United States Fish Commission
The United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (more commonly known as the U.S. Fish Commission) was established by a joint Congressional resolution on February 9, 1871 (16 Stat. 593), as an independent commission with a mandate to investigate the causes for the decrease of commercial fish and aquatic animals in U.S. coastal and inland waters, to recommend remedies to Congress and the states, and to oversee restoration efforts.
The Commission was organized into three divisions: The Division of Inquiry respecting Food-Fishes and Fishing Grounds, the Division of Fisheries, and the Division of Fish-Culture.
Under the leadership of first Spencer F. Baird, then Marshall McDonald, George Brown Goode and finally George Bowers, the U.S. Fish Commission carried out extensive investigations of the fishes, shellfishes, marine mammals and other life in the rivers, lakes and marine waters of the United States and its territories, corresponded widely with marine researchers around the world, scrutinized the era's fishing technologies, designed, built and operated hatcheries for a wide variety of finfish and shellfish, and oversaw the Alaskan and Aleutian fur seal 'fishery'.
From 1871 to 1903, the Commission's Annual Report to Congress details its efforts and findings on all of the above.
From 1881 to 1903, the U.S. Fish Commission published an annual "Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission" summarizing the commission's annual report and correspondence. The bulletins include detailed catch reports from fishermen and commercial fishing port agents around the US and Canada, reports and letters from naturalists and fish researchers around the United States and other countries, and descriptions of the Commission's exploratory cruises and hatchery efforts. In 1884, the Commission published the seminal work, Fisheries and Fisheries Industries of the United States.
In 1902, the U.S. Fish Commission was reorganized as the United States Bureau of Fisheries and was made part of the newly created United States Department of Commerce and Labor, where it became the predecessor of the modern National Marine Fisheries Service.
- Robert Barnwell Roosevelt originated the bill to create the Commission in the United States House of Representatives.
- Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission. Volume 1 (1881) through Volume 23 (1903). US Government Printing Office.
- Spencer Baird and Ichthyology at the Smithsonian 1850-1900. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology.
- Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Record Group 22. 1868-1995 (bulk 1870-1972) United States National Archives.
- United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries: Annual Reports 1871-1903
- Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission: Selected Gulf of Maine Reports
- Records of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Smithsonian: U.S. FISH COMMISSION
- Harvard University: Pacific Expeditions of the US Fish Commission Steamer Albatross, 1891, 1899–1900, 1904–1905