board, which never hesitated to express their opinion that the Acts which they were sometimes forced by selfish interests to bring into active operation were unwisely conceived, and were prejudicial to the interests of the fisheries. The powers of this Board extend only to those places where the mode of curing herrings according to the “system of the white-herring cure' obtains. The herrings, having been previously gutted, are placed in barrels with interposed layers of salt, so that they are preserved in a moist state, instead of being dried and smoked like red-herrings. The chief demand for herrings thus cured is made by the Russians and people of Central Europe. “The functions of the Board are, primarily, to superintend and regulate this branch of the export trade, by seeing that the measures used between the fishermen and the curers, and the barrels in which the curers sell fish to the foreign merchants, are of the proper size; by inspecting the herrings when cured, and attaching an official brand to all that come up to a certain standard ; by attending upon the export of British white-cured herrings, to inspect them, and ascertain that they are in proper order before exportation. In addition to these duties, the Board is expected to aid in the enforcement of the Acts of Parliament relating to the herring-fisheries, for which purpose it employs police and a cutter, and is assisted by the loan of steam-vessels by the Admiralty. It receives and restores lost fishery property; furnishes returns and statistics from Scotland and the Isle of Man; and finally, it has to administer a Parliamentary grant of £3000 a year for the improvement and building of fishery piers and harbours in Scotland only. The Board consists of unpaid Commissioners, and is provided with a paid secretary, clerks, and fishery officers, two sergeants of police, nine fishery constables, the commander of a cutter, his mate and crew, and the engineers of the Board.” We are then told that the actual cost of this establishment to the country is nearly £7000 a year. The jurisdiction of this Board in England is confined to Northumberland, because at present that is the only county in which the system of the white-herring cure is prac. tised. Every curer of herrings, according to this mode of treatment, must give notice to the Board that he is going to cure; then the fishery officer comes and inspects, sees that a barrel of a particular size is used, and no other, and that a particular measure is used, and no other; if the fishery officer is satisfied in these respects, and with the quality of the herrings to be exported, he affixes his brand on the barrel, for which operation the curer pays fourpence. This brand is a certificate that the barrel of herrings contains, the proper quantity, and comes up to the official standard of excellence. But it is optional with the curer whether he will have the brand affixed or not ; ‘so long as the barrel is of the right size, the herrings it contains may be putrid without the fishery officer having the power to condemn them.’ - With regard to this branding system, much has been said both in favour of it and against it. ‘The only admissible argument in its favour are those derivable from its effects upon the foreign trade in white herrings.’ It is granted that the branding system is beneficial to the curers and merchants, and thus acts favourably upon the fishermen; but there is also plenty of evidence to show that the herring trade would robably be equally prosperous without it. t is alleged that foreign merchants readily
take the herrings of the Stornoway curers without any brand, and that not more than half the herrings cured in Scotland are branded. Moreover, the branding system is objectionable as a matter of commercial policy, for why should Government grant this ‘exceptional contribution from the public purse to the support of a particular trade 3'
The Commissioners with good reason say—
‘We have been unable to discover why the State should undertake to guarantee the goodness of a barrel of herrings rather than that of a barrel of pork, or of a bale of cotton, or of any other commodity; and why, in this sole instance, among the enormous foreign commercial transactions of this country, the Government should interfere between buyer and seller, and relieve the former of that necessity for care and caution in the transaction of his own business which is incidental to every other branch of trade.”
To sum up this whole matter, the Commissioners state that they have found the laws relating to sea-fisheries complicated, confused, and unsatisfactory; many restrictions even of late date never enforced ; and they add that many of these restrictions would be extremely injurious to the interests of the fishermen and of the community if they were enforced; that with respect to these and others, the highest legal authorities are unable to decide where and in what precise sense they are operative; with regard to England, leaving the oysterfisheries for the present out of consideration, that the sea-fisheries are practically under no restriction, or next to none; that those of Scotland, on the other hand, are actively superintended by a Fishery Board, with defined powers, and supported at a cost of #7000 a year to the country; that the fisheries of Ireland are legally under the control of a Board which possesses almost unlimited powers, but that it is the practice of the Board to exert these powers as little as possible, and only under pressure from without ; the Commissioners therefore consider that the functions of these Boards, so far as the sea-fisheries are concerned, might cease without any injurious effect upon the fisheries.
With regard to the Convention Act, the Commissioners entertain no doubt that as a whole it ought to be repealed, but that it would be of great advantage to make certain articles of that Act the basis of a special Sea-Fisheries Police Act. We have already referred to the great uncertainty there is with respect to the scope of the
Convention Act, while we are told that with
regard to the substance of the regulations laid down, the greater part of them are not and never have been attended to by any person, that many are impracticable, and would be injurious, if able to be put into practice. They also recommend that all restrictions which prevent foreign fishermen from entering British or Irish ports for the sale of fish, be removed in Great Britain and Ireland; and that measures be taken to secure the like freedom for British fishermen in foreign ports.
With respect to the failure of the oysterfisheries during the last few years, the Com. missioners affirm that there is not the slight. est evidence to show that the decrease is to be attributed to over-fishing, or to any causes over which man has direct control. As to the very interesting subject of oysters, however, we hope to speak more fully than our present space allows, on another ocCaSiOn.
We cannot conclude this notice of the Report on the Sea-Fisheries without once more expressing our admiration of the dilidence, fairness, and philosophic reasoning which it evinces; and we trust that the Legislature will soon take the matter into cousideration, with a view to abolish the numerous anomalous and repressive Acts which affect the sea-fisheries of the United Kingdom.
ART. III.-1. ALBERI—Relazioni degli Am. basciatori Veneti. 15 vols. Florence, 1839–1858.
2. BARozzi E. BERCHET-Relazioni degli Stati Europei. 5 vols. Venice, 1858– 1862.
3. ToMMASEo—Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens sur les Affaires de France au xvi. Siècle. 2 vols. Paris, 1838.
4. BAschet—La Diplomatie Vénitienne. Paris, 1862.
If the memory of a glorious past, of former influence, and material prosperity, can afford a consolation to a nation when placed in very different circumstances, Venice is not to be pitied. Sad as may be her present position, the result at once of political causes and of inevitable vicissitudes in the direction of trade, the very stones of her walls are eloquent in their record of times gone by, and the State may well be proud of her almost unequalled treasure in the shape of carefully preserved records, the title-deeds and annals of her glory.
In this respect, at all events, the Austrian Government have shown themselves not indifferent to the responsibility which they have assumed towards Venice. Since 1818 they have caused a vast collection of the public muniments and records to be formed within the walls of the ex-convent of the Franciscans, where nearly three hundred rooms are now filled with these treasures. Other records are preserved in the library of St. Mark, to which Petrarch bequeathed his books, and in the Correr Museum; and if to these be added the documents still preserved in private collections, Venice cannot be considered otherwise than as a rich mine of historic wealth. Nor has this great treasure been secured without risks. In 1574 and 1577 serious fires occurred, which destroyed many precious documents; and in 1797 the amenities of a French invasion transferred to Paris a large portion of the historic documents, which were only finally restored in 1815, Lamentable indeed would it have been if these archives which Venetian patriotism had carefully preserved for so many ages, should have been transferred from within her walls. In an age like the present, when historic investigation is constantly proceeding with increased activity, and when a deeper feeling of responsibility on the part of public writers has called forth a more conscientious examination of original documents, it was not to be expected that the Venetian records would be left unexplored; but a very general interest had already for many years attached to them, owing to the publicity which, by one means or another, had been given to some of the more important documents. We allude to the diplomatic correspondence of the State; and when it is remembered that the series begins with the early part of the thirteenth century, it would be difficult to over-estimate their value, historically considered, even had not the documents themselves been distinguished by the ability and intrinsic merits which have been so universally acknowledged in them. When we speak of the diplomatic correspondence of Venice, we must at the outset draw a distinction between two classes, the despatches, properly so called, and the relazioni, or general reports which were rendered to the State by the ambassador on his return from his mission. The different character of the two classes will be gathered from the following passage, which we transcribe from the pages of M. Baschet, an author who has well justified the confidence which the French Government reposed in