There’s Giant Cod Fish Out There…

We are moving into 21 years and a cod moratorium remains.  A decision that has forever altered the way of life in rural Newfoundland & Labrador, especially the smallest of communities.

The closure of the cod fishery in 1992 was to be temporary, yet remains today. It has led to mass out-migration. I was only 6 years old when the cod moratorium came into effect and can certainly recall many families leaving, businesses closing and loss of services. In 1991, the province’s population was 568,000, in 2011 the population dropped to 514,000 – a net loss of 54,000 people or more than 10% of current population, according to Statistics Canada.

The Great Northern Peninsula has been greatly impacted, as the fishery remains today the backbone of our local economy. The loss of population, especially youth and young families adversely impact the amount of tax base available and will push our smaller communities into greater decline. The lack of youth as part of our demographics means we must press our seniors to continue to be committed volunteers longer. These youth that would become community leaders, create new community programs and social offerings or start a business are lost to more urban centres and other provinces that offer high-paying jobs.

Since the first Mitchelmore came from England, they have been fishers. I am the first generation, like my cousins that did not have the option to continue a profession our family has engaged for centuries. Where will this lead rural Newfoundland & Labrador? There are cod in our waters, no question. I could see for myself this summer in communities such as Englee, St. Lunaire-Griquet and Sandy Cove as large cod-fish were landed via small commercial quota or caught in the recreational cod fishery.

CBC Reported: Cod comeback seen off Newfoundland – click for article

In September, I captured this photo at a fish market in Iceland.


As you can see there are certainly giant cod out there.

We need to have a serious conversation about the future of the cod fishery and the role it will play in rural renewal…

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North


  1. Chris,

    The cod are back.

    I have spoken with fishers from Conche, Bonvisitia and English Harbour West and they can attest that the cod are back. The problem is that the Federal Government (ie. the Harper Govt) are keeping them in reserve as part of the European-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA). The plan, as always, is to trade off OUR fish for Central Canada trade.

    It is my understanding that when we had our own Fishers Board our fishery resources were well managed.

    I am of the opinion that the only way that cod and all other species are managed to OUR benefit is to take back total control of our fishery. I do not think that even shared management will work.

    When we do, we should implement Community quotas (ie. If there is a plant in say St. Anthony, then that town would own the quota). If the company that is fishing the quota goes out of business or moves out of town, then the quota stays with the town for another company or cooperative to fish.

    The Cod are back but hands off to the Newfoundlanders.

    1. Hi Wayne –

      A pleasure meeting you recently and thank you for this comment. I agree that cod fish are certainly rebounding and we must have a plan to best manage our resources. Community quotas are certainly an option, as well, there are other economic models such as royalty regimes with companies, co-operatives and buying clubs.

      I like the SABRI model and how they help foster economic development for 17 communities on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.

      Cheers –


  2. Hi Chris. In 1992 I was seconded to the Department of Education as one of the distance education teachers. In the years that followed, among other places, I had students at Cook’s Hr., Gunner’s Cove, Conche, Main Brook, West Ste. Modests, St. Lewis, Mary’s Hr., Red Bay and Charlottetown. That was right in the thick of the worst of it. The students would tell me, daily, of how it was impacting them. From year to year it was not hard to see how the communities were getting smaller and smaller as the young people moved away. While I look fondly on those years–they were likely the happiest ones of my professional career–they were not happy times for the communities. But time marches on and nothing had dulled my faith in my fellow country-people. It’s a struggle but I am and will always be confident on our strength and ability to thrive. We have fought hard to live here and we will not let go…

    1. Hi Maurice – Thank you for sharing your personal experience of the moratorium in relation to the Great Northern Peninsula. We have certainly changed drastically in population size since 1992. A place like Cook’s Harbour today has only 76 people. We must continue to diversify our economy on the Great Northern Peninsula, attract new families and re-visit how we operate a cod fishery in light of current research. We will continue to raise our concerns.

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