Animals living on the sea bottom in shallow water and along the shore supply both food and commercial materials. Invertebrates used for food in the Pacific include spiny lobsters or crayfish, crabs, shrimps, clams, oysters, prawns, and other shellfish. The sea cucumber, an echinoderm, is dried, and under the name of trepang or bêche-de-mer is esteemed by the Chinese for making soup. The roe of the spiny sea urchin is eaten as a delicacy by some people. Spiny lobsters are taken for South American markets in the Juan Fernandez and Galapagos Islands. The king crab, true crabs, and shrimp are canned for market in Alaska. Crabs and shrimp are also marketed in quantity from the coasts of Korea, Japan, and Siberia. Clams, mussels, abalones, conchs, and periwinkles are used for food, and the canning of clams is important in the Pacific Northwest. The coconut crab is eaten by many tropical islanders. Oysters are grown for market in Puget Sound, Willapa Bay, Coos Bay, and Gray's Harbor in the Pacific Northwest, and in coastal waters of Japan and Australia. The octopus is relished by Japanese, Hawaiians, and many other peoples.
Seaweed is eaten by Japanese and Polynesians and also serves as fertilizer and for other purposes. The Hawaiians are reported to have eaten about seventy different varieties of limu (seaweed).
Pearls come mainly from shellfish called oysters, though they are not true members of that species of animal. In the Pacific, pearl fishing is carried on in shallow waters near northern Australia, the lagoons of atolls, in the Tuamotus, and around other islands. In Japan the raising of culture pearls is a skilled industry. Pearl shell is collected from several species of mollusks, mainly pearl oyster, green snail, and trochus shell, living in shallow water near tropical Pacific islands and is shipped by the ton to be manufactured into pearl buttons or toilet articles or used for decorative purposes. Tortoises are caught both for food and their shells, which are made into many small articles. Coral is sold for souvenirs and decorative purposes. Shells of Tridacna (a giant clam), some of which are 2 or 3 feet long, were formerly used on the low islands along with shark's teeth and pieces of human bone for the making of implements because no stone harder than the soft coral was available. The high islands had hard basaltic rock from which better tools and weapons could be made by a people in the stone age of culture.
Commercial fishing is carried on in only certain parts of the Pacific, and it is very probable that other fishing grounds can be discovered and extensively utilized. The anadromous (ascending rivers to spawn) salmon are caught in the lower courses of rivers and near shores of North America from Oregon to Alaska and in Siberia. They are marketed fresh, frozen, smoked, salted, and canned. The halibut fisheries are located on offshore banks from Washington to the Gulf of Alaska. Pilchards (sardines) and herring are often found in enormous schools and are taken in quantity in this same area along with cod, mackerel, and other fish. Sharks are prized for their livers, which are high in vitamins and are a substitute for cod-liver oil. Tuna are caught at sea from off Oregon to Central America, and are canned at Astoria, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Monterey. Tuna are also found in the central Pacific and are canned in a small way in Honolulu, and a cannery is planned for Samoa. Investigations of the tuna and other fisheries of the Micronesian areas governed under trust by the United States are now in progress. Fisheries near Japan are among the most valuable in the Pacific and are important to the food supply and economy of that country.
Fisheries in the southern hemisphere are little developed. Those near Australia, New Zealand, Peru, and Chile supply only small quantities of fish for local consumption, but it is believed that they are capable of considerable expansion.
Among the tropical islands there are hundreds of species of fish, many of which are brilliantly colored, but the number of any one species is so limited that the quantity that can be taken in a day is small. In contrast the cold-water areas of the Pacific may have few species, but they are found in enormous schools that permit large catches by nets and traps. The abundance of plankton and other fish food accounts for this abundance of fish. As a result most of the commercial fish caught for market are secured near the coasts in the north Pacific. There may or may not be a lack of fish in tropical waters, but most of those caught near islands are for local food and few are processed for export. Swordfish, sailfish, marlin, and dolphin are caught in the Pacific both for food and sport. Flying fish are common in tropical waters.
There are many species of whales, some of which are the largest living mammals, and several species of these creatures (sperm, black, right, humpback, and blue, sometimes 100 feet long) were once widely distributed in the Pacific but are now rare in the low latitudes and are captured mainly in the cold waters of the southern ocean. Norwegians lead in the whaling industry.
Warm-blooded mammals in the Pacific include sea elephants or elephant seals, sea lions, seals, walrus, dolphins, and porpoises, besides whales. The big gentle sea elephants are easily slaughtered by man, who makes oil from their blubber, and they now survive in only a few localities such as the Auckland Islands in the south Pacific. Closest to the United States is the herd on the Mexican-owned Guadeloupe Island west of Baja California. Once they were numerous in South Georgia and South Orkney Islands, and there were also herds in the Bering Sea area that have long been exterminated.
Sea lions live along the Pacific coast from California to Alaska and are also found in the south Pacific. The fur seal is really a sea lion. The fur seals were once common in both the north and the south Pacific, but the only remaining herd of large size is that which resorts during the summer to the fog-bound Pribilof Islands in Bering Sea for its breeding grounds. The southern fur seal was originally widely distributed, but only a few small herds survive.