p. 2163N

No. 915.


Now, as we have already attributed the absolute ownership of the sea and sea-shore to the King, ab origine, it might be thought that the above perquisites are absolutely his own, and grantable exclusively to any one of his subjects. But according to the acknowledged law of the land, although the King is owner of this great waste, yet the common people of England have regularly a liberty of fishing in the sea, and creeks and arms thereof, and in navigable rivers within the tides, as a public common of piscary.
This public or general right of fishing in the sea, claimed by the subject, is a beneficial privilege enjoyed by British subjects, time out of mind. Whether, in fact, it was originally a public grant from the King, or whether it was a reservation by the people of such right, when they vested the rest of the property of the sea in him or whether it be one of those natural and necessary rights which, like the air we breathe, has ever been free and unquestioned in enjoyment, is immaterial ; for the conclusion is the same ; viz. that such right of fishing has immemorially belonged to, and been enjoyed by the public, and that, in point of title, it is admitted to be held and enjoyed by the common right i.e. by the common law, and custom of the Realm.

The public right, or common of piscary, claimed and allowed by the common law to the people of England in the sea, extends, not only over the open sea, but over all bays, creeks, ports, havens, arms of the sea, and tide-rivers, up to the reach of the tide, and also, as it would seem, over and upon the sea-shore itself, for such kinds of fish as are usually caught upon the rocks, and sands of the coast. But in some cases, statute law has set bounds to the exercise of this right., in respect of seasons, particular kinds of fish, and manner of fishing. There are also other excepted case s ; viz. where private individuals or Corporate bodies claim and enjoy a separate fishery, in some particular places, in derogation and exclusion of the general right.



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