Ffennell to Colonial Office

Mem: on Salmon Fishing, British Columbia

It is suggested that the Salmon Fisheries should be placed under Supervision as well as the land to give security to private enterprise, and to prevent Confusion of rights and waste, and that an area of water producing Salmon is likely as Civilization progresses, and Commerce extends, to become more valuable by one hundred fold and more, than the same area of land.
That the first step towards promoting the objects referred to, should be the employment of a person of practical knowledge to review the rivers to an extent sufficient to enable him to report upon their capabilities, and to point out the steps which should be taken to prevent abuses before thay have set in, and tosuggestManuscript image suggest the modes by which a system of healthy enterprise may be promoted in the Colony.
By adopting this course many persons from this Country might soon be induced to embark in the Salmon Fishery of British Columbia, by receiving information which they would rely upon, if Communicated on the authority of a person of practical knowledge while at present they can only obtain fragments of information derived from persons in the Colony whose attention has been attracted to the question by the immense quantity of fish which they see exist, and which a few have Communicated, but are unable to offer any opinion upon the practicality of embarking in such an enterprise.Manuscript image The quantity of Salmon which at present exist in British Columbia, and the extent of rivers producing them is so far beyond any thing which the waters of Great Britain and Ireland ever produced or could produce that no idea can be formed at present of their relative value.
The Salmon Fisheries of that Colony appear to be one of the resources of the Country which might be most readily brought into Commercial Development if measures were taken to promote it.
Those fisheries are in their present state, natural, and unimpaired, but as population increases abuses are certain to follow, asinManuscript image in Canada for instance, where the Government are now obliged to take up the question and appoint officers to check the evil—whereas if timely measures be taken to prevent encroachments, and destruction, much ultimate loss to the Country may be prevented.
The Government now possess those Fisheries—no real or assumed vested rights by individuals have been established, and it is suggested that now is the proper time to place them under the protection of the state, and that they may be soon profitably disposed of under judicious regulations to enterprising individuals, and thus bring a large revenue into the Country, affording increased capital for further and more general operations of industry.
(By W.J. Ffennell Esqre, Fishery Commr Ireland)
Minutes by CO staff
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This Letter is from Mr Ffennell—one of the late Fishery Commissioners in this Country, and who is, as I understand from Mr Fenwick, M.P. a gentleman fully conversant with his subject, & able to offer valuable suggestions.
Every body knows that the rivers of B. Columbia abound in fish, of which the natives avail themselves though probably not with the economy of fish life and management of resources which European skill and experience wd bring to bear. Hitherto no steps have been taken for protecting the salmon fisheries from encroachments, and destruction. The attention of theManuscript image immigrants has been mainly directed to gold seeking. But there can be no reason why timely measures of protection &ca should not be adopted. With this view I think it wd be desirable to ask Mr Ffennell to say what are the documents—Parliamentary or otherwise—which it would be useful to supply the Governor with so that he might frame a Proclamation, or at least regulations suitable to the object, and the habits of the Country.
ABd 7/March/61
N.B. I have a strong impression that there are several gentlemenManuscript image now on the spot fully equal to the task of reviewing the rivers, & reporting upon their capabilities.
Mr Fortescue
You may perhaps be better able than I am to give an opinion on the control and management of Salmon Fisheries. In old Countries like ours the subject is doubtless an important one and admits of a great deal of regulation. But in a wholly new Country like British Columbia where every species of game is doubtless viewed as perfectly wild and open to be killed or taken by any man, I should imagine that the notion of regulating Fisheries must be entirely misplaced, and that it could lead to no result except affording a pleasant trip and an agreeable appointment to this gentleman, if his suggestion were entertained.
TFE 8 March
Duke of Newcastle
I have no doubt that Mr Ffennell is in hopes of being sent out to look after the Fisheries.
I think he might be thanked for his mem. and asked to mention the public documents which wh. it wd. beManuscript image advisable to supply the Govr, for his information, in calling his attention to the due preservation of the Salmon Fisheries.
CF 9
It has become absolutely necessary in Canada to pass laws for the preservation of the Fisheries, more especially that of Salmon, and it is one of the Indian grievances that they are forbidden to destroy them recklessly. This would be an obstacle to any measure in Columbia, but it will soon become a matter of much interest & importance and it is quite right to call early attention to it.
Write to Mr F. & to Govr as proposed.
N 10
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Fortescue to Ffennell, 27 March 1861, thanking him for the memorandum, informing him that the governor will be instructed to take steps for the proper preservation of the fisheries, and asking to be "furnished with the titles of any public documents with which it might be desirable to supply him for his assistance in carrying out the object in view."