This category covers establishments primarily engaged in operating fish hatcheries or preserves. Establishments primarily engaged in raising and harvesting aquatic animals are classified in SIC 0273: Animal Aquaculture.
Finfish Farming and Fish Hatcheries
Fish hatcheries were developed during the latter part of the nineteenth century in an effort to supplement dwindling fish stocks. In nature, fish lay thousands of eggs, but most juveniles die in massive numbers because of insufficient food, predators, and diseases. In hatcheries, eggs hatch under controlled conditions and juveniles are able to grow in a protected environment. These conditions result in diminished losses, and young fish can be returned to their natural environment in sufficient quantities to replenish populations.
In 1871, The National Fish Hatchery System (NFHS) was established by Congress through the creation of a U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries. In 1885, the first hatchery programs were undertaken by the NFHS in an effort to replenish shad and lobster populations. By 1916 the federal government operated more than 100 hatcheries, and many states also had opened their own hatcheries. Fish populations being augmented with hatchery stock included cod, pollack, haddock, flounder, salmon, and lobster.
Hatcheries were also involved in the intentional transplanting of species. Although most programs failed and new stocks did not take hold, there were notable successes. Shad and striped bass (rockfish), two of Atlantic species, were introduced to Pacific waters. Both flourished and briefly sustained commercial fishing. Overfishing, however, led to government action to protect remaining stocks. Although commercial harvesting was prohibited, striped bass and shad continued to be abundant, popular game fish.
Hatchery development began to slow during the 1930s because programs were unable to demonstrate increases in commercial harvests. Hatchery-raised fish were often less able to survive in a natural environment because they were conditioned to being fed, fell prey more readily than wild stock, and were susceptible to stunting, diseases, and parasites as a result of overcrowded conditions in hatchery ponds. Additionally, although millions of fish were released, they represented only a tiny fraction of the ocean's natural population and, as a result, did not make a significant...