Should Newfoundlanders and Labradorians be Allowed to Catch a Cod to Put on the Table?

I just celebrated my 88th birthday and remember growing up in the fishing community of Lushes Bight.

I went fishing and sealing with my grandfather when I got old enough to handle a set of paddles. He taught me how to fish.

We could fish anything in the ocean without any restrictions or a licence for 500 years. We did no damage to the ocean, then we entered Confederation and Canada took control of the largest fisheries in the world off our coast and manage it they did. We saw what happened in 1991 and 33 years later we are still arguing over what right the citizens of this province have to catch a fish to eat.

We are limited to 39 days a year which, in my opinion, is disgraceful while the foreign factory freezers are out in our water 24/7, 365 days a year doing what they like. For a while we were not allowed to catch a fish to eat while the cod was opened up for the commercial fishery.

Many of us were getting frustrated. Our God-given right that we had for 500 years to catch a fish to eat was denied us by someone in Ottawa.

The late Jim Morgan, a former Fisheries Minister, myself and others, decided to fight back and formed an organization called Rural Rights and Boat Owners Association of N.L. and started a protest food fishery and I ended up in court. The next year, under the leadership of Loyola Hearn, Fisheries Minister in Ottawa, we got a food fishery and have had one ever since, though not very satisfactory.

I have had many conversations with people all over this province who stated, “why can’t we have the season open all summer?” We would not catch any more fish, pick a nice day on the water, go and enjoy it with your family, get a couple of fish to eat and when they are gone, get a few more.

Every time the recreational fishery comes up there is opposition from the Fisheries Union, its members by the way, many are the first ones on the ocean. It is a resource that belongs to the citizens of Canada, a public resource that Gus Etchegary stated many times and should be treated the same.

I have spent many days on the ocean in a food fishery and also as a commercial fisherman; some of the best days of my life. I have also stated many times you cannot do any harm to the fish in the ocean with a single hook over the side of the boat. In my years of fishing, I have fished from the Grand Banks to North of Nain, a thousand nautical miles and most of my fishing was for cod in deep water 150–200 fathoms.

The people in speed boats could only fish on the inshore grounds in approximately 30 fathoms deep. The Union talks about the number of boats on the fishing grounds is numerous when the food fishery is opened, so what they are only fishing on a small area of the vast fishing grounds, I would compare it to a sea gull pitching on Grand Lake.

We have a vast ocean around this province and the cod is making a recovery. We have a small population and only a small percentage take part in the food fishery, it is part of our heritage and we have the right to use and not abuse. Don’t punish everyone for the sins of a few.

In my opinion, the food fishery or recreational fishery, what ever you call it, should be opened to this province for the entire summer.

I am supporting Graham Wood’s petition for the recreational cod fishery to be opened every day for three months and opened to all visitors to our fair province. It would give a boost to our tourism industry, show our hospitality and let other people know and enjoy the pleasure of being on the ocean and the pleasure of catching a cod. Let our people pick the time to go on the ocean, not someone in Ottawa who know very little of the province of N.L. and its people.

I have spent many days on the ocean since I retired trying to catch a fish to put on the table when it wasn’t fit to go out in boat taking a chance I shouldn’t have to. There are many, many days there are no fish to catch. They have tails and have a vast ocean to swim in and we can only catch them when they are on the grounds.

Looking forward for our politicians to do the right thing.

 

Wilfred Bartlett
Conception Bay South, N.L.

 

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