Blog Archives

Clotheslines of Cod on the Great Northern Peninsula

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Typically cod would be drying on flakes or neatly spread on flat rocks near the beach, but more and more often the cod fish can be seen drying like clothes on the line. It’s a sign of the ever changing times in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cod jigging is part of growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. The implementation of the cod moratorium in 1992 caused 30,000 people in the province to lose their employment, basically overnight, ending 500 years of this fishing activity. Our communities were forever changed.

25 years later, there are signs of a Northern cod recovery. The impact it will have on our communities are yet to be seen.

Each summer though, residents and non-residents take to the water off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador to catch a few cod by participating in Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)’s Recreation Cod Fishery, which we often call the food fishery. Cod is an important staple for residents and many catch their quota of 5 fish per day over the course of a 46 day fishery between July and September.

I never miss the opportunity to go jigging. There is something about being on the water close to your home, pulling in the fish and being able to deliver it to your table that gives you a sense of belonging to this place we call home. Knowing where your food comes from is important. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians always had a strong connection to the land and sea and I believe we always will.

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Our communities are still very traditional, our communities are resilient and we have opportunities to share our culture, traditions and way of life with the world. There are authentic unique experiences in our rural communities just waiting for you.

From sea or farm to plate is an ever growing concept, which has always been the way for our outports. A rabbit snared, partridge hunted, garden potatoes, carrots pulled or fresh fish would be served up at the dinner table. Taking these concepts to our local restaurants for tourists is an opportunity.

Also, to tell the story of who caught it, how it was caught, where, who prepared it, the recipes and the process are all part of adding real value. Sharing our unique culture with the world is what is requested. I believe we have exceptional opportunity to do just that.

Our communities, like others do not remain stagnant, we will always change and evolve over time. Our traditions and values remain core to who we are, whether we  spread fish on flakes or hang  them on the line, we have a strong sense of where we belong.

Experience the Great Northern Peninsula!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows and Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development

 

The Story of the Golden Cod as Folk Artist Ben Ploughman Celebrates 20 Years

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Ben Ploughman of Port au Choix on the Great Northern is a self-taught folk artist that has made his mark on the industry. His unique pieces are made partly from recycled lobster trap laths that showcase individual hand-carved characters depicting an authentic story of the way of living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Much of his work focuses on the fishery, stemming from the collapse of the Atlantic cod fish with a moratorium in 1992. In fact, when I met Ben he was speaking with visitors about the five fish he had drying on a flake outside his studio.

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Ploughman’s work challenges the mind of locals, politicians and those that are not from here about big policy matters and critical events such as the impact of the cod fishery collapse, rural population decline and a shift towards an economy based on oil and what that could mean for the outports.

I’ve seen Ben’s work even depicted on the walls of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans office suite in Ottawa at the DFO building when the All-Party Committee on Northern Shrimp met with Minister Shea in May. He had told me those were some of his earlier works, when Provincial MHA and Tourism Minister Chuck Furey worked with Federal Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin to showcase artwork by artists from Newfoundland & Labrador. There are several works by other artists displayed on the walls of DFO, but it does my heart good to know there are multiple pieces from the Great Northern Peninsula. His work is also found at a number of local businesses such as the Anchor Cafe, Port au Choix and Lightkeeper’s Cafe, St. Anthony and an exhibit at Ocean View Motel, Rocky Harbour in the heart of Gros Morne National Park.

Ben took the time to show me around his studio, a very inspiring place to work – to create. This artist is pretty visionary, not only in his art but what he has tried to do to advance the tourism industry. He created a Museum of Whales and Things. After several years of operations, the museum faced a multitude of challenges to ensure the right balance of his time for creating art but also to give time to those inquiring about the displays. After touring the Whales and Things Museum space it is clear, Ben has a significant opportunity to create a gallery in this space – highlighting his work over the years. He has so many pieces that are not on public display and therefore do not have the opportunity to be sold. A gallery creates more opportunities for him and local business to attract more tour groups and visitors, adding to tourism and regional product development.

In his studio, Ben creates a space for people to become involved and understand his folk art and the process. He has an easel set-up where people can be hands on and create their own story like “Got Me Moose by'” or “Habs win Cup” and “Leafs try their hand at Golf” (as you likely guessed, I’m a Habs fan! [Third Generation]).

The famed CBC “Land and Sea” came to Ben’s Studio to hear his story of his art process using recycled lobster laths. This gave Ben a broader platform to tell his story and showcase his art. He’s also hosted an Exhibit at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. We talked about him finding a restaurant or gallery in the St. John’s marketplace, as well in Fort McMurray where those with an affinity to rural Newfoundland and Labrador congregate.

Additionally, Ben’s Studio is “HOME OF THE GOLDEN COD” – it’s story and the 125 lb piece with a $2.2 Million price tag is exclusively available for viewing in Port au Choix.

I encourage you to connect with Folk Artist Ben Ploughman, as he does commission pieces and ships his products anywhere around the world.

Ben’s Studio
Ben J. Ploughman
P.O. Box 264
Port Au Choix, NL
Canada  A0K 4C0

Phone/Fax: (709)861-3280
Web Site: http://www.bensstudio.ca
E-mail: benjploughman@hotmail.com

Ben Ploughman has many more ideas, such as a book explaining with images two decades of his folk art. I look forward to him pursuing them as he has exceptional potential to further elevate his artwork and tell the stories of Newfoundland and Labrador. His creative work of 20 years needs to be continuously told and a constant reminder of who we are and where we are going. Ben in his art has earned his place in the cultural history books of what is rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

My Quest for Cod – Just 5 Fish…

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As Eddie Coffey would say, yesterday was a “Grey Foggy Day”. I woke up to a dense fog, thick clouded sky and not a draft a wind. Although, I could hear the little motorboats gradually leave the wharf in my tiny little fishing village of Green Island Cove. As the afternoon approached, it was clear that today was the day to participate in the recreational cod or what in Newfoundland and Labrador is commonly referred to as the food fishery.

A few weeks each summer the Feds designate a time when Newfoundlander’s and Labradorians can take to the water and catch just five fish per person, per day with a maximum of 15 per boat if there are three or more people in each boat. The concept of the food fishery and the heavy regulations are a constant frustration of rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

My father was a commercial fisher. In fact, everyone ancestor down my family line on my father’s side was a fisher, stemming all the way back to Southern England. My father and I would go out fishing post-moratorium (post-1992) for a few weeks each summer to fish a nominal quota allocated to commercial fishers capped at a few thousand pounds per week until the overall quota was caught. Since his passing, my only option to catch my five cod like everyone else, as I’m the only person in my family line that never had the option of becoming a fisherman.

As a politician, I constantly speak with fishers and hear their frustrations with the lack of communication in Ottawa regarding our fishery. I hear how abundant the cod is and how much larger they are and this was solidified yesterday when I took to the water to catch my own five fish.

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There is a sense of belonging each time I’m on the water. It is certainly in my blood to continue to practice our traditional ways of culture, heritage and way of rural living. One of the reasons I left Edmonton to return to Newfoundland was to be close to the water.

We did not go far to catch our cod, just off Green Island – it is the small piece of land in which our community is named. After a little while tugging on the line, we hooked some – in fact, I got a double!

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There were many little fishing boats all around us, including the blowing sound of a whale. The fish were full of herring and caplin. The fish and whale were feasting! It did not take too long to catch our 10 fish, we got 5 a piece and they were some size! I remember jigging with Dad some 17 years ago, but the cod were not as large as these – only a scattered one would the size depicted below.

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Cod fish are larger, more abundant and it appears no one is listening. How can it be that so few nets are being used and commercial cod quotas are being filled in days? It’s beyond time to focus on how Newfoundland and Labrador deals with a return of the cod. Iceland has been quite success with their cod fishery and it continues to evolve.

Up on the wharf we showed our catch, gutted the cod, kept the britches and looked forward to a meal. Until we get change at the Federal level, Newfoundlander’s and Labradorian’s will be forced to take a paltry five fish a day.

Something has to change, because 5 fish does not cut it for a resource that sustained us for more than 500 years.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

BREAKING: Caplin Rolling in Green Island Cove, NL Today! #caplinroll2015

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It’s not every day the caplin come to shore in my home town of Green Island Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula. It created a lot of buzz, with residents as far as Anchor Point, some 25 KM to the south making the drive to get a feed of fresh caplin. It was awesome to see my Aunt and Uncle there, who are visiting from Edmonton, Alberta. They were saying the last time they saw the caplin rolling, their kids were home and just as excited as those on the beach today!

As I watched my younger cousin rushing to fill his bucket. I remember being a young boy with my father on the beach as the caplin rolled about two decades ago. I worked hard with the dip net to fill a couple of five gallon buckets, rushing just like the boys on the beach today. My great great aunt Lavinia was on the beach too, in her mid-seventies at the time, dad said to me lets help Aunt Lavinia fill her bucket. She always remembered that day and so have I, we talked about it often when I visited. She had a sharp memory, right to her final days – she lived to be 98.

The caplin rolling are good signs! We continue to hear reports of an abundance of cod! #caplinroll2015!

It’s exciting times to be living on the Great Northern Peninsula. Now for a feed of caplin 🙂

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Delectable Seafood Dishes served at Lightkeeper’s Cafe, St. Anthony, NL

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The Lightkeeper’s Cafe is perched on the edge of Fishing Point, St. Anthony, NL overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is a whale watchers and iceberg hunters paradise as the restaurant has a beautiful view with many glass windows. Lightkeeper’s has been recommended in Where to Eat in Canada year over year and is known for its delectable seafood dishes of chowder, fish cakes and pan or deep fried fish meals.

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The salted fish cakes with scrunchions and pickles were a perfect appetizer, as is the seafood chowder with exceptionally generous portions of fish.

One never goes wrong with deep-fried or pan fried cod. I opted for the halibut dish on this visit (depicted in the gallery below), it was so wonderfully prepared.

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I was impressed to see Ben Poughman of Port au Choix’s art hanging on the wall. I would highly recommend this restaurant when visiting St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula. It has the perfect location, great atmosphere, superb staff and delectable seafood dishes that caters to those craving something authentic and local.

If seafood is not your thing, you can also dine in the only sod hut restaurant in North America, enjoying Viking Dinner Theatre and a Great Viking Feast next door!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

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