The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has placed online the annual reports of the United States Fish Commission, also known as the United States Fish and Fisheries Commission, from 1871-1940 and 1947-1979 in PDF format. The Commission was also part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and these annual reports present comprehensive overview of the U.S. Fish Commission’s activities for each year. The reports are helpful for historians of commercial fishing areas in New York State including Long Island, the lower Hudson River, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Erie. The entire collection can be found here.
The U. S. Fish Commission was established in 1871. By 1881 the Commission was known as the U.S. Fish and Fisheries Commission. The Bureau of Biological Survey was established in 1885. In 1903 the name was changed to Bureau of Fisheries. The Bureau of Fisheries was transferred on July 1, 1939, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. In 1940 the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey were consolidated to form the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Beginning in July 1946, during the transition from war to peace, the Annual Report became a series of Quarterly Reports which presented a summary of bilogical investigations conducted by the Division of Fishery Biology and a general resume of progress of investigations during the entire year. 1957 was the last issue of Annaul Reports of the Fishery Biology, Department of Interior.
The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 created the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife within the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior. The Report of the Bureau of Commerical Fisheries for the Calendar Year 1958… (published in 1962) was the first report for calender year 1957 and reviewed, in detail, the organization of the Bureau, the history of fishery administration and the operation of the Bureau’s predecessor organizations, U.S. Fish Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
The Report of the National Marine Fisheries Service for Calendar Year 1970-1971 covers the period of transition of the Federal fisheries agency from the Deparment of Interior to the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce.
Photo: A diagram of a gill net used for Salmon on the St. Lawrence River from the 1871 U. S. Fish Commission annual report.