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The English Sprat Fishery

Nature volume 142, page 788 (29 October 1938) | Download Citation



THE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries paper by Mr. J. Armitage Robertson on “The Sprat and the Sprat Fishery of England” (Fisheries Investigations. Series 2,16, No. 2) deals with the economic importance of the sprat, the location of the fishery, behaviour and geographical distribution, life-history, age, sex-ratio and food. Even the health of the sprat is treated in a section devoted to 'parasites and disease', from which the sprat seems tolerably immune. The fishery is a localized inshore winter one, confined to the south coast and East Anglian seaboard, and is prosecuted in a variety of ways: by drift nets, stow-nets, trawls and seine nets. The possibility that the shoals are 'driven' shoreward by the incursion during the winter months into the Southern Bight of the North Sea of water of a higher salinity (greater than 35 per mille) than that to which they are accustomed is discussed, but Mr. Robertson is insufficiently convinced by the available data on this point and considers “that these hydrographical conditions and the circumstances of the fishery do not bear the relation of cause and effect, but are merely due to some general and common cause such as 'Winter Conditions' ”. In spite of a Norwegian authority's statement that English sprats are “tough, coarse and unpalatable”, Mr. Robertson finds nothing to support this, and recommends as beneficial both to the fishery and to the country the development of the already existing small sprat-canning industry in Great Britain. English prices vary between 3s. and 16s. per cwt., whereas the average cost of imported canned brisling, mostly from Norway, is £6 13s. per cwt., so that the industry should have an ample working margin.

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