SACKVILLE RIVER FISHWAY
Hon. Mr. ALMON rose to
Call attention to the unsatisfactory condition of the Sackville River, in the County of Halifax, and will ask the Government if they intend to grant the sum of $200.00 to improve the Fishway and remove the obstructions in the Sackville River, at the bead of Bedford Basin, so as to enable the Salmon and Trout to get to the spawning ground in the lake from which that river originates ?
He said—I wish to explain what the Sackville river is. Halifax harbor is composed of two harbors, the first at the city and the second harbor called Bedford Basin. This harbor is about sixteen
miles in circumference, and four or five miles wide. At the top of the harbor, where the railway passes, there is a small stream which we call the Sackville river, and which flows into the salt water. This stream is about fourteen miles long, and originates in Sandy lake, where in old times the salt water fish, which come into the fresh water to spawn, used to deposit their ova—chiefly the salmon and alewives. At one time this streamed abounded with salmon. It was very much fished by people from Halifax, it being only eight or ten miles from the City. In fact, every day during the season there was a quantity of salmon taken out of this river. There has been no salmon, I am credibly informed, taken out of this river by the rod during the last three years. The reason given for that is that although the salmon are plentiful at the mouth of the river the fishway at Coulson’s mill is so constructed that it is impossible for the salmon to get through it . When the water is low there is a distance between the dam and the upper water that the fish cannot get over. I have been informed by a gentleman, who is reliable, that he has often crossed the bridge at that place and has seen abundance of salmon in the water trying to get up over that dam. If they could succeed in getting up above the dam, the river itself is blocked with sawdust, slabs and brush, in a way which I am told renders it impossible for fish to get through. Above that is another mill, also with a very imperfect fishway, over which it is impossible for fish to get. Some gentlemen may ask why is this fishway at Coulson’s made so that the fish cannot get through it ? In the first place it is one of Roger’s fish ladders, of which many people have doubts as to its excellence. It is certainly not as good as the old-fashioned fishway, and fish have great difficulty in getting up. Mr. Rogers is the inspector of all the fisheries in Nova Scotia, for which he receives a salary of $1,800 a year, and a good many fees in the shape of travelling expenses. He decides which rivers require fishways, and he puts his own fishway into them and receives a royalty of $40 or $50 as patentee. Hon. gentlemen will see that it is clearly wrong. It may be asked is
it not to his advantage to alter this fishway P The fish hatchery is just at the entrance to this stream, and it is to the advantage of the warden of the river that the fish cannot get up. The parent fish are caught there and the ova taken from them for the use of this hatchery. The fish hatchery is a very nice thing, no doubt, but it is a very expensive toy to the Dominion. It costs the country about $44,000.
Hon. Mr. POWER—That hatchery alone!
Hon. Mr. ALMON—No, but fish hatcheries altogether. They are pretty nice toys, but they cost the Government that amount. Now, we ask ourselves is the fish hatchery of any use to the Dominion ? The blue-book says it is, but the majority of practical fishermen will tell you it is a fraud and a failure from beginning to end. For instance, take the Sackville River. Although that river shows that over 40,000 young salmon have been planted in it, I ask what becomes of them ? It is said that the young salmon return to the stream in which they are planted. Perhaps the hon. gentleman from Sackville will explain why it is that in some of the rivers, in the Cascapedia for instance, the fish average some forty pounds. You do not meet any small fish in that stream; therefore, it is not likely that the salmon planted in the stream there, either by parent salmon or by the fish hatcheries, jump to that size immediately. On that ground I think the theory is wrong, that the salmon planted in a river return to that river from the sea after they grow up. The petition that was sent in to the government was signed by a large number of respectable and influential persons for the improvement of this fishery, although the petition is spoken of very disparagingly by Mr. Rogers. Now, one of the first names on the petition is that of Hon. James Butler, a member of the Legislative Council, a gentleman largely interested in the West India trade, and one of the chief promoters and managers of the Halifax Sugar Refinery. It may be said that he .does not know anything about the fishway, but his country seat is at the very
mouth of this river and this mouth looks down on the hatchery. Then Mr. Morrison, who also has a country seat in that vicinity, signed the petition. It is also signed by Mr. Moore, who has a large elevator there, and flour mills, and also by Mr. William Hare, who had three sons, young men, out in the NorthWest during .the rebellion, who are thorough sportsmen, fond of fishing and shooting. It is also signed by Mr. Harrison, president of the Game Association of Halifax ; yet Mr. Rogers, in his report to the Fisheries Department, ignores all this, and says that they signed a petition about something that they know nothing of. This petition simply asks that $200 should be given to remove the Rogers Fish Ladder and put in one that would be of use and clear away the obstructions to fish ascending the river. That being done, the salmon have only fifteen miles to go up to the place which, from time immemorial, has been the natural fish hatchery, instead of which they are caught in the vain attempt to ascend the Rogers Fish Ladder. The sum asked for is so very small, and the people who petition for it are so very respectable, that I think the Department ought to consider it. I own a small piece of meadow on the river myself and have riparian rights as owner, though I never cast a line into the river. It is time that the Government should enquire whether the $44,000, that we are paying for fish hatcheries, is of any value to the country.
Hon. Mr. KAULBACH—I do not agree with my hon. friend, as it is quite evident to my mind the fish hatcheries have a great value, independent of their pecuniary cost. I am not aware of the obstructions in the Sackville River; but as far as the Rogers’ Fish Ladder is concerned, wherever I have seen it, I have, from my personal knowledge, proved that it has been successful. I know it has been successful in the rivers in my own county and I have heard of other places where it has been equally successful . As regards the hatcheries I believe the value is far in advance of the cost. I know that some of the fry have been put into one or two of the rivers in my county, and we have already seen a gain from it. That fish return to the river in which they are propagated, is beyond any question. I know that from my own personal experience, because I have hooked a fish which has got away from me into the stream again, and from his peculiar markings, I know that I have caught the same salmon the following season in the same river. It is wonderful how rapidly they grow. I believe that a salmon will increase in two or three months in the salt water from ounces to pounds in weight. If the Sackville river is obstructed with sawdust and slabs, I don’t wonder at the fish not going up, for we know that salmon and all other fish in their natural instincts propagate. Their species will overcome great obstacles to get to their spawning ground A twelve pound salmon will deposit 12,000 ova. The difficulty of which the hon. gentleman complains, must arise from the sawdust preventing the salmon from going up, and not from the faulty construction of Rogers Fish Ladder. That ladder has been approved of by the Government after a number of experiments, and if it is properly constructed and put down in the way in which the practical knowledge of Mr. Rogers would dictate as the best way, I say that the difficulty must be not from the fish ladder, but from the sawdust above it .
Hon. Mr. ALEXANDER—It seems to me that the hon. gentleman makes a very moderate request in asking for $200. I am sure it would require $400 to do anything on that river.
Hon. Mr. DICKEY—My hon. friend has referred to these fish hatcheries in Halifax, and I have an opinion about it, but I will not trouble the House to discuss it now. I daresay my hon. friend knows a great deal more than I do about it, and I daresay he is right . As regards the fishway, I know this about it: that the Rogers Fish Ladder has been a great success in other places, and I will give the House an instance of it, and I may be excused for doing so, because Mr. Rogers is one of our young men.
Hon. Mr. ALMON—From the county of Cumberland.
Hon. Mr. DICKEY—Yes, and when he comes from the county of Cumberland it is not wonderful that he should be an inventive genius ; but I want to state the manner in which that invention has been received in the land of inventions, the United States, and I think it is due to the inventor to give the House the benefit of it . In the United States more had been spent upon the Connecticut River twice over than has been spent in the whole of Nova Scotia, in effectual attempts to get the fish to go up the ladders on that river. At last they employed a man who took the first prize at the Fishery Exposition in London three years ago, and they took it for granted that, as his fishway got the gold medal, he would do the business. They spent between $50,000 and $100,000. They put up the fishway, and waited a year and found it to be an entire failure. They then sent for Mr. Rogers to put up his fishway. He put it up at about one-third of the cost, and to the astonishment of the people, for the first time they saw the fish ascending the ladder to their usual haunts to spawn. I know nothing of the ladder except that fact . Since then this man has received orders from various parts of the States for ladders. He has secured his patent and is making money out of it, and I am very glad of it . I do not like to hear the inventions of our own people depreciated. I saw the model of the fishway before it was put into a practical form, and from any mechanical knowledge which I possess, I came to the conclusion that it was an admirable invention. I was not alone in that opinion. It was inspected by a great many fishermen and sportsmen who know more about salmon than I do, and they all remarked that it was an admirable contrivance. The Government tested it, in no friendly spirit, I am sorry to say, and had to come to the conclusion that it was an excellent invention. Under the circumstances, I hope the House will pardon me for taking up so much time in discussing this question.
Hon. Mr. McINNES (B. C.)—The first remarks I had the honor of making six years ago in this House, were on the subject of a salmon hatchery on the Fraser river. I urged its establishment, not for the purpose of propagating the usual run of salmon, which takes place in the latter part of the summer, but to propagate the early or winter and spring runs of salmon, a very much superior fish to that which ascends our streams later. This winter the run is not only much larger in size, but of a superior flavor, very similar to the best salmon caught in the Restigouche and those rivers referred to in the motion before the House. A great deal of doubt was expressed by hon. gentlemen when I was asking for a hatchery, as to whether hatcheries were a success or not. I have this to say, that although the British Columbia hatchery has been in operation only five years, last year that early run was very much increased, and this year, each and every boat that goes out about six o’clock in the evening and remains out all night, generally takes in from sixty to eighty of these beautiful salmon in the morning. If that marked improvement continues much longer, our salmon canneries, instead of running for only eight or ten weeks in the year, as in the past, will, I have every reason to believe, have a continuous canning season, extending over seven or eight months of the year I have much pleasure in certifying that whatever success has attended the establishment of hatcheries elsewhere, certainly the Fraser river one has been all that the most sanguine of us expected.
Hon. Mr. POWER—I think the House is under an obligation to my hon. colleague for bringing this matter before its notice ; and I was rather sorry to hear the hon. member from Amherst speak in a half apologetic manner for taking up the time of the House in discussing this matter, as though it were of small consequence. The improvement of our river fisheries is of the very greatest importance ; and the case brought before the House by my hon. colleague is but a sample of a great many cases which might be found in the Province of Nova Scotia—I do not undertake to speak for other Provinces. If the House will per
mit me, I shall quote from the petition to which my hon. colleague referred. I have a copy of the petition, which is now in the hands of the Government with respect to the Sackville river. The petitioners say:—
” That, before the establishment of the fish hatchery on the Sackville River at Bedford aforesaid, Salmon were comparatively abundant in the waters of Bedford Basin and of the river aforesaid, so that a fisherman setting his nets in the said Basin would in the course of the fishing season, catch, in an ordinary straight net, from forty to fifty fathoms in length and ten leet in-depth, from eighty to one hundred salmon ” :
That there had been no marked falling off of a permanent character in the catch of salmon in the said Basin for twenty years before the establishing of the fish hatchery aforesaid :
That, about three years after the fish hatchery began operations, the net fishermen began to notice a trailing off in the catch of salmon, which has continued up to the present time, when the average catch for the season is not more than fifteen to a net, the nets now used being harpoon bag nets of improved pattern and much more effective than those used before fish breeding was attempted on the Sackville river :
That when the hatchery was first established, the officer in charge caught in a trap on the said river, from 75 to 100 Salmon in the season for breeding purposes; that the number of salmon in the river fell off from year to year, until, in the last season during which the trap was set, that of 1881 or 1882, only one was caught, and the attempt to secure mother fish in the said stream was thereafter abandoned :
That, on a stream leading from Sandy Lake, to which lake Salmon, Gasperaux and other fish resorted for the purpose of spawning, to the Sackville river, there is a mill-dam without any way through which fish, can pass, and two other impassable obstructions made up of logs and rubbish, so that it is now impossible for fish to reach their spawning ground :
That, although many fry have been deposited in the Sackville” River, they do not seem to have matured, and the fishing both in the basin and in the River is practically destroyed:
” Your Petitioners therefore pray that salmon fishing in Bedford Basin and Sack ville River and its tributaries be prohibited for the term of five years; that a proper fishway be constructed in the dam aforesaid, and the obstructions in the Sandy Lake Brook removed ; that an active warden be appointed for the same Basin and River and its tributaries; and that the trapping of mother fish be not resumed.”
The $200 which my hon. colleague suggests should be given by the Government is, I presume, for the purpose of removing the obstructions in the brook and, possibly, to make a new fishway. This petition is signed by 106 persons. There were a number of prominent men, besides those whose names my hon. colleague mentioned, who signed that petition ; and the majority of the petitioners are men who know what they are speaking about; being largely residents of the immediate neighborhood of the river. I have seen the answer given by the Fisheries Inspector of Nova Scotia to this petition, and it is of a most misleading character. I quite recognize the fact stated by the hon. gentleman from Amherst that the Fishery Inspector of the Province is a gentleman with an inventative genius, but I regret to say that his inventive capacity is not limited to mechanical contrivances. He also invents statements which, on investigation, are found not to be sustained by the facts. I do not undertake to say anything against Mr. Rogers’ fishway. I think, on the whole, that where the fishway is properly placed in a dam it is a pretty effective one. I do not quite concur with my colleague as to the character of the fishway. I may say, in excuse for speaking at some length on this subject, that I had proposed giving a notice in connection with the matter of the river fisheries of Nova Scotia myself; but looking at the late period of the session, I thought I should take advantage of my hon. colleague’s motion and say a few words on the subject now. What is the position of the Sackville river ? It was a good river for fish before the hatchery was established there. The hatchery has been in existence for twelve years : during that time the officer in charge of it has been depositing large quantities of fry in the river; and to-day, notwithstanding that these deposits of fry in the river and its tributaries have been made at any rate for ten years, there are no fish in the river and almost none in Bedford Basin. I think that is about as strong a case as we can get. I do not mean to say that fish hatching cannot be made a success. It has been made successful in other countries; but as regards Sackville river, I must say it is perfectly clear that it is a
complete failure We have had the principal officer of the province in charge of the fish-hatchery, with the river right under his eyes all the time. He lives beside the river.
Hon. Mr. Mcinnes (B. C.)—Are there saw mills on the river ?
Hon. Mr. POWER—There are at some distance up on the river. Here we have the fact that fishing is gradually falling off, and that in spite of the continual depositing of fry there are no salmon in the river.
Hon. Mr. ALEXANDER—We find the same thing at Tadousac : there is no’ result from the deposit of fry.
Hon. Mr. POWER—In the first place there is an obstruction on Sackville River called Tolson’s Dam. I do not understand that there is a Rogers’ fishway at that dam—I understand there is not. It is an obstruction to the fish getting up, and, since the officer in charge of the hatchery has ceased to catch the mother fish at the dam, it should be removed so that the fish could have an opportunity of ascending the river. Then when one gets a little further up the river there is a stream running into the Sackville River from Sandy Lake. This is a lake with a bottom of sand and gravel: which is the sort of place to which salmon and alewives resort to breed. Now there is one of Rogers’ fishways in the dam at the mouth of this stream,—Peveril’s dam it is called— ; but I have been told by eye witnesses— men who are quite reliable and more than one of whom live in the neighborhood, and have opportunities of observing this fish-way almost every day— that when the river is not at its lowest but at its medium height the opening of the fish-way is about a foot above the surface of the river, and the consequence is that it is of no use whatever. It may be a good fish-way, but it is so located that the fish cannot get through the dam.
Hon. Mr. ALMON—It was put in by Rogers himself.
Hon. Mr. POWER -Yes, it is one of Rogers’ fish-ways, and I presume it was put up under his direction.
Hon. Mr. DICKEY—Put in at high water ?
Hon. Mr. POWER—Those things should be made so that they can be utilized by the fish in the ordinary condition of the river. Then there are these obstructions to which my hon. colleague has alluded and formed as he has stated, and also other dams on the main river through which there are not proper fish-ways. I wish to impress upon the mind of the leader of the Government here the very unsatisfactory way in which the work, under the Fisheries Department, is carried on in Nova Scotia, and for that purpose I desire to call his attention to another river about which I happen to know a good deal. It is called the Salmon River, which runs into the Atlantic about ninety miles east of Halifax. It got its name from the great abundance of salmon which frequented it. I believe the reason why salmon resorted to that stream so much was because about six miles from the mouth of the river there was a series of lakes—I think some two or three—with bottoms composed largely of sand and gravel, just the sort of place that salmon resort to for spawning. I do not think there was a better river on the whole Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia for salmon than this river was up to seven or eight years ago. In the year 188 r a gold mine was opened about three miles from the mouth of this river. The mine is the richest in the Province of Nova Scotia. They have & very large crusher there, the tailings from which go directly into the river ; and hon. gentlemen can form some idea of what that river has suffered when I tell them that this crusher crushes on an average between forty and fifty tons of quartz each day, and that all the tailings go into this small stream. It is unnecessary to say that the water is very much of the consistency of gruel and that there are no fish in the river now. In addition to destroying the river that way, polluting it with this crushed quartz, the company who own the mine have built a dam close by their crusher; and I think there are four other dams between
the crusher and the lakes to which the salmon formerly resorted to spawn. It is perfectly clear that no salmon, trout, ale-wives, or other fish can get up that river ; and in addition to that, the harbor of Salmon river, which was one of the very best on the coast of Nova Scotia, has been very seriously injured. I know that at the wharf, to which a few years ago, the gentleman who was then local member for the County of Halifax, brought his brigs and other vessels of that class—where those vessels were able to lie without difficulty, one can hardly bring a fishing smack now, and the harbor is gradually filling up with the tailings from the crusher. That case is a very strongly marked one, which must attract the attention of any one who knows anything about it. The same thing in a less degree happens on other rivers along our shores. The owners of mills do not provide facilities for the passage of fish through their dams, and they allow the sawdust and other refuse from their mills to go into the rivers and pollute the waters and render them unfit for fish to live in. This brings me to the same point that is before the Committee which is now sitting under the guidance of my hon. friend from Richmond. I think that the present relations between the public and the mill owners are very unsatisfactory, and it is the duty of the Government to carry out the law irrespective of the wishes of the owners of mills. No doubt the gentlemen who own those saw mills are carrying on a very important industry and one which brings into the country a great deal of money, and they deserve to be encouraged in every reasonable way and to get every sort of reasonable fair play; but just look at the position. Those gentlemen are first allowed to take the stream, which is a public highway and which belongs to the whole public or ought to, and make it practically their own private property. They put a dam on it and they put a mill on it. and make the river which belongs to the public, do the work which under other circumstances they would have been obliged to have done by costly machinery. That may be reasonable enough : there would be no objection to their using the water of the river to turn
their mills provided that they furnished an efficient fish-way, to allow fish to go up ; but, in addition to that, they use the water of the river to carry away the refuse that arises from their work. I think the country does enough for the mill owner, when it furnishes him with his water power, without allowing him to pollute and destroy the river for all other purposes, after the water has passed his mill; and I hope the Government will take steps to see that in this point at any rate the law is enforced—that they will take steps to see that there are proper fishways in all the dams—Rogers’ fishways if you will—but properly located in the dams,—and that they will compel the mill-owners to dispose of their sawdust in some other way than by throwing it into the river. I have a very strong feeling that the system of policing the rivers is vicious. I know, with respect to the crusher on Salmon River, that the attention of the overseer for the county has been called to it, but he has never taken any steps to compel the mine owners to comply with the law. There is a warden living close by the river, but he is an old man, and would be afraid to take steps against the rich men who own the mine. I think that the sum of money which is expended in paying the overseers and wardens and maintaining the fish hatcheries would be very much better spent, if instead of taking men who live in the different localities, and who are afraid or unwilling to enforce the law against their neighbors—if it were expended in paying efficient policemen who did not belong to the localities and who would not be influenced by either fear or favor in dealing with people who violate the law. I find that the total sum spent in Nova Scotia last year was $26,732.86. Now I am quite confident that infinitely better results might be obtained with that money if it were spent in efficiently policing the rivers and seeing that the law was carried out . It seems to me an almost absurd thing to spend large sums of money in providing fish hatcheries and distributing fry, when if the fish are only allowed fair play they will go up the rivers and deposit the fry themselves ; and I have thought too that, instead of taking these wretched little
fry and carrying them sometimes many miles in carts and then putting them into a river in a perfectly helpless condition (I believe it has been found that a large proportion of them are dead when they are put into the water,) if you are going to transplant anything, you had better transplant the mother fish and let her deposit her ova herself. I may say, in confirmation of the view I take with regard to the policing of the rivers, that I am informed that the Department of Marine and Fisheries have adopted the system which I venture to recommend in connection with one of the rivers in New Brunswick. They have got rid of the old wardens and appointed energetic policemen at so much per day to look after the rivers during the close season ; and I understand the results are satisfactory. In a good many places where rivers are leased to private individuals, they look after them efficiently, and the run of fish improves in those rivers rather than declines. The principal points to which, I think, the attention of the Government should be directed, are the doing away with fish hatcheries, which may be good in themselves, but which are not necessary in a province like Nova Scotia where fish is still comparatively abundant, and that they should above all things get a staff of independent and reliable policemen to see that the law is carried out with respect to the rivers.
Hon. Mr. Mcclelan—This is a subject of very considerable importance, and if the time occupied in the discussion of it should result in anything practical, it would be time well spent. However, I may say that it is not a new discussion by any means. The question has been before this Chamber and before the other House on several occasions during the last eight or ten years. The difficulty seems to be, as pointed out by the hon. member from Halifax, that the streams are being denuded of their fish which twenty years ago formed a valuable food supply for the people in the locality, by the operation of the milling establishments. The lumbermen are frequently men of wealth, at all events they are men who carry on a large business and employ a number of laborers, many of them the settlers living in the immediate locality. They consequently have considerable political influence and, naturally enough, they are anxious to make all the money they can, and they resist anything which involves expenditure in making fish ways, and resist, by all means in their power, attempts to require them to provide appliances for burning saw-dust and mill refuse. Therefore the saw-dust and refuse go into the streams. Fish ways, in a great many cases, are inadequately provided. Notwithstanding the supervision of the Department of Fisheries and the appointment of inspectors and wardens, the supply of fish in our river, emptying into the Bay of Fundy, has been diminishing, and the people who formerly obtained a valuable supply of food therefrom are becoming deprived of that supply. I am not at all sanguine that any practical result will come from this discussion more than heretofore. I am afraid the same difficulty will continue, though I should fain hope that something would be done, even now, to resist the progress of these destructive agencies. Not only are the river fisheries affected—the salm on, the trout, the gaspereaux—but the indiscriminate throwing into the rivers of sawdust and refuse has had an effect upon the bay fish along the shore—the herring and shad. The shad is perhaps one of our best fisheries in the Bay of Fundy, and even that—so I am told by practical fishermen, who ought to know —has been somewhat impaired by the indiscriminate throwing of refuse into the waters from the mills. Regarding the improved fishway to which hon. gentlemen have referred, I took the opportunity of examining the model of Mr. Rogers’ invention along with that gentleman, and I confess I was very favorably impressed indeed with the nature of that invention. I think if it was properly adjusted and maintained, it would be a most useful contrivance, but I am not aware that it is being employed to any great extent in the Province of New Brunswick. I think the great difficulty which exists now, and has heretofore existed, and I am afraid will continue to exist, is that the Government, while pretending to take action to protect the fisheries, will be restrained by adverse local influence.
Hon. Mr. DEVER—I think it is right that every gentleman should say a word or two on this question, because it is a very important one. In the rivers in the Lower Provinces, where fish naturally frequented in the past, we had no difficulty whatever each year in finding an abundance offish. It is my opinion, and I have read a great deal about the habits of salmon and trout, that if the native water is kept pure and the bottoms of the pools are kept clean and free from deposits of decayed sawdust and other refuse, there will be no necessity for any artificial means in the way of hatching fish and establishing fishways that have been so much talked about. I have read the history of salmon in the old country—that the salmon make their way to their spawning grounds each year with as much regularity as the season comes about. There is one place especially that I have a better knowledge of than any other—I refer to the river Earne. Where that river empties into the sea there is a fall of about fourteen feet from the fresh to the salt water. Notwithstanding this fall, it is known that the salmon approach it and jump from the salt water into the fresh and ascend the river to their spawning ground and the river has always a plentiful supply of fish. The parent fish go into the upper part of the stream and into the pools which have been known for centuries as hatching grounds. Those pools are kept with the greatest care by properly trained and careful water police, who see that all impurities are kept from these pools and that the water is maintained in its native and pure state. Owing to these precautions, large quantities of fish are hatched every year, and when they grow to the size of a herring, they go to the salt water and return the next season. I have not the slightest doubt if our streams were kept as pure as they were before the saw-mills were established and refuse of all kinds was thrown into the water, they will continue to produce large quantities of fish regularly every year. Talking about fishways, in my opinion it is well to construct them to enable the fish to reach the upper waters, but the great trouble, in my belief, is that from the mill down the stream, no matter how far down
it extends to the sea, the water becomes foul, so that the fish, when it approaches even the entrance to the river into which the saw-dust and refuse are thrown, at once turns aside, recognizing the difference in the water, and never enters the river. I hold that if the inspectors would give their attention to having the waters kept clear of this refuse from the mills, our streams would once more become as well supplied with fish as they were in the past; as for hatching and putting fish in the water it is not natural. They will not live there; they will leave the river. They are a creature of nature and they want the natural conditions which produce and support them, but if you make the water impure they certainly will avoid it by instinct.
Hon. Mr. MACFARLANE—There is no doubt it is of great importance to the rivers in the Maritime Provinces that the fish should be properly protected, and I am inclined, from the experience I have had, to think that our rivers are changed very much from their natural condition, independent altogether of the mills, by the cutting away of the forest. The waters become warmed from the absence of the trees and the country has become so open, and is cultivated to such an extent, that the rivers rise and fall rapidly and the waters be come polluted from the sediment carried into them from the cultivated lands. The condition of a great many of our rivers, therefore, has been changed, irrespective of the sawdust from the mills. There is no doubt, however, that the refuse thrown from these mills has been of a very serious and destructive character to some of the very finest rivers. Owing to the practice of throwing mill refuse into these streams, they have become seriously injured. Now, I have no doubt that is the case, as mentioned by the senior member for Halifax, but I never heard before that the throwing of the refuse from the crushing of granite into the river was injurious to fishing. I have no doubt however that the stone, crushed in that way and thrown into the streams and on the spawning grounds, will be injurious. I may say with regard to the Rogers’ fish ladder, as far as I have seen
it working, it is of great advantage where it is properly put in, and a decided improvement on all the fish ladders previously in use. The Rogers’ fish ladder enables the fish to commence the ascent from the bottom of the river and to make its way up the ladder without being seen, and with perfect security until it gets to the top of the dam. It is now superseding all fishways in the United States as well as in Canada. This is a matter of importance, considering the fact that the most ingenious men in the neighboring country have been experimenting for years, and enormous sums of money have been expended, in endeavoring to construct fishways that will be successful, I cannot admit that the hatcheries are of no benefit, because the fish are increasing in numbers whenever the hatcheries have been in operation, and it is probable that the experiments will extend not only on the propagation of salmon, but of the sea-trout.
Hon. Mr. KAULBACH — Trout* next to the salmon, are the most valuable fish we have.
Hon. Mr. MACFARLANE—Many of our rivers that abounded with trout ir» former years have become depleted, and I am confident that if the hatcheries are encouraged they will soon restore them to their former condition of productiveness if proper protection is afforded. They require all the care that it is possible to give them. The denuding of the country of its forests has taken the shelter from pools where the water formerly was cool and the fish delighted to congregate—especially where there was a gravelly bottom. In some of the finest rivers in Scotland the waters are cold. Our waters become very warm in summer. It is a remarkable fact that many of the rivers in Scotland have continued to be abundantly supplied with fish, and after generations of fishing, to day the yield is just as large as it was half a century ago. It has been the result of proper care and protection. I hope the discussion of this subject will draw the attention of the Government, and through them of the officials, to the importance of this matter, and that they will be compelled to exercise a more direct care and supervision over our rivers. I am satisfied it is an expenditure of time and money which will be of the utmost advantage of the country. Government . This is a question that cannot be solved by a few hours discussion in this House, in the way we have taken it up to-day. Who has the jurisdiction over these rivers in the interior of the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick ?
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—Without in the slightest degree denying the importance of the subject which has been discussed the last hour and a half, I must say it appears to me that our system is a little inconvenient in allowing debates upon questions. I feel confident that I could have given the Senate some information on these subjects, had I imagined that the question of my hon. friend from Halifax as to whether or not the Government intend to put in a fishway in a certain river would lead to discussions as to the law respecting the depositing of filth in rivers; the law as to the breeding of salmon; the constitutional points as to conflict of jurisdiction between the Dominion and the provinces on the subject of fisheries, and two or three other subjects which I need not mention. The question is an important one, is one which ought not only to attract the attention of the Dominion, but I feel that it ought to demand the attention of the Governments of the provinces also, for without concerted action between the Provincial and the Dominion Governments, 1 see no possibility of our fish being preserved to us; but, on the contrary, a very early prospect of our rivers being entirely denuded of salmon. With regard to the habits of fish, I think they are pretty well understood. The salmon go up the rivers early in the spring, and during the autumn, deposit their spawn on ground suitable for their purpose. The young fish, after being hatched, return to the sea, and I believe it is a well established fact that they come back to the river in which they originated. Of course, this points to a very easy mode, if it could be carried out, of preserving these rivers in the prolific condition they were in before we poached them and netted them to death. If the rivers were kept clear of sawdust and other refuse, if dams were excluded from them; if nets were not used in extraordinary numbers and quantities ; and if
poachers were prevented from operating on them, we should have our rivers as well stocked with salmon as they ever were. But the existence of these difficulties are the reasons why the production of fish in our rivers is so rapidly diminishing. It is not peculiar to the rivers of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia ; there are rivers in Quebec in which salmon abounded a few years ago, and in which to-day there is not a salmon to be seen ; and the main cause of that is the use of nets at the mouths of them, and poaching in the pools themselves. I speak of rivers where no sawmills exist, and there are no dams : yet the diminution of fish proceeds there, as in the Sackville River. There are no breeding establishments there, to which my hon . friend from Halifax seems to attribute a good deal of the injury which is done to the Sackville river. In reality what is to be done to preserve the salmon is to reduce legalized netting to a moderate quantity; to prevent nets from being stretched across rivers, which is habitually done in Nova Scotia and I think in New Brunswick.
Hon. Mr. POWER—Not very often in Nova Scotia.
Hon. Mr.abbott—The multiplication of nets at the mouths of the rivers, prevent the salmon from ascending them; the netting and spearing, and the drag nets in the river, these are destroying the salmon after they have entered the river, in consequence of which a very small proportion of the fish in New Brunswick, and in Nova Scotia that get into the rivers ever reach their spawning grounds. These are the causes of the destruction of the salmon. Probably there will be no difference of opinion between my hon. friends and myself with regard to these facts. These are the causes in addition to the fouling of the water by sawdust and other refuse.
Hon. Mr. POWER—As to regulation, the Dominion Government has the jurisdiction.
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—In so far as regards any criminal offence that may be committed on these rivers, it is within the jurisdiction of the Dominion undoubtedly. It is possible we may have power to make regulations as to the way in which the owners of those rivers may exercise their own rights in their own waters—it is possible; but I have great doubts as to the extension of their jurisdiction over non-navigable rivers in the interior of the provinces. The province of Quebec has its own fisheries laws. It leases its own rivers, guards its own fisheries, and punishes those who encroach upon the rights of the lease. I think the province of New Brunswick has a similar law. It has a fishery inspector or public officer who has charge of the fisheries, and who advertises them for lease, and professes to protect them; and we know exactly how far the protection goes in the both of these provinces. I am sorry to say it does not go very far. Then with regard to the dams, and sawdust, and mill refuse from the mines which has ruined the Salmon river, which had at one time the best fishing in Nova Scotia, who has the jurisdiction over these ?
Hon. Mr. DEVER—The local legislature.
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—We have legislation on our Statute Book since Confederation, at which period the Dominion of Canada chose to consider it had entire jurisdiction over all those rivers, which gives authority to lease them and to draw the revenue from them, and make laws and regulations over them; but we have found out by the judgment of the courts that in some respects we have been shorn of this
jurisdiction; and it has led everyone to doubt to what extent that jurisdiction goes. My own opinion is, for whatever it may be worth, that it goes a very short distance. There was an attempt too, a few years ago, to get over some of these difficulties by a bill passed in the Lower House, which came into this House,and was passed here also, but with some amendments to which the other House disagreed, and finally the bill was dropped. There was some provision made in it, very largely of a tentative character to describe and define the jurisdiction of this Parliament over local rivers, but unfortunately that bill did not pass and we have the law now as it passed at the time when the Dominion believed it had entire jurisdiction over the river fisheries ; a dream from which it has been rudely awakened by law-suits and damages which it has had to pay. The first thing to be done to protect our fish is to have some understanding between the Dominion and the provinces, as to the means to be taken to protect them, and some concerted action. That is absolutely essential. We may take upon ourselves to defend our powers and jurisdiction, as we think we have the right to do, but we shall get into disputes, and as long as those disputes last, nothing will be done. In my opinion, the indifference which is produced by these difficulties, tends to prevent the amount of care and attention which ought to be given this subject; and I have no doubt that in consequence of this indifference there are a great many more nets in the estuaries than there ought to be . There are nets, as I said before, entirely across some rivers in the provinces, that absolutely prevent the salmon from going up to their spawning grounds.
Hon. Mr. ALEXANDER—At the mouth of the Saguenay there are several.
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—I think it is generally admitted that the propagation offish, and their distribution amongst the rivers, may be made very beneficial. I am not in a position to debate the question of the Canadian Fish Hatcheries, but the hatcheries are believed by those who are skilled in the matter,
to be of great importance in the propagation of fish; but whatever increase we may have made by propagation, look at the enormous increase in the methods of destruction. At the mouth .of the Restigouche there are thousands of fathoms of nets where a few years ago there were only hundreds. That river still furnishes a vast crop of salmon and I have no doubt it is due largely to the fish hatcheries. So I have no doubt it is with other rivers, but the discussion to-day comes up in such a manner that one has not an opportunity to inform himself of all these details. If this Parliament should take up this question, and deal with it, and’, endeavor in the first place to define the extent of its own powers with regard to fisheries ; and if the provinces will unite and act in concert with the Dominion, in taking charge of those portions of the fisheries which fall within their own jurisdiction; I have no doubt we might yet preserve them notwithstanding the difficulties which might arise from poachers or with the lumbermen at the dams. In order to do that we have to define those matters which undoubtedly fall within the jurisdiction of the Dominion, and those that are within the jurisdiction of the province ; and undoubtedly there are some that lie between the two. The dams have got to have fishways in them; pollution of the rivers will have to be stopped ; poaching has to be effectually put an end to, and the large increase of netting at the estuaries will have to be checked. I’ think it will turn out that the stoppage of the poaching will depend upon the provinces to a large extent. I think that the fishways, and the pollution of the streams, will depend upon the provinces to the extent to which the provinces have jurisdiction over the rivers not navigable, and therefore not within the jurisdiction of the Dominion. The protection of the estuaries will fall upon the Dominion. Fish hatching is of equal interest to both the provinces and Dominion. If fish hatching really increases the quantity of fish, then it will increase the catch as well in the estuaries as in the rivers, and it may be proper that the Dominion should carry on that; but
certainly as to the other measures which are necessary to protect those streams and our salmon, the Province and the Dominion have got to act in concert or nothing can be done with effect. What will be the use of breeding millions of fish in the hatcheries, if they are put into streams where they are destroyed by poachers ? It is not to the advantage of the Province that people should be allowed to take those fish as they please. People may say it is very hard that they should be prevented from catching as many salmon as they please. But they are mistaken. The price of a salmon may be ten or twelve cents a pound, caught, up in these places ; but the value of the salmon to the owners, if allowed to be caught by people outside, is ten times that. What has made the northern part of Scotland ? It is nothing but the fishing and shooting, and the money spent by sportsmen fishing and shooting there. It is not the agricultural produce that is raised in the barren country in the north of Scotland that has brought money there. There is not a fish caught on the shore by sportsmen that does not pay ten times its price to the people in the shape of wages, lodgings, provisions, etc. ; and it would be far more to the advantage of the people who live along those rivers, to protect the fish and favor the coming in of strangers and people who are fortunately wealthy; than to avail themselves of the privilege of killing a few fish now and then worth only a few cents a pound. I think therefore there is the greatest possible inducement to protect the salmon. I am glad on the whole, that the subject has come up for discussion, because I hope it will lead to some concert between the Provinces and the Dominion, and in that way to the protection of our most valuable salmon fisheries. I have taken more time in discussing this matter than I intended to do, hut now that it has come before the House I am glad to have had the opportunity of making a few remarks.
Hon. Mr. POWER—I have read the decision in Robertson and the Queen, and I do not think the judges said in that case that the Dominion had the right to regulate fishing in non-tidal
waters. They said the Dominion government had not the right to lease.
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—I did not say so. I said there had been judgments which had opened their eyes as to the rights with regard to these rivers. The Dominion no doubt have the right to regulate the fisheries under the constitution, but they also have the right to regulate trade and commerce. Does that give the right to say how many minnows a boy may catch in a brook, or how many trout he may take out of a creek ? or to regulate the details of all commercial contracts? I think not . I think the words in our constitution are of a more comprehensive character; they entitle the government to regulate the fisheries in a broad sense; the fisheries of the navigable waters and waters within its own jurisdiction ; but not I think in any local streams within the jurisdiction of the Provinces, over which they have naturally no control whatever and which are actually the property of individuals. That is my view with regard to the constitution.
Hon. Mr. Mcclelan—Do I understand the hon. gentleman to say that the Dominion Government has not exclusive control in the management of mill dams and the pollution of waters by sawdust and other matters of that kind?
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—I have already told my hon. friend my view with regard to that . I say to decide upon the exact line of distinction between the jurisdiction of the Provinces and the jurisdiction of the Dominion on some of those points, would undoubtedly require great consideration, and cannot be pronounced upon in a discussion of this kind. This question of sawdust on local streams, if only the local streams were affected by it, in my opinion, would be a matter for the local and not for the Dominion authorities. But, as to the destruction of streams which are fit for the breeding of salmon, which is bred in the rivers and fed in the sea ; of course, both the Dominion and the provinces have an interest in preventing their being destroyed by sawdust; and it is possible
if the subject were investigated, it would be found, that although the property was the property of the individual—although the river was the properly of individuals ; and although it was within the boundaries or limits of the province; the Dominion Parliament had some jurisdiction over it . But I say that question, and one or two other questions, are more intricate questions of constitutional law, than we can at the moment imagine . In a navigable stream like the Ottawa, there is no doubt the Dominion has jurisdiction. If we choose to make the putting of sawdust in the water a crime, I have no doubt we have the jurisdiction to do so.
Hon. Mr. MILLER—What about the $200 grant ?
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—There is goings on at this moment a considerable amount of correspondence about the subject matter of this inquiry, and the Minister this morning has received a report of five or six pages of foolscap on the subject, which he was reading when I had the honor of seeing him. He has sent an officer to make a special report on the subject before giving a final answer as to what he will do with regard to this river.
Hon. Mr. POWER—Does the officer go from Ottawa or is he a Nova Scotian?
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—I could not answer that.
Hon. Mr. POWER—It is a matter of great consequence. For my part I should not have any confidence in a report coming from a local fishery officer.
Hon. Mr. ABBOTT—The hon. gentleman may have such a general sweeping want of confidence that he may not have any confidence in anything that any Dominion officer may do. I was informed by the Minister that he was sending an officer to report upon the facts contained in the report of the inferior officer, so that he might obtain a comprehensive view of the whole matter before him.
Hon. Mr. ALMON—I am convinced that if any impartial man goes down there he will see that the Rogers report is entirely erroneous and that the petition that I presented is correct in every respect.
Debates of the Senate of the Dominion of Canada 1888