United States Fish Commission
|United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (1871-1903)
United States Bureau of Fisheries (1903-1940)
Flag of the United States Bureau of Fisheries
|Formed||9 February 1871|
|Dissolved||30 June 1940|
|Superseding agency||United States Fish and Wildlife Service|
|Jurisdiction||United States federal government|
|Parent agency||none (1871-1903)
U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor (1903-1913)
U.S. Department of Commerce (1913-1939)
U.S. Department of the Interior (1939-1940)
The United States Fish Commission, formally known as the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, was an agency of the United States Government created in 1871 to investigate, promote, and preserve the fisheries of the United States. In 1903, it was reorganized as the United States Bureau of Fisheries, which operated until 1940.
Robert Barnwell Roosevelt, a Democratic congressmen from New York's 4th Congressional District, originated the bill to create the U.S. Fish Commission in the United States House of Representatives. It was established by a joint resolution (16 Stat. 593) of the United States Congress on February 9, 1871, as an independent commission with a mandate to investigate the causes for the decrease of commercial fish and other aquatic animals in the coastal and inland waters of the United States, to recommend remedies to the U.S. 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, shellfish, 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 fishing technologies; designed, built, and operated hatcheries for a wide variety of finfish and shellfish; and oversaw the fur seal "fishery" in the Territory of Alaska, including the Aleutian Islands.
From 1871 to 1903, the Commission's Annual Report to Congress detailed its efforts and findings in all of these areas. From 1881 to 1903, the Commission also published an annual Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission summarizing the commission's Annual Report to Congress and correspondence. The bulletins included detailed catch reports from fishermen and commercial fishing port agents around the United States and Canada, reports and letters from naturalists and fish researchers around the United States and in other countries, and descriptions of the Commission's exploratory cruises and fish hatchery efforts. In 1884, the Commission published the seminal work, Fisheries and Fisheries Industries of the United States.
Three ships were built for the Commission: the 157-foot-long (48 m) schooner-rigged steamer USFC Fish Hawk, which served as a floating fish hatchery and fisheries research ship from 1880 to 1926; the 234-foot-long (71 m) brigantine-rigged steamer USFC Albatross, which operated as a fisheries research ship from 1882 to 1921 except for brief periods of United States Navy service in 1898 and from 1917 to 1919; and the 90-foot-long (27 m) sailing schooner USFC Grampus, which was commissioned in 1886 and operated as a fisheries research ship until at least 1921.
By an Act of Congress of February 14, 1903, the U.S. Fish Commission became part of the newly created United States Department of Commerce and Labor and was reorganized as the United States Bureau of Fisheries, with both the transfer and the name change effective on July 1, 1903. In 1913, the Department of Commerce and Labor was divided into the United States Department of Commerce and the United States Department of Labor, and the Bureau of Fisheries became part of the new Department of Commerce. In 1939, the Bureau of Fisheries was transferred to the United States Department of the Interior, and on June 30, 1940, it was merged with the Interior Department's Division of Biological Survey to form the new United States Fish and Wildlife Service, an element of the Interior Department.
In 1956,the Fish and Wildlife Service divided its operations into two bureaus, the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, with the latter inheriting the history and heritage of the old U.S. Fish Commission and U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. Upon the formation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce on October 3, 1970, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries merged with the saltwater laboratories of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife to form today's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an element of NOAA, and the former Bureau of Commercial Fisheries' research ships were resubordinated to NOAA's fleet. The NMFS is considered the modern-day successor to the U.S. Fish Commission and U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and the NOAA fleet of today also traces its history in part to them.
- 22.3 GENERAL RECORDS OF THE U.S. FISH COMMISSION AND THE BUREAU OF FISHERIES 1870-1940
- Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1900's
- Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1910's
- Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1930's
- Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1940's
- Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1950's
- Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1970's
- 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