Newfoundland & Labrador Cod Fishery

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, THE EXPLORER JOHN CABOT REPORTED THAT CODFISH RAN SO THICK YOU COULD CATCH THEM BY HANGING WICKER BASKETS OVER A SHIP’S SIDE. HE HAD DISCOVERED THE MOST FANTASTIC FISHING GROUNDS THE WORLD HAD EVER SEEN.

A century after Cabot, English fishing skippers still reported cod shoals “so thick by the shore that we hardly have been able to row a boat through them.” There were six and seven-foot-long codfish weighing as much as 200 pounds. There were great banks of oysters as large as shoes. At low tide, children were sent to the shore to collect 10, 15-even 20-pound lobsters with hand rakes for use as bait or pig feed. Herring, squid and capelin (a small open-water fish seven inches long) spawning runs were so gigantic they astonished observers for more than four centuries. Today, Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishery is limited and over-regulated, as well inland our streams and rivers lie quiet compared to the glory days.

 The settlement of Newfoundland, indeed much of North America, was a byproduct of the pursuit of cod. Properly dried and salted codfish would keep for long periods, an important consideration before refrigeration. It was relatively light and easy to transport. Profitable, transportable and easily marketable, cod would rival South American gold and Caribbean sugar in the New World resource-extraction free-for-all.

Cod fish

The story of the cod’s destruction, however, begins when Newfoundland’s colonial era ends. For the first four centuries after Cabot, Newfoundlanders had little trouble actually finding and catching cod. There were seemingly endless numbers of them. These large, hardy, generic-looking fish are built to last: adaptable, omnivorous and a large female will produce nine million eggs in a single spawning. Atlantic cod survived in their current form for 10 million years, through ice ages and warming spells that changed world sea levels by some 300 feet

Fishermen benefited from the cod’s tendency to congregate in great numbers. When spawning, cod gather in dense clumps of hundreds of millions of fish. Northern and Grand Banks fish spawned on respective portions of the offshore banks, sowing the ocean currents with trillions of eggs. This made it possible for men to catch them in vast numbers with hand lines and, in recent decades, to scoop up entire stocks with enormous nets hauled by trawlers the size of a small ocean liner. For many centuries, though, it was the cod’s next move that put food on the table.

In 1992 a moratorium was announced in Canada that forever changed the landscape of rural Newfoundland & Labrador. Communities were decimated, as the primary source of employment was no more. Alternative and under-utilized species were able to help fishers adapt to losing a stock we fished for centuries. I remember at the age of 12 and 13, cod jigging with my father. I have fond memories of those summer days on the water…memories I will cherish a lifetime.

However, even if left alone, the northern cod may never recover. Industrial technology and human greed may have so decimated these hardy fish that they can no longer hold onto their ecological niche. The crash could be irreversible. What are your thoughts?

Craving Cod….counting down to recreational cod fishery -

CCM

About these ads

About Live Rural NL

I am a youth living in rural Newfoundland & Labrador that will share stories of culture, tradition, heritage, business, travel, geography and other posts relating to any rural. I completed a Bachelor of Commerce Hons. (Coop) degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador. I currently live and work on the Great Northern Peninsula, where I was born and raised. However, I have lived and worked internationally and travelled to more than 30 countries around the globe. On October 11, 2011 I was elected the youngest Member to Represent the people of the Straits -White Bay North in the Provincial Legislature of Newfoundland & Labrador.

Posted on July 17, 2010, in Cuisine, Heritage, History, Tradition and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. If they don’t open the fishery…you will see the cod jumping in the boats soon nevermind the wicker baskets

  2. Hello,
    This is Mia Lee with Korean Broadcasting System.
    I am contacting you regarding the documentary on fish and human history that KBS produces. I am traveling Newfoundland for making a segment about the history of cod fishery in Newfoundland in the end of August.
    Would you please contact me via email, ho4green@gmail.com?
    I need your help for the story.
    THX.
    Mia.

  3. Thank you for your comments. I am glad you have found my blog interesting. Hope you enjoy future articles.

    Cheers,

    CCM

  1. Pingback: Your Garden

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,978 other followers

%d bloggers like this: