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attended with considerable expense, nevertheless it is understood to be an indispensable object to have them in perfect repair, since the fertility of the country depends entirely on them. The plan here proposed of converting them to new purposes of utility would add to their importance, and the interest of keeping them up, without in any way increasing their expense.
“On the fishes of Bengal, Assam, and other provinces subject to the inundations of the larger rivers, we can exercise no control, nor is it desirable that we should, even if it were in our power, the supply of fish being plentiful and constant enough : but in the higher parts of the plains, near the foot of the mountains where the larger Cirrhins and Barbels retire during the dry season for the purpose of spawning, fisheries might be carried on with advantage to a considerable extent.
“It would here be out of place to enter on the subject of sea fisheries, and before we could do so with advantage it would be necessary to pay as much attention, or more, to the fishes of our coasts as we have devoted to those of our rivers.
“ Already we have attained one important piece of information regarding the value of the Sulea fish of our estuaries, Polynemus sele, Buch., which from the earliest times has been celebrated throughout China for its isinglass. This substance was formerly supposed to be afforded only by certain fishes in the rivers of Muscovy, from whence it was exported to all parts of Europe, where, from its high price, its use is chiefly confined to the arts.
“A solution of this substance mixed with Canadian balsam and spread on black silk forms the useful article called court plaster. A few grains of isinglass boiled in milk forms a most nutritious food, which is given medicinally.
"Ignorant of its abundance in certain fishes of the Hoogly, that used by the English residents in India is still imported, probably at an expense of about 800 Rs. per maund, * while the same thing is collected in abundance and shipped to China from the Calcutta river.t
“ Ten grains of this substance is sufficient to give the consistency of jelly to a pint of water, and as it keeps good in a dry state for any length of time, we may imagine its value as a portable food, and what its importance might be in times of scarcity, since one pound avoir
* It is retailed in Calcutta at a much higher rate.
dupois, at the above rate, would afford a nutritious meal to 1560 persons.
" Whether it be used in times of scarcity in China I do not know, but probably it is collected and stored to meet such occasions, since Dr. Lumqua—an honorary member of this Society—a Chinese Physician, long resident in this city informs me that the Bengal fish-sago procured from Polynemus sele, Buch. is known throughout the empire, and that nothing could surpass his surprise on his arrival nearly twentyfive years ago in Calcutta, when he found that with the exception of his own countrymen who carried on the trade, no one appeared to know or care anything whatever for the article in question, and as no one could describe the fish, the same ignorance continued up to within the last few months to prevail on the subject. The advantage, however inconceivable, of an abundant supply of any substance, a single maund of which would afford a nutritious meal to upwards of one hundred thousand persons, could only be felt occasionally, but the intrinsic value of the article in all the common conveniencies of life, is eminently calculated to direct attention to other uses of the species affording it.
“This is one of the largest and finest fishes, both as regards flavour and wholesomeness, on our coasts or in our rivers, while the season at which it is taken is the one most favourable for a residence in boats or ships in the Sunderbuns. Under these circumstances it is not likely that the subject of sea fisheries in this quarter will be altogether overlooked, longer than the circumstances on which their success must depend shall have been properly examined.
"All sea fisheries are practised on migratory species, which advance annually at stated periods in search of food and proper situations to deposit their spawn. Their progress is so regulated that at certain seasons they approach the different coasts, in their course, with so much regularity as to enable the people to repose as much confidence and hope in their coming and departure as they usually place in the ripening of their crops. The shoals of fishes are so dense as to cover the sea for leagues without interruption, and extend to a solid depth of many fathoms in some instances, so that they are taken as quickly as it is possible to salt and barrel them. The season lasts from a month to six weeks, when thousands of ships are laden with cargoes which are to serve as the common stock of food for many of the surrounding nations for twelve months, when the fishing is recommenced.
“Such are the fisheries on the banks of Newfoundland, on the coasts of Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain ; and unless the coasts of India
afford promise of resources of similar extent and importance, the object would hardly require much public attention. If, however, it be found that we have species on our coasts equal in every respect to that which is the object of enterprize at Newfoundland, and that these advance into the Sunderbuns at a season when ships and men without number may be employed with safety, there can be nothing to prevent the national importance of the circumstance.
“In this instance, as well as in that of the propagation of fresh-water species, science, while it exhibits varieties as numerous almost as the stars, teaches us at the same time how to strip the subject of vagueness arising from this cause, and amidst the countless species which inhabit our seas, directs our attention and our energies to a few only, and of these the Sulea, or Polynemus sele, Buch. is the one which from its bulk, its habits, and its qualities in every way seems capable of becoming a permament benefit to society. It appears to be the Cod-fish of the tropics, and equals its representative in the northern seas in all those qualities which render that species so invaluable ; but from its bulk it is unmanageable by the Indian fishermen, who are also without the means of preserving it.* These however are not sufficient reasons why an article that might add an exhaustless supply to the common stock of food should be altogether lost, now that an European spirit, under the influence of a paternal government, begins to infuse itself in all things connected with the resources of India. As. Res. vol. 19. p. 457-464.
* It must have been long known that the difficulty of preserving meat depends more on the state of the atmosphere in regard to electricity and moisture than on temperature. In Calcutta, in the month of December, when the mean temperature is about 60°, it is not uncommon to keep meat before it is dressed for eight days, though in England during the summer at the time of herring fishing too, it cannot be kept in the best meat-safes for more than half that time, though the temperature be lower than here. With salt and other means at hand, I conceive there would be no difficulty in curing fish in an Indian climate in the months of November and December, when the Sulea fishing would be carried on; nevertheless the subject is one of much interest, and I cannot therefore omit the following remark with which I have been favoured on this head by Mr. C. K. Robison, one of the Magistrates of Calcutta. “It would be a famous thing if these enormous fish (the Sulea) could be cured, as well as their isinglass obtained ; and I cannot help thinking the measure very feasible, if the fishermen at the time of taking them and cutting them up, dipped them first into weak chloride of soda mixed with a small quantity of impure pyroligneous acid. This would not only preserve the fish till the salt acted, but improve the flavour.” These materials could be manufactured at a very cheap rate on the spot, as well as every thing else that would be requisite. For an account of the Sulea fish, see Journal Asiatic Society Bengal, March 1839, p. 203. Also an article on "some Indian Fishes by Dr. Cantor," Proceedings Royal Asiatic Society, April 1838. As. Res, vol. 19. p. 461.
“Cyprinide, of all fishes of equal importance are those that appear to have occupied least, the attention of naturalists; a circumstance the more curious, as in consequence of their being peculiar to fresh waters, they are more universally distributed in the interior of continents, where they ought to be more familiar and useful to man than any other family of the same class.
“Regarding their distribution, little has hitherto been made known. It would not appear that there is any one species common to Europe and America ; it is not however to be supposed that we are yet prepared to form an accurate comparison between the Cyprinide of the old and new worlds, since the majority of species in either seems as yet to be but ill defined. Nor is it to be supposed that ichthyology has yet been prosecuted in America to an extent at all likely to make us acquainted with the numerous species that must inhabit the extensive lakes and rivers of that continent. Of African species few only are referred to by Cuvier, while the Nile is known to present some species that are not found in the south of Europe. The Chinese species may yet be said to be almost unknown, with the exception of a few determined by Cuvier from the very doubtful data afforded by paintings ; although it is seldom that so favourable an opportunity is afforded for collecting information on any branch of natural history, as that which the British embassies in China possessed, for investigating the peculiarities of the fresh-water fishes of that empire, from the length of time they passed in boats on some of the principal rivers. Nor is any thing whatever known, as far as I am aware, of the existence of Cyprins in New Holland or any of the Polynesian Islands. In India the fishes of several of the great rivers yet remain to be investigated, as those of the Irrawaddi, the Indus, and the Nerbudda. A collection of drawings of the fishes of the Indus, prepared during a scientific mission under Capt. Burnes, has recently been deposited in the museum of the Asiatic Society; and Mr. Griffith, to whom every branch of science is as dear as the one in which he is fast rising to the highest station, is now engaged in making extensive collections of, and observations on, the fishes of the same river. The museums of Paris must already be well stored with Indian species collected by Messrs. Duvaucel, Jaquemont, and De-Lessert, but I doubt if any of our British museums contain many of the commonest species of the Ganges.
“Natural history is now assuming a station so important in the highest scale of intellectual pursuits, that any remarks at all calculated to impress on the minds of those who are connected with missions into
new countries a lively sense of the interest that attaches to its most minute details, will not, we may be assured, be taken amiss. Information however carefully collected on such occasions as those referred to, becomes comparatively useless when unaccompanied with specimens of the things to which it relates. We should ever recollect that the easiest and best way to promote our own fame, and contribute at the same time to the advancement of natural history, is by making collections, nor are we without examples of the highest awards having been, though somewhat prematurely, conceded to collectors. Nevertheless, to render collections of the highest degree of real value in the present advanced state of science, those who make them should gather at the same time as much information as possible regarding the circumstances under which the various objects comprised in them live, or occur ; and it is in this that the intelligence of the naturalist may be best and most profitably displayed during his journies in new countries.
“The following tabular view of the distribution of Cyprinidæ, though avowedly imperfect, will serve to show how the leading groups are generally dispersed. Cirrhins, for instance, appear to be peculiar to India, or at least to the tropical parts of Asia, and the Catastoms to America ; while both are represented in Europe by the true Carps. From the number of Gangetic species, the Barbels like the Cirrhins would seem to have their metropolis in India, from whence the genus is extended over the Caspian Sea, and the Nile into Europe.
“ The Gonorhynchs would also seem, as a group, to be natives of the East, one species only having been found in South Africa, none in Europe, and eleven in India.
“ The greater part of the Sarcoborine are probably also Eastern fishes, with the exception of the Breams and Lenciscs, although some of the European forms set down under the latter genera may be found to belong either to the Perilamps or Opsarions.
“The small sub-genera of Poecilia appear to be equally distributed in all parts of the world, one having been already found in Africa, two species in India, where a few more may be expected, seven species in America, and seven in Europe ; but in every case the species of one continent have been found to be distinct from those of another.
“The Loaches (Cobitis prop. Lin.) afford another instance of the concentration of numerous species in India, while three only are found in Europe, and none whatever in America. The annexed table exhibits the general distribution of the family.