International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867


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Fish farming

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At the same time, wool combing machines, cotton combing machines, spindle benches, yarn felting machines, cloth and novelty treading machines, shearing and toasting machines, shawl making machines, tulle making machines, fishing net tying machines, and ankle and trimming machines, rope carpets, and silk spinning, milling and weaving machines, and cardboard stitching machines, and spare parts for these machines, and those for making anklets, trimmings, rope carpets, and devices for spinning, milling and weaving silk, and machines for stitching cardboard, and spare parts for spinning and weaving looms, and combs and brushes and carding machines and carding plates and ribbons and metal or natural thistles; we see along the walls devices and products of a completely different kind; these are those of fish farming, a recent industry, created by a poor and illiterate fisherman from the Vosges, by Joseph Remy.

Seeing our waterways being rapidly depopulated, he conceived the idea of remedying the evil and with a sure eye, which would have done credit to a scientist, he understood that fish farming should be based on the study of the phenomena of reproduction.

His observations focused on the trout. He found that they spawn around mid-November and at night. The female, about to lay her eggs, rubs herself gently against the gravel of the stream and levels the surface; with her tail she moves the pebbles, forming a small dike, and in the enclosure thus made she deposits her eggs. The male approaches and stops over the egg-laying area: the water, which has been disturbed for a moment, becomes clear again, and the female covers the fertilised eggs with sand and gravel. On cold November nights, lying in the tall grass along the shore, after days of unproductive work, Remy witnessed these mysteries.

Continuing his patient observations, he recognised that many causes oppose the development of the eggs. Sometimes the receding waters leave them on the shore where they die of desiccation; at other times a sudden flood carries them away and destroys them; the current of the stream is even sufficient to bring about this result. Finally, the frost comes and seizes a part of those who have escaped these chances of destruction, and very few arrive at maturity.

Remy wanted to place all the eggs in circumstances favourable to their hatching. He put them in a wooden box pierced with a multitude of holes intended to give passage to water, too small to give passage to the eggs, and placed the box in a stream. Disappointingly, some of the eggs came to fruition on their own.

Why did this happen? And here is this courageous observer again spending cold, sleepless nights on the edge of the creeks. Once again, the truth of the saying: "Seek and you shall find" was demonstrated. "He saw that only some of the eggs deposited in the creek bed are fertilised, and he knew why, among the germs he had undertaken to protect from the chances of destruction, so few were developing.

Remy wanted all the eggs to be fertilised. But how could the male be made to perform a service he was only half doing? The fisherman observed, and as he saw the female rubbing herself against the sand of the stream, he had the idea that this practice was not only intended to level the surface of the gravel, and that the fish used it to carry out the spawning.

The males were doing the same thing. Remy imagines coming to their aid, provoking the emergence of the eggs by exerting a moderate pressure on the female's belly, and acting in the same way on the male. He takes a female, holds her with his left hand over a tub of water, and gently moves his right hand up and down over her belly: the eggs fall out like milk from a cow's udder. He then takes the male and repeats the operation, then stirs the liquid so that the mixture is perfect: the water first becomes cloudy, then clear again. Soon, by the brownish colour of the eggs, which had become opaque, and the black dot that appeared in their centre, Remy recognised that they were all fertilised. Artificial fertilisation had been discovered, and this excellent problem - to raise the production of a healthy and pleasant food to the level of needs - had reached its solution.

Our fisherman solved it completely. He succeeded in reproducing the most favourable circumstances in which nature places fertilised eggs. Here nothing could stop an observer of this calibre. But the young had to be fed. Now, Remy, having seen the little trout feed, at the moment of their birth, on the mucilaginous substance which surrounds the eggs, thought that the frog spawn would be an excellent treat for his pupils. He therefore provided them with some, or rather he instructed the frogs themselves to provide them with some, and for this purpose he released a certain number of them into the pool inhabited by the young fish. But as they grew, they needed more substantial food. It was then that he sowed, alongside the trout, other species of smaller, herbivorous fish that grew and maintained themselves at the expense of aquatic plants until they served as food for the trout. Remy had applied to his industry one of those general laws on which the harmonies of creation rest. Fish farming was created.

We have the products and equipment before us: Apparatus for hatching eggs, for rearing alvins, for transporting fish (half a million francs worth of these devices are sold in France every year); salmon ladders built on the Vienne at the Châtellerault dam, floating park for parching molluscs, breeding hives where oyster spat are collected, diving devices for harvesting sponges, corals and pearls; products of the famous Huningue fish farm preserved in alcohol, a beautiful collection of cyprinoids, salmonoids and clupeoids from the Sarthe fish farm, exhibited by the hydraulic service of this department, plans of fish farms, the Breisse fish farm among others. Nearby is the brilliant display of manufacturers of fishing and hunting objects, not including firearms, including pocket pharmacies, cigar boxes and electric mirrors for hunting larks. In the past everything was done by steam, today everything is done by electricity; what other new agent will soon come along? The sale of these accessories produces a round sum of 3 to 4 million francs annually. A thoughtful exhibitor offers us an automatic hunting and fishing system; automatic you mean! just like the Jacquart mechanism. In this ingenious system of hunting and fishing, the fisherman and the hunter are eliminated exactly as the lake shooter and the weaver are in the manufacture of woven fabrics; what progress! and where will the automatism nestle!

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée