Fisheries Program
Northeast Region

Fisheries History

1871- The US Fish Commission of Fish and Fisheries, the first Federal agency concerned with natural resource, was established. 

1871- The Commission establishes the nation's first fisheries laboratory (Woods Hole, MA).

1872- The American Fish Culturists association appropriates $15,000 for the U.S. government to begin fish culture development, adding aquaculture to the Fish Commission's charge.

1872- National Fish Hatchery System establishes the McCloud River (California) Hatchery, salmon eggs spawned and shipped to East Coast, resulting fry stocked.

1875- 280 acres set aside on the McCloud River, including the Hatchery, by President Grant, as a government reservation.

1879-The Fish Commission launches the U.S.S. Fish Hawk.  The coal-burning steamer is built to serve as a floating hatchery in coastal waters for shad, herring, and striped bass production.

1882- The Fish Commission launches the U.S.S. Albatross.  It is the first vessel built exclusively for fisheries and oceanographic research, is launched.  The ironhull, twin-screw vessel was designed to conduct its marine investigations in any part of the worlds seas.

1888- Congress establishes the U.S. Fish Commission as an independent agency of the Federal government and terminates its administrative relationship with the Smithsonian Institution.

Fish commission train car in 1898. Credit: USFWS
Fish commission train car in 1898. Credit: USFWS

1879-The Fish Commission, cooperating with the Superintendent of the Tenth U.S. Census, dispatches specialists to all parts of the Nation to study and record the biological, statistical, and practical aspects of all U.S. fisheries.  The results are published in 1887 as a huge, comprehensive seven-volume work on The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States.

1903-  The formally independent  U.S. Fish Commission is named the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.  The new Bureau retains the scientific responsibilities of the Fish Commission and incorporates other fishery-related functions (i.e. jurisdiction, supervision, and control over the fur seal of Alaska are assumed form the Department of the Treasury).

1905- Bureau of Fisheries responsible for administering and enforcing laws governing Alaskan salmon fisheries.

1906- The Sponge Act is passed as the first assertion of Federal authority to manage marine fisheries.  The Act set conservation rules for taking sponges from the Gulf of Mexico & Straights of Florida.

1908- Bureau of Fisheries controls furs, seals, and foxes in Pribilof Islands.

1915 - The Department of Commerce and Labor becomes the Department of Commerce.

1920- Bureau of Fisheries responsible for supervision of sea otters, walruses and other aquatic mammals in Alaska.

1922- Bureau of Fisheries authorized to rescue fishes from flooded areas throughout the Mississippi Valley, and to propagate mussels.

1932- The Bureau's long- sought experimental station for fish disease research is set up at Leetown, West Virgina.

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Last updated: December 16, 2011
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