Submitted to: American Fishery Society (Fish Health Section) Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 9, 1999
Publication Date: June 9, 1999
Citation: MITCHELL, A.J. REPORTS OF WILD FISH KILLS PRIOR TO 1900 IN THE UNITED STATES.. AMERICAN FISHERY SOCIETY (FISH HEALTH SECTION) PROCEEDINGS. 1999. p.38. Technical Abstract: The recent interest in wild fish kills, particularly of those on the eastern seaboard, has provided an incentive to highlight historical fish kills in the United States. Early fish kills may give us an understanding of the origin and nature of the recent fish mortalities. Between 1607 to 1609, Captain John Smith reported crowded, topping and dead fish in natural waters. In 1698 there was a report in the Council Papers of Virginia of great fish kills resulting from the killing and processing of whales in the Chesapeake. The next report found came about 180 years later when in 1867 A. L. Adams reported American herring dying off the northern coast of Main. There were 40 more reports of fish kills found prior to 1900. Within these publications were reports of fish kills dated back as far as 1836 and one report by J. P. Moore of a great fatality among the bluefish at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1882, Captain J. W. Collins reported one a massive mortality of tile fish (Lopholatilus chameleonticeps) off the coasts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. He conservatively estimated losses at more than 14 billion pounds. More than 36% (15) of the nineteenth century fish kill reports were form the Gulf of Mexico. Included in these reports was a description of a red tide kill as well as many interesting theories on possible causes for the other kills. Less than 32% (13) of the kills were reported from fresh water streams and lakes. The first pathological evaluation of fish in the U.S. was apparently done on dead and dying fish from a large fish kill at Lake Mendota, Wisconsin. In 1884 Stephen A. Forbes used histological and bacterial staining techniques to evaluate the cause of the deaths.