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A Useful Man

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, September 27, 2017
It is easy to stand in the present and cast doubt on the decisions of the past. Yet, we cannot judge the acts of a man born 200 years ago who thought he was improving the world, but in fact started the decline of native wild fish wherever his work was spread. We can argue about the positives and negatives, lamenting a natural world lost to progress. In his day he was a hero. Today, we try to undo the undoable and return things to how they should be. It is a never ending battle we brought upon ourselves.

This was front page news in The Daily Morning Astorian on August 24th, 1888.



A Useful Man   

Seth Green, who died last Sunday, was the first man in this country to attempt, on any important scale, the artificial propagation of fish. He was born in Rochester, N. Y., March 19, 1817. He was educated in the common schools and early showed himself a born naturalist, being passionately fond of hunting, fishing and woodcraft. For many years he was the proprietor of the only fish and game market near his home. 

At the age of 20 he conceived the idea of the artificial propagation of fish, and shortly after, during a trip to Canada, made observation on the habits of salmon. Observing that as soon as the spawn was cast the male salmon and other fish ate it, he devoted his attention to methods of protecting it, and increased the yield of fish till he had increased the product to 95 per cent. In 1864, he discovered a method of artificially impregnating dry spawn, and began the propagation of fish as a business at Caledonia, N. Y. 

In 1867, he experimented on the hatching of shad at Holyoke, on the Connecticut river, and by his improvements hatched in a fortnight's time 15,000,000, and in 1868, 40,000,000. The work was subsequently extended to Hudson, the Potomac, the Susquehanna and other important rivers, where he succeeded in propagating fifteen of the more common species with largely increased products. 

In 1868, he was appointed one of the fish commissioners of New York, and afterwards made superintendent of fisheries in that state. He transported in 1871, the first shad ever taken to California, where that fish is now abundant. He hatched artificially the spawn of about twenty kinds of fish, also hybridizing striped bass with shad, shad with herring, brook trout with salmon trout, brook trout with California salmon trout, salmon trout with whitefish, and European trout with brook trout. 

He invented appliances for use in fish hatching, and wrote several books on the subject. Nearly every state and territory with clear water streams has established fish hatcheries or is the recipient from the government of young fish hatched after Green's method, and he has high claim to be remembered as one of the foremost benefactors of the human race.

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