Late in the 20th Century, participants in a trans-jurisdictional fisheries research network in the Great Laurentian Basin collaborated with participants of other research networks (waterfowl, piscivorous birds, benthic insects, plankton, bacteria, meteorology, hydrology, etc.) in a mega-scale happening during the years 1967 to 1992 that I call ‘The Great Laurentian Spring’. With a basin-wide version of adaptive management, the scientific researchers collaborated with citizen activists, private entrepreneurs, commission facilitators and governmental administrators in remediating harm done to the natural living features of the Great Laurentian Basin, particularly in the preceding 150 years. Like the degradation process that preceded it, the remediation process had features of a self-organizing movement that became complex beyond the ability of participants and observers to fully describe and explain it. Here I offer as an hypothesis, a rough sketch of how fisheries networkers in the Great Laurentian Basin came to play a role of helping to conserve valued fisheries and preserve vulnerable species during the degrading pre-Great Laurentian Spring period and then to help remediate harmful stresses, rehabilitate fisheries and prevent further degradation during the Great Laurentian Spring period and since then. In general fisheries researchers performed empirical science in responsible ways, with emphasis on the fish and on their habitats, and thus on the health of the aquatic ecosystems. Occasionally, the strongly modified natural system could be managed to produce major fisheries benefits, at least temporarily. The Scot T. Reid’s Common Sense science contributed to the American C.S. Peirce’s Pragmatism and together they informed the German A. Thienemann’s Limnology and the Canadians W.E. Ricker’s and F.E.J. Fry’s Fisheries Science. All along, mathematics of increasing sophistication played a role. Reputable criticisms of scientific inferences as well as untested and disreputable rhetoric of science deniers were taken seriously by the researchers.

Overview

Five centuries ago, explorers from Europe found that Aboriginal tribes were practicing primitively organized fisheries in the Great Laurentian Basin (GLB) and elsewhere. Fish valued by Aboriginals had names within tribal languages; explorers used European names of similar fish in their homelands. Translators transferred Aboriginals’ knowledge to the Europeans. Practically important information related to the what, where, when, how, and why aspects of experience-based learning and included knowledge that we now subsume under morphologic, anatomic, taxonomic, ethologic, limnologic, and phenologic categories for several valued kinds of fish. Artisanal fishers may have known about migrations in spring and fall to spawn in locales that were accessible with weirs and traps made with natural fibres operated with birch-bark canoes. Some knowledge was woven into spiritual myths that were recalled through rituals. Particular fisheries-relevant practices may have been consistent with evolved cultural commitments to ‘sustainable conservation’, through natural/cultural selection (Berkes and Folke, 1998).

Since time immemorial, fishing as practiced by Aboriginals in America and Europe has focused on a small number of all the fish ‘species’ native to these waters. In effect, human fishers have usually had a ‘high-grading’ practice with respect also to other ‘natural resources’ such as furs, trees, birds, mammals, settlement locations, water flows, and garden soils. High grading means to take the best and leave the rest. In the absence of conservationist mores on the part of some people, the more preferred and thus more highly valued species were likely to suffer suppression if not extinction through excessive extraction but also through degradation of their preferred habitats to the relative advantage of less valued, stress-tolerant alternatives within all the resource types. The value of harvests of the latter may then have been upgraded technically. Guardians of the waters and later naturalists and researchers who urged implicitly conservationist practices may have prevented much careless destruction. Less valued resources left by the high-grading actors may have been utilized opportunistically by the poor of a dominant culture and by Aboriginals who had survived diseases brought by invaders. Even the ‘poorest of the poor’ could catch some edible fish in derelict habitats neglected by less poor folk.

As a complex systemic activity that involves human withdrawal of a natural resource, a human-created fishery may be perceived to involve natural and cultural interactions among five kinds of complexes, each with particular life-related structure and dynamics. These are: a particular kind of fish or taxon to be captured for use by humans, T; the habitat with other taxa in which the preferred taxon thrives, H; a practical means of capturing and processing the fish from the water, C; marketing and consuming the fish, M; and a governance institution or agency to resolve inevitable difficulties in the whole emerging and evolving interactive complex of complexes, A. Each of these THCMA clusters manifested a systemic meld of natural and cultural features. Any kind of fishery – Aboriginal, artisanal, recreational, commercial, bait, remediative – may be perceived from such a perspective. In the GLB many versions of such a THCMA complexity related to fisheries have emerged creatively, evolved adaptively, and most were superceded by others over the past two centuries.

A researcher on issues relevant to fisheries may have focused on only one of the five clusters, e.g. on: ecologics and eciatrics (organismal health) of a fish taxon; eco-limnology of its habitat; eco-technology and ekistics of the fishing process; economics of a market and home economics of a household; or eco-management and ecumenics of an administrative institution. Often a researcher focussed on a combination of two or more, and sometimes on all five together as with interjurisdictional commissions. A combination of all of these may be termed ecogenic from a perspective of Self-Organizing, Holonocratic (Hierarchic) and Open, SOHO, living systems, both natural and cultural, that emerge and evolve seemingly spontaneously. In the vernacular the term ecogenic implies home making; in some sense any organism or system of organisms needs a home.

A sketch of the methodological approach of my present paper follows here. Thinking back over the 65 years of my professional work I note an emphasis on linking ‘research’ with ‘policy’ and ‘practice’. If these three terms are perceived to relate to partially separate complexities sketched as a Venn diagram, then my personal activities relate to the overlap between the first and the other two, including where all three overlap. If such a complexity is perceived to be tiered as a nested holonocracy (e.g. a hierarchy as a special case) with numerous interlinked scales from local to global, then I have been active at all the conventional jurisdictional levels at one time or another. The meta-issues with which I have been involved include: sustainable fisheries; remediation of abused aquatic environments; limiting human population growth; and limiting climate warming. Our participatory efforts influenced research and practice with respect to each of those meta-issues at levels from local to global. Retrospectively I refer to this approach as ‘ecogenic’ across numerous disciplines in current higher education fora.

Writing this paper has been an empirical activity informed at the outset by reflecting on my own experiences with networkers with similar predilections. The scientific methods that came to be particularly relevant in efforts in which I played a role appear to me to have been versions of pragmatism fostered by C. S. Peirce and colleagues (Goudge, 1950). Peirce may have interacted personally with some of my ecogenic predecessors in our historic fisheries network in the Great Laurentian Basin. Numerous proficient colleagues have reported on the relevant science, policies and practices with respect to fisheries, say; my effort here relates mostly to scientific research progressing emergently under stimuli from extant extant policies and practices related to fish and their habitats. Writings by T. Whillans (1979), F. Egerton (1985), S. Crawford (2001) and S. Bocking (2004) may manifest features of a similar pragmatic ecogenic approach.

I offer this paper as an assemblage of abductive information from which an hypothesis about the activities of a voluntary network of fisheries scientists may be creatively deduced to be tested inductively thereafter. I hope it is coherent with works by Guthrie et al. (2019) and Brant (2019). Would a reader accept as plausible and worthy of inductive testing an hypothesis that numerous generations of actors in a self-organizing network of fisheries-related researchers in the GLB have mostly practiced their applied science expertly and responsibly?

Research-related happenings before 1865

Looking back I note that early European taxonomists identified fish taxa that are now included in the Salmonidae family in a global latitudinal strip of Salmonid Waters that include the GLB. In waters partly overlapping that Salmonid Waters strip to the south they identified taxa now included in the Percidae family in another latitudinal strip of Percid Waters. These two families include most of the highly valued native taxa for the commercial and sport fisheries in the GLB. In eastern North America another latitudinal strip overlapped the southerly fringe of Salmonid Waters and much of the Percid Waters, – the Centrarchid Waters; taxa of this Centrarchidae family were reserved mostly for recreational angling long ago partly because centrarchids were most accessible in summer when fish flesh decomposed rapidly.

With respect to surface waters in summer: centrarchids were to be found in warm water, percids in cool water, and salmonids in cold water. Valued taxa mostly reproduced in spring and fall with a preference for shallow hard-surfaced or gravelly locales that had recently been flushed by spring or fall storm waters. Two centuries ago the fisheries researchers of those times – taxonomists, anatomists and natural historians – together with fishers were gradually assembling information relevant to the above generalizations inferred as such more recently.

My abductive text focusses mostly on salmonids, percids and centrarchids. Other native families with taxa that were valued highly include: Ictaluridae (Channel Catfish, Bullhead); Esocidae (Pike, Muskellunge); and eventually Acipenseridae (Lake Sturgeon). Negatively valued taxa include Lotidae (Burbot) and eventually Petromyzontidae (Sea Lamprey). Narratives of these latter five families would complicate but likely would not detract from the theme of my present abductive effort.

In retrospect, the salmonids, percids and centrarchids (as well as other families) in the GLB were each represented by a swarm of closely-related taxa, i.e. a ‘taxocene,’ that posed difficulties for taxonomists about criteria for distinguishing different taxa. Each of these swarms exhibited a spectrum of morphological features that were more variable than was each family’s physiological spectrum with respect to thermal habitat preferences, for instance. Each family’s morphological spectrum included a chunky form typical of benthically-oriented taxa and a spindle-shaped form typical of pelagically-oriented taxa. With disturbance of migratory movements by fisheries and with habitat changes in spawning locales, hybridization and other genetic changes occurred so that particular details of descriptions by an early taxonomist became obsolete. Fishers learned that fish consumers’ preferences for different taxa in a family differed markedly, as did their own preferences when based on the costs of capturing and processing them. Such empirical and practical complexity has contributed to the difficulty of inferring explanatory narratives and has persisted until today.

Since 1800 a ‘cultural stress footprint’ from commercial and industrial modernization has emergently expanded from small locales mostly near small settlements to bay-wide, then to lake-wide, then to basin-wide and beyond. In each of the five Great Lakes the most transformed parts tended to occur in the southerly and westerly parts, for complex natural and cultural reasons.

Natural shorelines, waters and their fish inhabitants have generally not been targets of belligerents in wars. Fisheries infrastructure and practice have been affected incidentally in wars for numerous reasons, sometimes for the short-term benefit of the fish and the quality of their habitats and mostly not, I speculate. From a perspective of the scale and intensity of the harm done during wars, the battles fought in the GLB, all before 1865, may be classified as skirmishes from a perspective of wars fought elsewhere. Few fishers lost lives or much property due directly to warfare here.

A notional line or mapped boundary between jurisdictions has often fallen along the main stem or thalweg of a waterway and a chain of riverine lakes. The detailed location of such a boundary over land and especially over water came to be specified with increasing accuracy over recent centuries. Never-ending changes in the hydrography of waterbodies straddling a boundary have created difficulties related to the reification of lines (or curtains) that diplomats negotiated. At times when resources were abundant and peace-time trade was being tolerated or encouraged, leaving the location of a boundary vague may have had advantages all around. There were also tense periods, with an episode of ‘gun-boat diplomacy’ in Lake Erie, until 1914 when boundaries were clearly demarcated finally and enforced to an effective degree (Beattie Bogue, 2000, 2001). Patchy animosity in space and time between fishers may generally not have carried over into senior diplomatic and scientific research networks to a serious extent.

In the decades before 1865, the lands, waters, fish and other features used by the Aboriginal Tribes such as the Haudenosaunee in New York State and the First Nations such as the Anishinabe of what is now Southern Ontario were greatly reduced in size. For example, most of New York’s Iroquois Tribes fled westward from the Oswego River Basin into what is now Ontario where a relatively large initial reserve in the Grand River Basin was, in turn, soon reduced in size. The ‘boundaries’ between a First Nation and a jurisdiction of European settlers started out as wide strips each with an initial spectrum of Aboriginal rights that shrank in number with distance from a central ‘reserve’ with its Aboriginal villages. Some early off-reserve usufructuary rights were eroded away by actions of aggressive settlers whose actions may have been tolerated by their own governments. With respect to emergent science, some traditional knowledge about each of the THCMA complexes was incorporated informally into the findings of researchers in the GLB fisheries. Several generations later, several self-management regimes emerged within Aboriginal Peoples with application of merged traditional and scientific understanding (Christie, 1974; LaRiviere and Crawford, 2013).

In the European Baltic-Rhine combined basin, the shifting location of inter-jurisdictional boundaries due to the consequences of various wars posed major problems for governance of migratory fish stocks, notably Atlantic Salmon. In the Rhine Basin, no agreed inter-jurisdictional boundaries have ever been specified within the Bodensee (Lake of Constance) waters with shorelines and tributaries in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland; successive inter-jurisdictional treaties were negotiated since late in the 18th Century (Regier and Applegate, 1972) to administer this ‘commons’.

Generally fisheries researchers’ efforts were not linked closely to where a boundary was located, in part because the roles of a boundary were seldom of critical importance with respect to fisheries policies and practices as they affected the dynamics of the GLB research network. Also it happened that the home territory of some valued fish stocks did not cross the US-Canada boundaries that were negotiated to a significant extent.

Much of the Canadian landings of fish in the GLB was marketed in the U.S. by American entrepreneurs who were not severely regulated by U.S. government agencies, so this M part of the THCMA complex system in Canada also had some laissez-faire features. Starting two centuries ago, profit-oriented entrepreneurs performed vertical integration to achieve greater economic efficiency through monopsonistic buying of fish from fishing ports and through monopolistic activities related to ‘cornering a market’ in the sale of fish in cities. American entrepreneurs focused primarily on fish caught in U.S. waters but usually also had connections related to fish caught in Canadian waters by American and Canadian fishers. Their practical interests may, on occasion, have benefitted from confusion related to inter-jurisdictional boundaries as with undocumented transfer of captured fish from Canadian fishers to American fish buyers. Canadian governments and associations of Canadian fishers attempted various kinds of supply management to counter undesired practices by American entrepreneurial corporations, with partial success. On balance, Canadian fishers may generally have moderated complaints about ‘poaching’, say, in return for informal access to American markets about which American fishers may in turn have campaigned, sometimes successfully, for tariffs.

So both the Canadian and American versions of the THCMA super-complex have always been compromised by informal connections between the national super-complexes through the M complex but also through lesser connections among all the other complexes. None of the five pairs of systemic complexes could be kept operationally separate by jurisdictional boundaries, especially when such boundaries were poorly demarcated physically or weakly administered.

The complex focus of my hypothetical sketch is on the history of fisheries research in the GLB as applied for practical purposes particularly in the Canadian waters. To repeat: I suggest that generally fisheries researchers of all the relevant jurisdictions have appeared to concur informally on the need for precautions on fishing to reduce the risk of over-exploitation of the valued fish taxa and of abuse of their habitats. Fisheries-oriented entrepreneurs with opportunistic extractive praxis have seldom become sufficiently strong politically to render a separate research capability to serve each of them more narrowly to be cost-effective. Lawyers may have been more in demand on the American than on the Canadian side; well-informed overseers may have been more in demand on the Canadian side.

Two centuries ago immigrant fishers used gear types like those being employed at that time in European freshwaters and inshore marine waters. The larger the fish, the more difficult it was to capture and land. Fish of 20 kg size, for example, were destructive of gear with cotton or linen fibers. Coarser sisal or jute twines dipped in tar were used to capture and remove big fish, sometimes to be trashed and even burned onshore because processing and marketing were more difficult than with smaller fish. Consumers who purchased fish in markets generally did not prefer large senile Lake Trout, for example. With respect to the emerging inter-related THCMA complexes, the preferred sizes of Lake Trout and Lake Whitefish were of fish within a few years of reaching sexual maturity at 1 to 2 kg.

Tiro (2016) refers to comprehensive perceptions by New York’s Governor Dewitt Clinton in 1815 that related the rapid reduction of catches of Atlantic salmon in Lake Ontario in part to the incidental destruction of fish habitat by the farmers among the European settlers. Farmers generally had higher social standing than fishers, so their abuses could be overlooked by governments.

In the Rhine River valley the industrialization of the river and its basin also contributed to falling catches of Atlantic salmon by 1840. French fishers crafted a version of an earlier artificial method to rear young fish with an approach something like that used by farmers who reared poultry and livestock. Semi-domestication of valued fish rapidly attracted governmental subsidies in a program to mitigate harmful consequences of highly desirable industrial development. Initially it was something like crafting a patch to mitigate an unfortunate ‘by-product’ of the creative destruction that came with valued modernizing development.

By the middle of the 19th Century, Beaver, that interrupted countless streams with dams that may not have been constructed to remain intact in big storms, were far less abundant than in earlier times. This was a benefit to agriculture and transportation infrastructure but not to native fish associations and artisanal fishing.

Three major commercial-industrial initiatives followed, led mostly by American entrepreneurs. Lumber was extracted from virgin forests with the help of GLB waters in a variety of ways, and to the disadvantage of the fish in those waters. When lumber was cut, branches and trimmings were abandoned where they fell; here they provided fuel for forest fires which increased in frequency and size. Ash was washed into streams and presumably resulted in the increased fertility of nearshore waters in lakes to the benefit of nearshore pelagos and benthos and to planktivorous and benthivorous fish taxa. Logs floated downstream and rafted across lakes scoured shorelines and lost bark which settled on the bottom, where some of it still persists unrotted two centuries later. Sawmills were powered by dammed water flows with sawdust and lumber trimmings dumped into the waters of rivers and lakes. Though efforts were made to temper these abuses, they continued until most of the accessible forests had been deforested late in the 19th Century. In the province of Ontario fish have been valued less highly than lumber; with occasional exceptional intervals the provincial fishery agency has been a sub-agency in the forestry agency.

Two other commercial-industrial initiatives started in the mid-19th Century: mining and processing liquid and gaseous fossil carbon fuels (Wlasiuk, 2017); and mining iron ore, limestone and fossil carbon coal to feed smelters to produce iron and steel (Jones, 2014). The industrial complexes for both of these started along the American southern shores of Lakes Erie and Michigan to which locales the raw materials were transported by boats, railways and pipes. (Decades later grossly polluting complexes were also built in Canada: a steel mill complex was created at the west end of Lake Ontario; and petroleum refineries and chemical plants were created at the outflow of Lake Huron.) The ‘manufactories’ of each industrial complex were situated near the outflows of rivers into a lake where ports were constructed for transportation and intake cribs were constructed to provide clean water as raw material with flows that were then used to carry away toxic wastes. Heavy particles in the wastes were deposited mostly near shore where the currents deflected clockwise on entering a lake; concentrated dissolved wastes were diluted mostly in such nearshore waters. As it happened, much of the toxic sedimentation and dilution seems to have occurred in waters of a jurisdiction in which the relevant toxics were produced by industries. If so, complaints by fishers about habitat destruction would likely have been registered within their own jurisdiction, where industry may have been more powerful politically than fishers.

In long stretches of these southerly shore ecotones the water became excessively foul, to the disadvantage of people living nearby and fish with earlier habitats in those locales. Intakes for domestic water needed to be extended further offshore in stages. Pelagic offshore fish like Lake Herring and Blue Pike may have been affected less badly than benthic inshore fish like Lake Whitefish and Sturgeon. Poor people who were employed by the petroleum refineries and steel mills could afford the less valued pelagic taxa that could be harvested inexpensively by commercial fishers.

Downstream from Lake Ontario in the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River drains Lake Champlain waters into it. Lake Champlain has ecosystemic features something like those of the Great Lakes. A half-century of decreasing fish catches in Lake Champlain induced Vermont’s Legislature to contract with the naturalist G.P. Marsh to conduct a rapid investigation and provide advice on that issue. Like Clinton, Marsh (1857) referred to the degradation of the habitat of valued fish taxa by desirable modern development and considered such changes to be irreversible largely. Referring to fisheries practices he opined:

[T]he habits of our people are so adverse to the restraints of game-laws … that any general legislation … would be found to be an inadequate safeguard. But however this may be, the difficulties of a co-operation with other States by concurrent legislation seem, for the present at least, insuperable. …[W]hen private observation and experiment shall have made [artificial propagation] more familiar,… means may be devised for again peopling [Lake Champlain’s waters] with the lake shad (white-fish), the salmon, the salmon-trout, and numerous other species of fish… that once furnished … a luxury for the rich, and so cheap a nutriment for the poor…

That text includes a diagnosis, prognosis, and remedy that came to be a basis for an artificial complement – relevant to waters with large fishery resources being fished in a tacitly laissez-faire regime – to a continuing commitment to sustainable conservation of fish in smaller waters in regions not strongly ‘developed’ in otherwise acceptable ways.

At about the same time in Canada, an official of the Canadian federal fishery agency, J. Cauchon (1859), recommended as follows:

In dealing with the freshwater fisheries their regulation and conservance go hand in hand with the principle of their economic development as industrial resources and domestic supply well worthy of prudent use and authoritative supervision. Whatever restrictions the attainment of a judicious prosecution may render necessary will be recompensed doubtless by the degree of regularity imposed upon all engaged, and the amount of protection afforded to persons who embark capital and enterprise in working the extensive Lake and River fisheries in Canada, the great value of which is not yet adequately appreciated.

Cauchon’s advice reflected a Canadian policy orientation to regulated ‘husbandry’ of wild fish and their natural habitats. During the following decade, artificial hatchery-based initiatives were employed in Canada as putatively mitigative measures where the basic conservationist approach failed.

By 1865, with the presence of the Erie Canal and railways, numerous of Lake Ontario’s New York fishers had transferred their enterprises westward to Lakes Erie and Huron while some of Ontario’s fishers had relocated northwestward to Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. From Chicago, American fishers had entered Lakes Michigan and Superior initially as associates of a fur company that was compensating for falling fur supplies.

Research happenings between 1865 and 1930

Since about 1865 academics at the numerous colleges and universities that were emerging in the GLB were conducting ‘systemic’ research relevant to fisheries using information from implicitly ‘systemic’ geologists, paleontologists, hydrographers, and meteorologists. The biologists emphasized taxonomy and museum methods, microscopy, morphology, species interactions through food intake, natural history and seasonal phenological behavior. Limnology and ecology that related taxa to their habitats emerged from pervasive collaboration of physical and biological researchers often with holistic predilections. Late in the 19th Century locally-oriented fishery-related networks could be found at Cornell, Wisconsin-Madison, Chicago, Toronto, Queen’s, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana. Each may have had links to a GLB network and likely to European researchers in a network there.

The ‘surveys’ of Lake Superior by L. Agassiz and J.E. Cabot (1849) and of Lac Léman by F. A. Forel (1892-1904) helped to establish a ‘survey movement’ within an emerging limnological science that overlapped with emerging biological oceanography. Forel had wanted to use the term ‘limnographic’ but it was already in use in another context. Individual universities emphasized particular aspects of such surveys: Wisconsin-Madison, physical limnology; Michigan, ichthyological taxonomy and natural history; Cornell, fisheries limnology and ecology; Toronto, role of temperature in fish association statics and fish population dynamics; and Ohio State, natural history of fish populations and ‘farming’ wild fish.

A lake was perceived as a holistic entity or ‘cosmos’ with internal organization (Forbes, 1887) interacting with external natural phenomena perceived as a geological setting with meteorology-related phenology, inter alia. S. Forbes’ essay appealed to early limnologists in Europe with their interests in the holistic views of J. von Goethe. When surveys were repeated, trends through time became apparent in internal organizational features and external factors, and analyses followed leading to inferences about ‘correlations’ among dynamic holistic features and to pragmatic analyses about causal relationships. Early ecological initiatives then sought to explicate a perceived change using reductionistic analyses that linked the structures and dynamics of a particular population, say, to the structure and dynamics of other taxa and of particular organized sub-systems of an aquatic association. A levels-of-organization version of a complex organizational notion was applied by researchers of cultural governance systems investigated by A. de Tocqueville (1840). A dynamic version of such a system as in a trophic network related to fish, say, was a simplification but was interesting heuristically.

Fisheries scientists’ perspectives and practices largely transcended academic debates in elite European universities between Cartesian reductionists and Goethian holists, as well as the confusion about how evolution through natural selection actually happened and about fanciful extensions of Darwin’s early views to the ideologies of imperialism, fascism, communism, etc. Informally the applied research approaches of ‘peer-centered’ American Pragmatism (see below), both qualitative and quantitative, with links to earlier Scottish Common Sense methods appear to have pervaded the scientific methods of the researchers in the GLB network as well as those of the Baltic-Rhine combined basin.

In Canada, a Federal Fisheries Act along the lines of the advice from Cauchon (1859) followed after Confederation in 1867. This Act may have reflected earlier regulations in more easterly jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada, which in turn may have reflected earlier European governance experiences (Walton, 1653).

Canada appointed fishery overseers to serve as supervisors about desirable fisheries praxis rather than as rigid legalistic enforcers (Kerr, 1864 – 1892). Individual overseers had implicit responsibilities with respect to all the five parts of a THCMA complex. For example, for the 1884 year along the 400 km of Lake Erie’s Canadian shore, seven overseers reported separate data sets for 17 different fishing ‘ports’. Annually they reported numerical data on the mass (weight) of landings of specified fish taxa but originally not of small fish of these taxa or low-value ‘coarse’ fish that were discarded. (Eventually discarding of unwanted fish into the lake or onto the shore was forbidden, and farmers carted some away as ‘manure’.) Summary data on the price obtained by fishers for the fish they delivered to Canadian fish buyers and the value of their annual landings here were submitted. Data on the kind of gear fished, how much gear was used, and the estimated value of the gear were submitted. The number and monetary value of occasional fines from legal action usually by the local justice of the peace were reported.

In her studies of the history of fishing in the Great Lakes Beattie Bogue (2000, 2001) identified the period 1872 to 1912 as one of ‘Canadian-American contest for the Great Lakes fish harvest’ and focused attention on the ‘gunboat diplomacy’ that erupted along the poorly-defined international boundary in Lake Erie. She reported:

In 1872 the newly created Dominion government, well aware of the potential for a much expanded role for American commercial fishing in Canadian waters… called for negotiation of a cooperative plan… to protect the fish resources of the Great Lakes. … In 1875 a further plea for cooperation took the diplomatic route… Failing to get results, the Canadians put the idea on hold for 15 years.

Prince (1910) reported retrospectively:

… the late [American] Professor George Brown Goode declared in 1884, …, “the Department of Marine and Fisheries in Ottawa is one of the best administrative organizations in the world, and their methods of gathering and publishing statistics are admirable, there is nothing in the United States like it, …

Apparently, neither Prince nor any of his peers documented how this mass of detailed information published annually in attractive books was actually used in the administration of the fisheries. Subsequently these Canadian data served early scientific attempts to quantify fisheries phenomena, and their utility in this respect still persists.

In the early 1890s, officials of provincial and state governments were meeting opportunistically to find ways to defuse fishery-related conflicts and federal officials participated in some of those (Wright 1892). A binational commission led by W. Wakeham and R. Rathbun (1897) took four years to investigate fisheries issues relevant to all the THCMA complexities with transboundary relevance from the East Coast Atlantic through inland lakes including the Great Lakes to the West Coast Pacific. The Great Lakes work was done in 1892-1894, and the whole report was published in 1897. They opined:

Our observations … have clearly demonstrated the inexpediency of attempting to regulate any of the fisheries herein discussed by a rigid code of enactments, owing to their constantly changing character and conditions, and we would therefore urge, in the event of the joint action of the two governments, that a permanent joint commission, to be composed of competent experts, be provided for which shall be charged with the direct supervision of these fisheries, and shall be empowered to conduct the necessary investigations, and to institute such modifications in the regulations as the circumstances may call for from time to time.

Rathbun and Wakeham submitted detailed recommendations related to each of the THCMA complexes for each of the Great Lakes, inter alia. They focused mostly on the Capture cluster of fisheries practices in the context of Taxon and Habitat understanding, perhaps because the conflicts were most persistent and intense with respect to fishers’ activities on the lakes in that C complex. (The Lake Erie part of their report is about three times as long as my present study.)

The Commissioners’ investigations largely ignored the hatchery-based fish culture programs of the two countries. The following statement for Lake Erie was repeated for the other lakes except for the Georgian Bay part of Lake Huron almost all of which lies within Canadian waters.

While no positive evidence of the success of fish culture on Lake Erie has been adduced, owing to the fact that the whitefish fry there planted represent the same variety which naturally inhabits the lake, we are confident that the supply of that species has been materially benefited thereby. … [W]e strongly urge that the scope of the operations in this direction be increased to the fullest extent possible.

D.S. Jordan and E.E. Prince were appointed to a subsequent Commission to provide advice on a binational treaty that would implement the Wakeham and Rathbun recommendations. In 1908 they submitted a concise draft of a treaty titled, “A system of uniform and common international regulations for the protection and preservation of the food fishes in international boundary waters of the United States and Canada”. I note that back then the term ‘system’ implied complexity and that the Wakeham and Rathbun recommendations implicitly related to the whole set of interacting THCMA complexes, hence their approach was implicitly ‘ecogenic’. A generic set of three interactive THCMA complexes for American waters may be related retrospectively to: strongly laissez-faire commercial fisheries; recreational fisheries administered through individual licenses specifying catch limits and much else; and a regime of hatchery-based culture of young fish with governmental subsidies. The Canadian version of the generic set of three THCMA complexes differed from the American, notably with respect to commercial fishers’ lesser freedom to fish, the lesser political power of recreational anglers and a lower level of fish-cultural subsidies.

The Jordan and Prince draft of 1908 was set aside in the U.S. for two years. Later in 1908 the Fourth International Fishery Congress was convened in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries published the proceedings of scientific activities in its Bulletin in April 1910. The proceedings include “A Plan for Promoting the Whitefish Production of the Great Lakes”. Two superintendents of U.S. Federal fish hatcheries made short ex cathedra proclamations. A young researcher at the University of Michigan, P.R. Reighard (1910), tried to make sense of available numerical data relevant to the issue; he won the prize of $100 in gold. His suggestion, not strongly supported by relevant data, was:

A central control, under which fishing grounds should be leased and fishermen licensed, would, if properly administered, reduce the cost of fishing and make possible more extended artificial propagation. The central authorities should have the power to modify fishing regulations pending legislative action. Such a system might be made self-supporting.

So did P. R. Reighard suggest that the hatchery movement be transformed from a government subsidized complement to laissez-faire fishing to a government-regulated combined form supported by license fees?

The Jordan and Prince (1910) draft treaty had been intended to be the fisheries part of President T. Roosevelt’s major international conservation initiatives of 1908 which led to the International Joint Commission, the Migratory Birds Treaty, a Waterways Commission, and other similar organizations. That draft treaty provides, in effect:

(Art. I), that fishing seasons and methods in the boundary waters as defined (Art. IV), and the nets and appliances to be used therein, should be determined by uniform international regulations; that these regulations (Art. II) should constitute a uniform system for the preservation of food fishes in such waters, and should embrace close seasons, limitations as to size, etc., of nets and other appliances; a uniform system of registry by each government for the regulation of commercial fishing within its own territorial water; and an arrangement for concurrent measure of the propagation of fish.

The Jordan and Prince draft was accepted by the Canadian government and forwarded to the U.S. Senate by President Taft later in 1910 but died aborning by 1914. During the next three decades relevant governments were focused on World War I, the 1930s Drought, the 1930s Depression and World War II. No government in the GLB undertook major new initiatives related to fisheries and their previous governmental activities were phased downwards. In Canada the provincial Ontario government did not initiate new provincial programs for some of the federal activities that were discontinued and temporarily drifted towards laissez-faire governance features. This drift was reversed in subsequent decades (Christie, 1978).

Meanwhile, university-based researchers expanded and intensified their efforts, with strong network interactions. The fisheries researchers at Canadian universities and especially at the University of Toronto had scientific projects with both marine and freshwater fisheries. In 1914-1915 A.G. Huntsman joined a series of fisheries cruises in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and adjoining seas conducted by the Norwegian J. Hjort. Hjort (1914) had applied a little-known technique of aging fish by interpreting patterns on their scales to investigate why annual catches of Herring in Norwegian waters varied with respect to abundance and size of fish. Thereafter Huntsman (1919) brought this aging method to the attention of North American researchers (Jackson, 2007). It was incorporated into early versions of fish population dynamics studies by J. Van Oosten (1923) and colleagues who then used it and related techniques to assess the effects of the large fish hatchery programs with generally negative findings.

After World War I, the University of Toronto researchers induced the provincial government to fund an Ontario Fisheries Research Laboratory, OFRL, and thus to collaborate with the federal agency in financially supporting fisheries research. The OFRL was part of the Department of Biology of which B. A. Bensley was the chair; he also served as OFRL’s initiator. He hired W. A. Clemens as its first ‘supervisor’. Clemens had been an earlier student who had started his research career at Go Home Bay (Knight, 2015) and then had earned his doctorate at Cornell University with a study of a mayfly taxon that was food of brook trout. Bensley (1922) created a plan for OFRL that included a publication series. In retrospect this plan may be perceived to be a benchmark of the state of fisheries-related science at the University of Toronto and in the network of universities in the Great Laurentian Basin and beyond. An excerpt and comments follow here.

Though the study of waters as entities, or complete physical-biological complexes, has not yet arrived at a stage of development commensurate with its great importance, its recognition is at least assured… the recognition of the state [e.g. provincial] university as the natural centre of such investigation.

Bensley cited Adams’ animal ecology text of 1913. He referred to: Forbes, Richardson, Kofoid and Shelford of Illinois; J. Reighard and Ward of Michigan; Birge and Juday of Wisconsin; Needham and Lloyd of New York; Evermann and Clark of Indiana; Forel of the Lake Geneva survey; Zacharias of the German Plön biological station modelled on Dohrn’s marine station at Naples; and the Germans Apstein and Zschokke. These sets of researchers may be taken as relating to an extant GLB network and to a comparable European network, with networking between those networks, as of 1922.

In continental Europe, the term ‘biogeocoenotic’ came to be applied to a hybrid holistic-reductionistic approach and especially by Thienemann (1935), while in the UK and North America the English term ‘ecosystem’ was preferred. The ‘coenotic’ part of the European term relates to a complex schema of pragmatic science that C.S. Peirce and peers fostered in Boston, Baltimore, and Washington with respect to aquatic systems, inter alia, starting about 1878. A hybrid ‘general systems theory’ was fostered by L. von Bertalanffy, an admirer of the early holist J. von Goethe, starting about 1930 in Europe and eventually at North American universities including Alberta, Ottawa and Buffalo. In the 1950s professors at the University of Toronto including F.E.J. Fry were apparently familiar with transdisciplinary scientific initiatives by Peirce, Thienemann and Bertalanffy as relevant to complex aquatic phenomena. The ‘ecosystem approach’ that was formally recognized at the level of the Great Laurentian Basin in 1978 obviously has a long history especially with respect to its systemic and pragmatic roots.

Again, the Scottish Common Sense school of T. Reid (1710 – 1796) was taught in North American colleges in the 19th Century and influenced the American Pragmatist school of C.S. Peirce (1839-1914) who acknowledged Reid’s works. Early in life C. S. Peirce learned mathematics and logic from his father who was a Harvard professor. The Peirce and L. Agassiz families were neighbors. C.S. Peirce served as Agassiz’ assistant in paleontological research before Peirce’s decades of applied research as an employee of the U.S. Coastal Geodetic Survey. Peirce may have interacted personally with G.P. Marsh, S.F. Baird and R. Rathbun perhaps all in the context of The Smithsonian Institution in which C.S. Peirce’s father played a leading role.

T.A. Goudge (1910-1999) was a Peirce Scholar and philosophy professor at the University of Toronto starting in 1938; he focused on the philosophy of biology, inter alia. Goudge (1950, page 23) sketched his version of Peircean pragmatic sciences as follows:

  • A science is primarily a persistent, disinterested pursuit of truth;

  • it is a co-operative, social venture, not an individual affair;

  • its data must be obtained by some form of observation;

  • its method of dealing with these data is that of rational and logical thought;

  • its conclusions must be verifiable by observation, experiment, or both;

  • its conclusions are intrinsically provisional and susceptible of further refinement or correction as inquiry is continued.

Reid’s ‘Common Sense’ relates particularly to the second item in Peirce’s list as summarized by Goudge. ‘Common’ here implies ‘communitarian’ and not primarily ‘pervasive’. The pragmatism of Peirce’s younger colleagues J. Dewey and W. James, emphasized this attribute of reliable science as applied to complex social and psychological phenomena.

With a focus on the logic of deductive and inductive reasoning as applied to his science, Peirce linked these two types together with a third kind, abduction. Logically, he understood that a particular hypothesis about an issue could perhaps be disproven if it was false, but could not be proven if it was true. So scientific understanding progressed through falsification of false hypotheses. Good science involves deducing an hypothesis, from an abductive accumulation of findings of previous scientific efforts and any new observations, that peers agreed had a chance of surviving appropriate logical and statistical falsification tests. According to Peirce, good science is expensive and creativity is especially necessary with the deduction of a testable hypothesis. Again, the three stages are: assiduous abduction, creative deduction and critical induction.

Research happenings between 1930 and 1995

Only a few of numerous important decades-long happenings related to how reliable science emerged further during this period are sketched here. I emphasize initiatives relevant most directly to Canadian fisheries and in which Canadian researchers played notable roles. No implication that these initiatives were more important than numerous others throughout the GLB and beyond is intended here. Perhaps my present paper complements recent works by Guthrie et al. (2019) and Brant (2019).

The onset of World War II triggered concerns about the adequacy of food for domestic use and fighting that war; these concerns led to the creation of an International Board of Inquiry for the Great Lakes Fisheries, 1940-1942. Of the four Board of Inquiry members, A.G. Huntsman and J. Van Oosten were researchers with personal competence on each country’s extant THCMA clusters. The Board was served by a Scientific Advisory Committee with six members from each side. The Canadian advisors included W.J.K. Harkness and W.E. Ricker; the American advisors included T.H. Langlois and E. Moore. Presumably the 14 researchers on the Board with its advisors from four universities (Cornell, Indiana, Ohio State, and Toronto) included the most knowledgeable fisheries researchers extant in the GLB at the time.

The Board report consists of three parts: a short joint report Gallagher et al. (1943); a long addendum submitted to the U.S. government by the American half of the Board (Gallagher and Van Oosten (1943); and a first compendium of accessible data on hatchery plantings and annual fish catches by taxon in the various jurisdictions in each lake. Much of the Canadian data came from the annual reports of the fishery overseers mentioned above. I emphasize the importance of archiving historical data series for a narrative explication of a fishery and fish habitat, and appreciate the Board’s efforts in assembling these data that expanded on the 1908 efforts by P. R. Reighard (see above) and in publishing them inexpensively. Occasional editorial revisions and updates became one of the valued activities of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission after 1955 (see below).

The Board reported briefly on results of a quantitative limnological investigation of fish catches in different lakes and recommended that joint research be expanded. The American addendum is mostly a history of past failures of efforts by commissions to achieve joint governance of cross-border fisheries issues with a call for more research related to the efficacy of the hatchery program and with particular mention of the erupting population of sea lamprey. The lamprey eruptions appear to have started in the Northwestern waters of Lake Ontario with its tributaries in the late 19th Century, then progressed up the Welland Canal, perhaps, into the Upper Lakes with successive eruptions in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior.

Near the end of World War II and following a decades-long campaign by international activists, a globally-focused Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) was founded at a conference in Quebec City. Soon after that the United Nations (UN) was founded and FAO joined it to become UNFAO. From the beginning, forestry and fisheries were part of FAO’s focus beyond just agriculture. One of the emphases of the fisheries part of UNFAO was to foster the emergence and evolution of international fisheries commissions, initially for regions with serious conflicts of fishers of different countries and eventually to cover all the marine and large transboundary fresh waters with regional commissions each with features relevant to its context. Data collection and sharing was a key activity. The resulting global meta-network of transboundary fisheries commissions assisted with the Law of the Sea and continues to evolve today.

Officials of Canadian and American federal fisheries agencies were active with treaty-making concerning fisheries of the Northeast Pacific and Northwest Atlantic Oceans. They participated in the commission-creating movement at UNFAO and served at the headquarters in Rome. After UNFAO-related fisheries commissions were in place with respect to the Atlantic and Pacific marine fisheries, informed negotiators interpolated the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) based on an inter-governmental convention that may not have required formal concurrence by state and provincial agencies. The purposes of the GLFC did not elaborate on activities about which some state agencies may have been sensitive.

Back to earlier times: the research that focused on fish of the large Great Lakes and connecting Great Rivers was complemented by research on smaller waters of the GLB in each of the state and provincial jurisdictions starting in about the 1880s. These researchers networked collegially; for example, taxonomic expertise about a particular family of aquatic taxa may have existed in only one institution in the GLB; such an expert was likely to receive preserved samples of poorly known taxa with a request for an identification, thus with benefits to the research of both parties.

Ontario’s researchers had connections with those at Cornell where G.C. Embody used a variety of kinds of limnological information on lakes, streams and ponds to formulate a detailed policy for remedial stocking these waters with an emphasis on brook trout. After completing his graduate studies at Cornell, W.A. Clemens of Toronto assisted Embody. E. Moore and colleagues then undertook annual surveys of a series of large watersheds, including the Oswego Watershed with the eastern Finger Lakes (Moore, 1928). Numerous physical and biological criteria were used to infer if a mapped site was appropriate for stocking trout, say, in hundreds of watery locales of a large watershed. Her maps facilitate a retrospective assessment of where the stream and pond waters in the Oswego Basin were polluted in 1927; such data have served as benchmarks for comparison with data from surveys decades later to infer trends in the ecological health of such regions. Implicitly, brook trout were perceived as integrative indicators of ecosystem health of waters that remained cold in summer.

Clemens returned briefly to Toronto to direct research in the new OFRL. Subsequently W.E. Ricker (1934) surveyed stream and small lake waters in Southern Ontario to map brook trout waters that could serve to guide where stocking with hatchery trout could be beneficial. He cited earlier work by P. Steinmann and by A. Thienemann relevant to Swiss Alpine waters and works by Embody and Clemens at Cornell. In 1937 a stream survey similar to surveys practiced by Moore and colleagues was incorporated into a more comprehensive survey that included agriculture, forestry and water flows in King Township north of Toronto (Mayall, 1938). This approach was continued in a 1943 survey in the Ganaraska Watershed east of Toronto (Richardson, 1944). After that, the Province of Ontario decided to create Conservation Authorities (CAs) that included representatives of all the municipalities in a watershed or joint watershed based on river basin boundaries. A provincial department undertook a multidisciplinary survey and produced a report of useful information to serve the immediate needs of each new CA. Colored maps were produced that denoted the state of ecosystem health of all the waters as inferred from the presence of indicator organisms and especially brook trout and made available for general distribution.

The sets of data from Ontario’s early stream surveys, once feared lost but then found by the indefatigable T.H. Whillans, have been useful in providing early benchmarks for numerous subsequent surveys of varying scale (Steedman, 1988; Wichert and Regier, 1996). Reliable information about the distribution of valued fish taxa played an important role in the remediation of particular degraded hotspots. Conservation professionals of the CAs with their complementary foci – including the focus on valleys, streams, wetlands, harbors, and coastal waters – have been remarkably competent and responsible. They have played central roles in the conservation of natural areas in the urban complex around the western end of Lake Ontario and particularly in the Greater Toronto Region (Roots et al., 1999). The repeated selection by global organizations of Toronto as one of the most liveable cities in the world must be due in some significant way to research that helped to inform the policies and programs of the CAs as related to the natural waters and valleys in and around Toronto (Regier and Kay, 1996).

A tradition of short-term trans-boundary commissions of appointed experts to investigate a contentious issue and provide seasoned advice that started about 1890 (see above) was adapted to GLFC’s emerging practice after 1955 with pragmatic working groups. The sea lamprey issue became the focus for the largest and longest undertaking of the GLFC (Brant, 2019). The GLFC networked with other trans-boundary commissions of the GLB in the context of an explicit ‘ecosystem approach’ starting in the late 1960s.

Two of numerous ‘research trajectories’ initiated and conducted over decades by fisheries scientists are sketched next, as examples.

Wakeham and Rathbun (1897) described a small species swarm of Stizostedion percids in Lake Erie with Grey/Black Walleye, Yellow Walleye, Mottled Sauger and Blue Pike; each has received occasional reproductive ‘assistance’ from hatcheries. By about 1965 only Yellow Walleye survived in those waters. In the 1960s the annual yield from a mix of Walleye populations in Western Lake Erie shared by Michigan, Ohio and Ontario was falling. A GLFC working group, organized by N.S. Baldwin as General Secretary of GLFC, conducted a forensic investigation and gave serious considerations to all hypothetical explications volunteered by fishers, managers, and researchers (Regier et al., 1969). Informally we forensic collaborators noted that some particular effects of distress, i.e. features of systemic strain, manifested by the Walleye population complex were tentatively ascribed to different causes or stresses by different observers. Could there be an analogy at population and ecosystemic levels to an inference in those years by H. Selye (1956) of a ‘General Adaptive Syndrome’ (GAS) at an organismal and physiological level?

A project to investigate the possibility of a GAS at an association of fish populations level was proposed in the summer of 1968 by me; it had an explicit experimental design and was focused on the histories of salmonid fisheries in numerous large naturally-oligotrophic lakes which had been subjected to one or more ecosystemic-level cultural stresses or to little cultural stress. Lakes from each of three regional Salmonid Waters – the Great Laurentian Basin, the combined Baltic and Rhine Basin and the combined Nelson and McKenzie Basin – were included in the project. A carefully planned, three-phased participatory empirical study was conducted with a 1968-72 schedule; it was labelled the Salmonid Communities in Oligotrophic Lakes Symposium (SCOL). The study focused on three major stresses (high-grading fishing, eutrophication through loading of plant nutrients, predation by sea lamprey) but two more stresses also came to be addressed (contamination with hazardous chemicals, hydrographical restructuring or reservoirization of waterbodies). A vague notion of a GAS at a fish population association level was not inferred to be false (Loftus and Regier, 1972).

During the years of the SCOL project, the intense problems in Lake Erie’s southerly waters were the focus of investigations under the aegis of the International Joint Commission (IJC). The researchers included physical and biological limnologists, sanitary engineers, hydrologists and fisheries scientists. The binational 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) under IJC auspices followed with a focus on remediation of phosphate releases from human sewage, agricultural runoff, industrial wastes, and household detergents. For many years through a series of revised GLWQAs the IJC’s Science Advisory Board included one or more fisheries researchers based in government agencies or universities.

The SCOL proceedings (Loftus and Regier, 1972), with subsequent GLFC Technical Reports of several related series, provided a conceptual base for participation by fisheries scientists in the GLWQAs of 1972, 1978, and 1987. The first GLWQA in 1972 focused on remediating a single complex stress, phosphate releases. In 1978 another dauntingly-complex stress was added, hazardous chemical contaminants. In 1987, remediation of the phosphate and contaminant stresses in 43 multi-stressed Areas of Concern involved additional site-specific stresses. By 1990, the collaborative efforts of trans-boundary commissions in the GLB under IJC facilitation included researchers from the old but always young fisheries network plus other networks related to the following issues:

  • Water mass for transportation, hydrographic structures, public utilities and waste disposal in a sense that ‘dilution is the solution to pollution’ (which may always have been the major kind of remediation overall in the GLB);

  • Gases and particulates from combustion of carbon-based fuels with their toxic impurities, acid rain particularly as related to Laurentian Shield waters;

  • Pollution of rivers and nearshore waters and beaches with fecal matter and pathogens;

  • Enrichment with phosphates and nitrates of waters into which organic sewage wastes, agricultural fertilizers and industrial wastes drained with the emergence of ‘dead zones’ of anoxic bottom waters, masses of filamentous algae washed up on beaches, toxic slicks on warm still waters;

  • Failure of numerous taxa of piscivorous birds to reproduce due to biological accumulation and bioconcentration of DDT and other hazardous chemicals transmitted through ingestion of fish;

  • Collapse or wild fluctuations of valued fish populations, due to irresponsible fishing and synergistic stresses on the habitats;

  • Straightening, hardening and burial of waterways in cities, flash flooding from hard surfaces, urban planning with sacrifice of valued natural features; and

  • Loading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burnt fossil carbon and with other heat-trap gases manufactured from fossil carbon which together result in climate warming.

I note that each of these complex themes was relevant to the aquatic ecosystem health of the whole Great Laurentian Basin, but also in particular to the health of salmonid and other valued taxa as integrative indicators of the holistic health of those waters. Fisheries overseers and researchers across the GLB were combating early versions of the separate and joint stress complexes sketched above many decades earlier, both in the larger waters but also in the tributary basins (Kerr, 1864 - 92).

With respect to the issue of a GAS (Rapport et al., 1985) at the level of the aquatic ecosystem of the southern half of Lake Erie, say, we suggested that a common symptom of many cultural stresses acting separately and jointly was that the fish association that was initially oriented predominantly to benthic habitats had by about 1970 been changed to one that was oriented predominantly to metalimnetic pelagic habitats (Regier and Kay, 1996; Kay and Regier, 1999). After about 1995, a new benthic association of non-native taxa had re-established an artificial version of benthic dominance, which suppressed the emergent pelagic association and ‘facilitated’ the emergence of an association of unusual taxa at the surface with eruption of toxic surface slicks during hot dry spells. Could such gross phenomena be inferred to be a sequence of general adaptive phenomena of a severely degraded ecosystem like that of southern waters of Lake Erie?

Another research trajectory as a complex happening relates to smallmouth bass (SMB) as an indicator of effects on aquatic ecosystems of thermal loading and climate warming, inter alia. In retrospect I note that centuries ago the central latitude of the Great Laurentian Basin was near the northern limit of habitat appropriate for SMB. It happened that Toronto researchers conducted long-term studies straddling that central latitude in Go Home Bay, South Bay and Baie du Doré all of Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, and Lake Opeongo of the Ottawa River Basin tributary to the St. Lawrence River downstream from Lake Ontario.

An amateur angler and naturalist who became a University of Toronto physical scientist, W. J. Loudon, reported on his observations of SMB in and near Go Home Bay (Knight, 2015) that he began in the 1870s with limnological information that we relate to its thermal habitat niche (Loudon, 1910).

Federal funding for the Go Home Bay field laboratory became available in 1900 and thereafter for some 15 years. The research program on taxa including SMB related to fish hatching, fish feeding and growth, sampling with nets, life histories of fish that were dormant in winter, etc. (Johnstone, 1977). A.G. Huntsman was a junior researcher there. I note again that the scale method of aging that J. Hjort had used was brought to Toronto by Huntsman in about 1915 and was soon used with numerous GLB taxa including SMB. Examination of scale data for evidence of a dominant year class became a routine part of research surveys and a small unit with a microscope projector for obtaining data for ‘back-calculation’ of size at age was created to process the scale and fish length data.

In the late 1930s, K. Doan (1940) conducted an early version of comparative population dynamics study of numerous SMB populations in Southern Ontario using data from creel surveys and brief netting efforts to yield scales and length data for age and growth estimates. His early work at the OFRL was complemented by later work with T. H. Langlois at Ohio’s Stone Laboratory in Lake Erie. With only sketchy data, some evidence pointed to the existence of dominant year classes coincident in a number of lakes, e.g. the 1931 and 1933 year classes in Lake Opeongo and nearby lakes. With respect to the stocking of fish, he advised against stocking where water temperatures are so low as to inhibit feeding or spawning. So did the causes of poor recruitment of young fish in some years include a kind of starvation due to slow growth in cold water and inhibition and disruption of effective spawning and rearing due to low temperatures?

In the early 1950s, W.J. Christie used Lake Opeongo data to explore the ‘dominant year class phenomenon’ and found evidence that the magnitude of recruitment appeared to be related to the relative summer air temperatures. Findings of this study together with other relevant research were reported two decades later (Christie and Regier, 1973) at a symposium of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) where Hjort’s early research on a dominant year class of Herring had been reported and debated intensely.

In the late 1950s, OFRL researchers began a long-term study focused on the reproductive process of SMB in Lake Opeongo. It involved frequent and detailed monitoring using snorkeling gear of the nesting, spawning, guarding, and rearing of young by numerous SMB males in a small bay which included most of SMB’s reproductive activities in that lake. Air and water temperatures were also monitored. One notable finding was that a particular male fish found to spawn in more than one year was likely to return to the same tiny locale next to a boulder or stump to do so. Another finding was that the behaviors of guarding males toward snorkeling researchers were markedly different, and different ‘personalities’ could be described. Guardians appeared to be more aggressive at higher temperatures.

Laboratory experiments by S. R. Kerr related to survival of eggs and fry during periods of cold weather found that mortality of the offspring could happen in such periods (MacLean et al., 1981). Again findings based on Kerr’s and much other research elsewhere were published in the ICES journal.

The relative abundances of different SMB year classes were inferred from ‘virtual population estimates’ based on age data of fish in anglers’ creels. The ‘virtual population method’ had been applied at Lake Opeongo to Lake Trout data by F.E.J. Fry (1949) and then also applied to SMB. In the late 1960s mark-and-recapture methods were adapted to estimate the proportion of SMB actually captured and retained by anglers during the summer open season that were intercepted by the creel census clerks (Shuter et al., 1987). This helped to improve the accuracy of the virtual population estimates.

Back to K. Doan’s implicit hypotheses about feeding as affected by temperature: from laboratory studies with a Blaska apparatus, Fry and colleagues had been estimating numerical limits of the thermal habitat niche as a function of genetic inheritance and seasonal phenological acclimation to the habitat’s temperature regime. SMB coped with very low temperatures in winter by becoming dormant or ‘hibernating’. On the basis of such information, laboratory investigations were undertaken to test whether over-winter mortality of individual SMB was related to the size attained at the end of their first summer, and thus implicitly as a function of the amount of feeding and growth during the first summer. In the 1970s, an exploratory trial related to over-winter survival was conducted in W. J. Christie’s laboratory at Glenora on Lake Ontario with interesting results. A statistically designed experiment was then conducted at the University of Toronto with clear results that comparatively small SMB were likely to die in winter in emaciated condition (Oliver et al., 1979). Laboratory studies were then conducted to explicate this process further.

In the 1960s, F.E.J. Fry became involved with the planning of an experimental nuclear electricity-generating plant at Baie du Doré of Lake Huron. Fry’s role was to provide advice on the likely effects of warm effluent water on the fish association of the waters and reefs near the outfall; he focused mostly on the SMB within the Baie. While exploratory studies were underway a laboratory and workshop complex to serve hydrographic as well as ecological needs was constructed with dwelling units, dock, and boats. Fry planned a multi-year project that eventually included an impact assessment related to SMB based on data from monitoring bass reproduction, conducting a creel census and obtaining relevant physical limnological data while the plant was being constructed, activated and then expanded with a succession of larger versions of the ‘Bruce Nuclear Complex’. The assessment studies in the Baie had some similarity to continuing studies in Lake Opeongo. Upon retiring, Fry transferred responsibility for the studies to me and I recruited B.J. Shuter and D.A. Wismer as partners starting in the mid-1970s.

With data from local and other sources, Shuter et al. (1980) created a computer simulation on how temperature affected SMB year class abundance with populations near their northerly limit of distribution. The simulation was appropriate for an assessment of likely effects of the plume of warm water with its waste heat. The necessary information included a forecast by the project engineers of particular spatial features of the plume of warm water. After the plant had been operating for several years the engineers provided empirical spatial data on the actual thermal plume. When these actual plume data were entered into the computer simulation the estimated effects on relevant features of the computer simulation led to results that resembled those actually observed in the monitoring that continued after the plant’s start up (Shuter et al., 1985).

Researchers were then contacted by the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute, EPRI, to assist with the documentation of the SMB as a candidate indicator of ecological effects of warm-water plumes from electricity generating plants in which natural summer temperatures of the receiving waters were appropriate for SMB. EPRI then funded collaborative work with computer simulation experts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to improve the scientific and practical quality of the simulation models (Wismer et al., 1985).

Eventually a self-audit of this SMB-related research was undertaken (Wismer et al., 1997) with an inference that the ca. 25 years of work had provided reliable and useful information. Years before that, Joel O’Connor of the US Environmental Protection Agency told me that he knew of no other power-plant impact assessment for which follow-up studies had been done as responsibly as in our case.

Late in the 19th Century, S. Arrhenius (1896) noted the heat-trapping role of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and forecasted climate warming in the future with burning of fossil fuel, but greatly underestimated how much fossil fuel would soon be burnt (Van Hise, 1911). Arrhenius also researched the role of temperature in organic processes and suggested an ‘Arrhenius model’ related to organismal growth as an alternative to a simpler exponential model (Regier et al., 1990). Research on SMB as sketched above and influenced by the work of Arrhenius contributed to large scale assessments of likely effects of projected climate warming on fish, e.g. Shuter and Post (1990) and Everett et al. (1995). So an hypothesis related to climate warming, that the northerly limit of SMB distribution would be displaced northward, has been deduced following an abductive process as sketched above; an inductive real-life test is underway.

A second overview

As mentioned above, T. Reid and C. S. Peirce both emphasized the role of mathematics in science. Mathematically-inclined early marine and freshwater fisheries researchers used numbers for various purposes with increasingly advanced mathematical features. Early taxonomists measured various features and performed arithmetic operations such as calculating a mean number for a number of samples or a datum in a graphed temporal series. Numbers from measurements from several features of an organism’s anatomy were added/multiplied/divided to create a heuristic index useful in discriminating between two different taxa. Geologists, meteorologists and hydrographers also made practical use of arithmetics and heuristics. Probabilistics with links to Perceian pragmatics was adapted for use in sampling designs for complex phenomena and experimental designs for testing hypotheses that related to an increasing number of variables. Computer simulations to test hypotheses of causal interactions between ecosytemic features resulted in the proliferation of algorithmics in fisheries research. In the 1980s, did participatory action research as an application of democratic decision-making to science join with arithmetics, heuristics, probabilistics and algorithmics in the ‘mathematization’ of fisheries research in the GLB?

Using information complementary to that sketched above but with an emphasis more broadly on North American fresh waters, J. J. Magnuson (1991) of the University of Wisconsin, Madison sketched a history of how relevant ecological science emerged during the 20th Century. He noted a progression in a nested schema and named particular innovators: physiological, F.E.J. Fry and G.E. Hutchinson; behavioral, A.D. Hasler; population, J. Hjort; community, no name; ecosystemic, S.A. Forbes, D.S. Rawson and R.A. Ryder; and landscape, no name. I note that all of these innovators contributed to the efforts of the nested fisheries research network of the GLB on which I have focused.

Conclusions

Starting about 150 years ago, pragmatist, C. S. Peirce placed about equal importance on each of three parts of the scientific process – abductive, deductive and inductive – and urged strong use of logic and reason. Our science should reliably reduce the amount of our ignorance with respect to academic and practical issues related to human interactions with fish and their habitats. Based on my abductive efforts above, I deduce a candidate hypothesis as follows. During the 19th and 20th Centuries, fisheries researchers in the Great Laurentian Basin have generally been innovative and responsible scientists of an applied pragmatic type related to numerous cultural concerns about fish and fisheries including: sustainable use and conservation of particular fish taxa as food for humans; protection from extinction of all native fish taxa; and heuristric use of particular taxa as integrative indicators of the health of aquatic ecosystems with respect to natural features that affect humans.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to editor and fellow networker Mohiuddin Munawar for helping me with this paper. It may be read as a retro-perspective on five of my earlier papers, which Mohi, Jennifer Lorimer and Susan Blunt edited plus other of my works edited by Bill Ricker, Elmer Higgins, Shelby Gerking, Jo Reinhart, Bob Kendall, Cam Stephenson, Harry Everhart, Steve Schneider, Laura Westra, Ted Munn, Dave Dempsey, Bob Hecky, Bill Taylor and more. Gifted, responsible, helpful editors, one and all! Thanks also to the co-authors of my papers with contents that may occasionally have strayed from a preferred norm.

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