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A Science on the Scales

A Science on the Scales: The Rise of Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Biology, 1898-1939

Jennifer M. Hubbard
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 300
  • Book Info
    A Science on the Scales
    Book Description:

    InA Science on the Scales, Jennifer M. Hubbard tells the story of how a new and emerging science - marine and fisheries biology - became an important enterprise in Canada. She uses extensive archival research - focussed on scientific correspondence and internal reports - and follows the science's development in Canada, as well as Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In so doing, Hubbard describes the important, but fraught, relationship between the economic and social history of Atlantic Canada and its relations with the federal government, particularly in the context of the generally low priority given fisheries issues.

    Despite a variety of challenges, contributions made by the research organization that eventually became the Fisheries Research Board of Canada proved to be vital in the development of the science. Indeed, its flagship station, the Atlantic Biological Station in New Brunswick, became for a time one of the world's leading centres for marine science, its dynamic scientists and facilities providing the impetus that helped Canadian fisheries biology to achieve internationally recognized status. An original and timely work,A Science on the Scales shines a light on a heretofore-neglected aspect of Canada's science history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7046-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    The collapse of the Northwest Atlantic cod and other groundfish stocks across the Grand Banks in the early 1990s has drawn much dismayed attention to an industry that many people had taken for granted. Historically, most of the fish harvested on those banks was destined for tables in distant lands, since until the 1980s, few North Americans had much interest in making fish a part of their diet. One of the ironies of this catastrophe is that the gourmet and health potential of the lost stocks was finally becoming appreciated just as their numbers were dwindling. Besides being an economic...

  5. Chapter 1 Scientists at Sea: Expeditions and Seaside Stations
    (pp. 14-37)

    On 16 August 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Toronto was abuzz with excitement. The scientists were coming to town. Toronto had scored a coup in enticing the British Association for the Advancement of Science to hold its 1897 annual meeting there. The society would thus be reaffirming its imperial role. The meeting ran from Tuesday, 17 August, to Wednesday, 25 August. Although the Age of Science, in which science was the provenance of the common man, was winding to its close, the event still garnered extensive attention in the local press. TheToronto Daily Mail and Empire...

  6. Chapter 2 Fishing for Ideas Approaches to Marine Biology and Fisheries Science to 1914
    (pp. 38-66)

    In the early years of this century, basic and applied marine biological science were both cultivated so as to produce a harmonious research area for Canadian biologists. That this observation arises at all in this history is a result of the beguiling arguments employed by apologists for both categories as they try to arrange all science into the camps of either pure or applied science. Proponents of basic or pure science argue that it is the only true source of real new knowledge. If the public were ever to stop funding this kind of research, scientific progress would bog down...

  7. Chapter 3 The Canadian Fisheries Expedition, 1914-1915
    (pp. 67-89)

    The central problem of fisheries biology is determining the causes of fluctuations in fish population, with the corollary that its main practical aim is to predict future fish catches. Around 1900, the science of fisheries biology was undergoing birth pangs, and many of the methods now in use had yet to be developed. The crucial breakthrough in understanding natural (as opposed to fishery-induced) population fluctuations came in 1913-14, when following a long study of Norwegian cod and herring, the Norwegian oceanographer Johan Hjort, one of the world’s greatest fisheries biologists, introduced the concept of ‘year classes.’ The development of Hjort’s...

  8. Chapter 4 Ottawa, 1919: Bureaucrats versus the Biological Board
    (pp. 90-119)

    From its start, Canada’s Department of Marine and Fisheries was responsible for fisheries legislation, licensing, and regulation; but its conservative bureaucracy was reluctant to enter into new endeavours, especially positive interventions to help the fisheries. Even before 1900, fishermen were demanding special education, the introduction of fish inspection regulations, and other interventions. Some of these were taken up in a half-hearted and lacklustre manner by the department, but so meagrely as to bring about no lasting changes. They tended to involve a minimum of departmental expertise; one of the best received was railway subsidies for transporting fresh fish from the...

  9. Chapter 5 Rescuing Canada’s Sinking Atlantic Fishing Industry, 1924-1939
    (pp. 120-148)

    The Department of Marine and Fisheries, once it recognized that positive interventions helped the fishing industry, placed the Biological Board on its front lines. Even with good intentions, however, its efforts were hampered by federal indifference to the Atlantic fisheries; there was never enough funding for the fisheries’ real needs. And the Atlantic fishing industry’s needs were enormous: little modernization had occurred in this impoverished sector, relative to the revolutionary changes in production methods in the richer agricultural and other food industries.² The fisheries, unlike agriculture, had barely been touched by modern mass production between the wars. Few Atlantic Canadian...

  10. Chapter 6 Huxley’s Red Herring
    (pp. 149-172)

    Thomas Henry Huxley’s name hardly conjures up images of the fisheries, but in truth, Huxley exerted an enormous and pathological influence over fisheries science, especially of the Canadian variety, and one that lasted well into the middle of the last century. This influence was out of proportion to his late involvement with and limited personal dedication to fisheries biology issues. Huxley’s declarations that the opensea fisheries were inexhaustible, and that the efforts of man could in no way compromise the extreme fecundity of the oceans, were enshrined by certain younger scientists. He would not have been surprised, since, although allowing...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. Chapter 7 An Environmental Assessment: The International Passamaquoddy Fisheries Commission, 1931–1933
    (pp. 173-191)

    The most concerted activity undertaken by the North American Council on Fishery Investigations was the International Passamaquoddy Fisheries Commission of 1931-3. This was overseen primarily by Henry Bigelow and A.G. Huntsman, and involved an in-depth investigation of the circumstances surrounding the abundantly productive herring fishery of the lower Bay of Fundy, in particular Passamaquoddy Bay, which was being targeted for a tidal power project. The ensuing investigation opened great opportunities for Canadian researchers to be in the vanguard of further development of fishing theory, and of new mathematical, statistical approaches to analysing the effects of fishing on fish stocks. As...

  13. Chapter 8 Ebb Tide at the Atlantic Biological Station
    (pp. 192-224)

    In the years 1932 to 1934, four circumstances converged, and their combined weight pulled the Biological Board from its original moorings. As a consequence, the board evolved into the more narrowly focused Fisheries Research Board of Canada. The overwhelming circumstance was the deepening Great Depression, which affected the other three: the retirement of J.P. McMurrich as the Biological Board's chairman and his replacement by A.T. Cameron; the fire that razed the Atlantic Biological Station laboratory; and Cameron’s subsequent sweep of personnel, which saw A.G. Huntsman removed as director of the Atlantic Biological Station. Huntsman’s unilateral decision to rebuild the laboratory...

  14. Epilogue: Balancing the Scales
    (pp. 225-262)

    Canadian fisheries science, begun at the turn of the twentieth century by a jauntily confident coterie of university biologists, optimistic that their studies would result in material gains for science and fishermen alike, ended the century in a very sombre condition. The catastrophic northwest Atlantic cod and groundfish stock collapses of the early 1990s shook the confidence of fishermen (who were already sceptics about the science) and lay observers, and led to recriminations and some muchneeded introspection within the fisheries science community. Questions were asked about the competence and integrity of the biologists involved and even the value of fisheries...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 263-302)
  16. Bibiliography
    (pp. 303-328)
  17. Index
    (pp. 329-351)