Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

1870 to 1874, inclusive, while the actual seal-skins taken on which tax was paid was 403,208.

I find, however, that the number of skins sold by Messrs. Lampson & Company on account of the Alaska Commercial Company was 403,767, which, as stated, is a discrepancy of 559 skins on which no tax was paid.

It would, therefore, seem evident that a tax of $2.627 per skin, or a total of $1,467.37, is due to the Treasury by the Alaska Commercial Company. With the adjustment of these 559 skins from which a tax is due to the Treasury,' that portion of my instructions which requires me to ascertain the correctness of taxes paid on skins taken from the islands during 1870-'74, inclusive, will no doubt prove as satisfactory to the Department as it is to me to be able to record it.

EXTRACT FROM THE FISHERIES AND FISHERY INDUSTRIES OF

THE UNITED STATES.?

THE FUR-SEAL INDUSTRY OF CAPE FLATTERY AND VICINITY.

JAMES G. SWAN.

1. History, present condition, and methods of the industry. The northern fur-seals (Callorhinus ursinus Gray), in their annual migration north, approach the coast between Point Grenville, Washington Territory, and the western shores of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in vast herds, and are taken by the Indians of Cape Flattery and the natives of Vancouver Island on the ocean off the coast, and occasionally in the Strait of Fuca as far inland as the Dungeness Light.

The great body of these seals keep well out to sea, and during the present year (1880) have been reported by vessels bound in from China and the Sandwich Islands as having been seen from 100 to 300 miles off shore, covering the sea as far as the eye could reach, and looking like vast beds of kelp in the distance.

Meteorological causes seein to effect this vast collection, sometimes causing it to keep off from the shore at a great distance, with only a few scattering ones coming near enough to fall victims to the Indian's spear. At other times, and notably the present season, the great herd sways inward toward the land, following the same general movement as may be observed in a school of herring, the center of the school or herd being invariably the most numerous.

During the voyage of Captain Meares in 1788–'89, as well as those of Portlock, Dixon, Manhand, and other early voyagers, but little mention is made of seals, as they were then of such small value that in the list of furs and skins which the captains were directed to procure no mention is made of them, the sea-otter then being the most plentiful, as it was and is at this time the most costly and beautiful of all the furs.

Black fox-skins were very valuable, as also sable, black beaver, and black marten; but river otter and seals were classed with inferior furs, which the captains were directed to purchase or not as they judged best, but to confine their work to the sea-otter.

From all the accounts given in the records of those early voyages, as well as from the traditions of the Indians, it seems that a hundred years

This tax was duly paid. See Report No. 623, 44th Congress, p. 68.
* Sec. V, Vol. II, p. 393.

ago the sea-otter were as numerous in this vicinity and as readily taken by the Indians as the fur-seal is at the present time. Sea-otters are but rarely taken now and seem to have abandoned their ancient haunts on the American coast and to have migrated in a body to the northeastern shores of Asia and the islands off the Siberian coast and Japan, where they abound. Their places on the American shores are now taken by the fur-seal, which of late years seem to be steadily on the increase.

From 1857, the date of the first white settlement at Neah Bay, to 1866, but few seals were taken. They were in those years very scarce, and it is only since 1866 that they have been known to resort to the vicinity of Fuca Strait in such large numbers.

The majority of the seals killed by the Makahs, or Cape Flattery Indians, at the commencement of the season are females and yearling pups; the older males appear to keep well out to sea and are seldom taken near the shore until toward the close of the season.

The female seals killed by the Indians invariably have fetuses in them in various stages of development, according to the month when taken.

I procured of an Indian two fetal seal pups on the 20th of May last, which I selected from a lot the Indian was skinning; they were far enough advanced to be skinned, although their pelts were worthless for trade. These two specimens I gave to Professor Jordan, who has them among the collection he made at Neah Bay.

The time the fur-seals make their appearance in the vicinity of Cape Flattery varies; generally they do not appear before the 1st of March, but this season the first were taken on the 18th day of January in Fuca Strait near Waadda Island, at the entrance to Neah Bay. The Indians killed on that day forty-five. This is as early as I have any recollection of, although the old Indians tell me they have known them to make their appearance, but rarely, as early as the last of December. I think their appearance for an average period of ten years past would be about the 1st of March. They remain some seasons as late as July and August, but in 1880 the last catch was made about the 20th of June.

Until within a few years past the Indians have gone to sea boldly in their canoes, starting out by daybreak and returning at night. Three men usually go in a canoe at such times. Latterly they have put their canoes on board the sealing schooners which take them to the sealing grounds and lay by while the Indians went off in them and speared the seals. The canoes taken on board the schooner have but two Indians in each.

The Indians here never use fire-arms to kill seals. They say the report would scare them away, and they strongly object to white men using rifles on the sealing grounds.

Of the catch on the American side, that portion taken by Indians who went on the schooners, 4,710 skins, one-third were given by the Indians to the vessels to pay for transporting them and their canoes to the sealing ground, amounting to 1,570 skins. The remainder 3,140,

Mr. Swan thinks it possible that the seals bring forth their young in the ocean, and says that many of the sealers agree with that opinion. Mr. H. W. Elliott, however, feels certain that it would be impossible for the newborn seals to live in the ocean, and thinks that no seals at Cape Flattery are so far advanced in pregnancy as to be unable to reach the Pribilof Islands before the pups are born.-A. Howard Clark

added to the amount sold by the Indians to traders, independent of the schooners, 1,558 skins, makes a total of 4,698 skins, for which they received from the traders, in cash and trade, an average of $9 per skin, equal to $12,282. This sum divided among two hundred and thirtytwo Indians, the whole number who were engaged in sealing during the season, gives a little over $182 to each Indian for his six months work.

The total value of the fur-seal catch of 6,268 skins reported at Neah Bay, as taken by the Indians of the Makah Reservation, at $9 each, is $56,412.

This shows the value and importance of one of the interests of Washington Territory of which hitherto but little has been known, it being evidently for the pecuniary advantage of the very few persons who have engaged in it to keep the public in the dark as much as possible regarding its extent and value. This season, however, has shown an increase of the vessels employed, and it is more than probable that the number will be increased another season. The unprecedented number of seals which made their appearance, a number which seems to have steadily increased each season since 1866, will give employment to a larger fleet of vessels another year. One of the captains remarked to me, “If a hundred schooners could have obtained crews of Indians, there were more than enough seals to have satisfied them all."

EXTRACT FROM THE TESTIMONY GIVEN BY JAMES G. SWAN

BEFORE A COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE.

By Senator ALLISON: Q. I want to get at your general idea of the treatment of seals and the fisheries as a whole question. You think there is an exhaustless supply of fish here, and that the number of seals is not diminished, and yet the seals feed on the fish?-A. So far as the salmon go, they have diminished them, no doubt about that at the Columbia River; they have been very destructive this year. They have destroyed the nets, and not only seals have done that, but sea-lions and all animals that make fish their food.

Q. You think they ought to be killed before they reach the mouth of the Columbia ?-A. I think they ought to be killed off the coast of California.

By Senator DOLPH: Q. Do you think that they would have made much of an impression upon the salinon at the mouth of the Columbia if it had not been for the fishermen and their nets, and traps, and pounds ?-A. I don't know that they would; but at the same time I don't see why they should be preserved, unless it is the fashion.

Q. If a seal is shot with a rifle, wounded and not killed, what does it do!-A. I suppose it goes off, .

Q. Does it dive or sink -A. I think it dives.

Q. Then we must charge to the wanton destruction of seals all that are shot in the water and not killed at the first shot; they escape cap. ture, do they not?-A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you any idea about the proportion that would be wounded 1 Senate Report, No. 1530, part I, Fifty-first Congress, first session, pp. 288 +- 490.

and not killed by shooting from fishing vessels 4—A. No; I have no statistics to refer to.

Q. At what age is the seal's skin valuable?-A. Two years.
Q. Are there one year old seals in these schools?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are they ever shot I-A. Yes, sir.

Q. Is that a loss—all those that are killed at one year's age -A. Those that are killed are a loss, of course.

Q. And those that are wounded at one year of age?-A. Yes, sir.

Q. When a female with pup is killed there is a loss of life not only of the female herself, but of the pup also!-A. That is true.

Q. There are two losses ?-A. Yes, sir.

Q. So that this method of shooting seals at sea must necessarily be very destructive, and a great many more seals must be destroyed than are taken ?-A. Yes, sir.

Q. So that the economical way would be to take them at the rookeries, where they could be selected and killed ?—A. It would be economical if it could be shown that it was for any particular benefit to the public.

Q. Leaving that question aside, if it were true, as claimed by Mr. Elliott and some others, that these seals that come up our coast are bound for the rookeries, which are situated on these small islands; that they are easily destroyed when approaching the islands, so that the seals might become so scarce that the rookeries would be valueless in a few years if it was open to all to take and shoot at pleasure, would or would it not be better to prevent the killing of seals, or to allow them to be destroyed by indiscriminate killing at sea, and the waste of seal life by the methods which are used to capture them!-A. They might establish regulations by which they would be preserved in going through Ounimak Pass.

Q. Are those points frequented by sailors ?—A. They are, according to Mr. Elliott's statement. Q. You do not speak from personal experience 1-A. No.

By the CHAIRMAN: Q. Is it your opinion that it would be for the public interest to have all seal life destroyed 1-A, I don't know; I don't think that such a thing could be done.

Q. I wish to know whether you think it should be done 1-A. No; I do not think so.

Q. Captain Jacobs seems to think that the seal is so destructive of food-fish, and the seal skin being only a luxury, that it would be better to have all the seals exterminated ?-A. I think if they were all lost the world would not be any the worse for it, any more than if all the ostriches were killed, the world would be no worse off, except in that case the ladies would not get any plumes for their hats, and in the former case they would not get any coats.

The CHAIRMAN. That system would have to be extended a long way before the world would get rid of luxuries. Every man would not draw the line at the same point.

Senator HALE. We could get along without salmon, probably!
The WITNESS. And without beef.

By Senator PUGH: Q. You do not think it is of any importance to prevent the destruction of seals 1-A, I do, on the islands, but not on the outside, because the proportion of seals that are destroyed is a very small fraction of what the whole number is. There are millions of seals in the Pacific Ocean. You have no conception of the vast myriads of them.

Q. Then why is it of any importance to preserve the breeding islands ?-A. Because it is to furnish these seal-skins for fashion; that is actually all there is about it, gentlemen, so the ladies can have nice seal-skin coats; but I don't see that the poor man gets anything cheaper by it.

Q. The skin constitutes the sole value of the seal?–A. Yes, sir; that is all; it is not an article of food.

EXTRACT FROM "LIST OF REPORTED DANGERS IN THE NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN,"1 COMPILED AND ARRANGED BY THE U. S. HYDROGRAPHIC OFFICE, WASHINGTON, D. C.,1871.

[blocks in formation]

50 Island

40 00 00 N. 150 40 00 W Capt. Kentzell, of San Francisco.
40 30 00 N. 151 00 00 W Bark Washington.
40 1000 N. 150 3000 W.. Older reports.

(San Francisco Herald, May 30, 1867: Alta

Californian, July 24, 1867; Ann. Hydr., 1867, pp., 425 and 593. )

The U. S. N. P. Surv. Exp., when at San Francisco in 1856, found reports in circulation of the existence of an island, or a group of islands, in that part of the Pacific Ocean, to which the positions in the opposite column refer. It was said that a rookery of seals existed there, and the place was kept secret in order to secure the exclusive exhaustion of it to certain parties. Subsequently Captain Kentzell, a San Francisco pilot, asserted to have seen the island in the position which he gave from actual observation, describing it to be about 20 miles long and very low; and the master of the bark Washington, reported in 1867, as follows: “On my passage from the Sandwich Islands to the northwest coast of the United States, when in latitude 400 00' N., in a dense fog, I perceived the sea to be discolored. Soundings at first gave great depths, but diminished gradually to 9 fathoms, when through the mist an island was seen, along which I sailed 40 miles. It was covered with birds, and the sea swarmed with seal and sea elephants.” The flagship of the U.S. N. P. Surv. Exp., on her way home, searched for this island, and sounded close to the position in which subsequently Captain Kentzell placed it; bottom was thought to have been reached at 2,600 fathoms, but no indication of land was perceived in the vicinity.

In 1858 H. B. M.'s ship Trinconomale searched for fourteen days between the parallels of 39° 30' and 40° 30' N. and the meridians of 1480 30' and 1520 00' W. without finding anything. The mail steamer Colorado also has passed repeatedly near this region, looking out for the reported land without success.

In 1860 the Japanese sloop of war Candiu-manuh came over from Japan to San Francisco, guided by Lieutenant John M. Brooks, U.S. N., who had taken passage in her. The following extract from her log, kept by that officer, refers to this mysterious part of the ocean:

“March 8, 1860, noon. Latitude 41° 19' 29" N.; longitude 146° 29' W. Fresh breezes from N. and W., with frequent squalls, heavy sea,

1 Pp. 8, 9.

« AnteriorContinuar »