The Crisis of Our Lifetime

I grew up in the schooner days when cod was king, after being absent for a while.

I returned to the fishery in 1976 and cod was still king. In reference to cod, it was called fish and is still today by the people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

The year 1990 was a disastrous time — we lost our cod and turbot after long years of fishing on the spawning grounds by Canadian and foreign draggers. In the winter of 1991, the Canadian draggers went to the Grand Banks looking for cod and came back empty. Later that year, Canada called a moratorium on the Northern cod stocks, and it was to be shut down for two years.

More than 30 years after the moratorium, the Northern cod stocks are at a fraction, about five per cent, of what it was, and it took us 500 years to destroy it.

About 95 per cent of our coastal communities were settled because of cod. From 1951–1985, our coastal communities grew in leaps and bounds with the fresh fish trade and the introduction of the longliner fleet, which allowed fishermen to fish further afield and in deeper waters where cod, turbot, redfish, flounder, etc… were abundant.

For a while, rural N.L. prospered, but with all the pressure on the fish stocks and fishing on the spawning grounds and a large influx of foreign factory freezer trawlers, it was bound to fail, despite cries from our people, this was bound for failure — none of our politicians paid any attention. As I heard one scientist say, “we can’t fish out the ocean,” how wrong they were.

Jump ahead 30 years later and we are at the same stage where we were when the moratorium was called, and it seems our N.L. government and the Canadian government do not seem to care. Newfoundland and Labrador is in the crisis of our lifetime. In my 85 years, this is the worst I’ve ever seen.

Here in N.L., one party wants to be nice to Ottawa so we can get a few scraps and we all know how that works. Another wants to go to Ottawa and fight for joint management and put pressure on government to try to get our life back in rural N.L. I believe it can be done, but we have to want to do it and by working together with the advice of the people who work in the industry, it can be done.

We owe it to our rural communities, our children and most of all to a hungry world. Where else can we get such a rich protein food than the wild fish that grow in this natural environment?


Wilfred Bartlett
Green Bay South, N.L.


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