Unsung Hero of the N.L. Inshore Fishery

I am aware and many others have spoken of Cabot Martin’s campaign to make sure that our offshore oil would be of great benefit for the people of this province.

Everywhere you go on the Avalon Peninsula there is proof of what was accomplished.

My story is the little-known fight for our most valuable renewable resource, the inshore fishery, although we were worlds apart prior to our first meeting, him being a St. John’s lawyer and me being a humble fisherman.

I met Cabot in the mid-1980s when the inshore fishery was as in trouble. Tom Best and Con O’Brien Sr. started an organization called the Newfoundland Inshore Fisheries Association, which was made up of fishers, plant workers from inshore fish plants and many concerned citizens who knew the value of the inshore fishery and what it meant to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cabot became a part of that organization and put his heart and soul into it, as he did with everything he believed in. I served a few years as vice president when Cabot got elected as president, which he did until the fishery was shut down.

I remember many trips to his office on the fifth floor of the Scotia Building where his office overlooked the St. John’s harbour. I always said he spent more hours working for the fishermen than he devoted to his own business.

There were many outstanding incidents about Cabot’s role to try and save the inshore fishery and space will not allow me to list them all. In April of 1990, Cabot and myself signed a document in the federal court of Canada against the Minister of the Environment for Canada and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada to try to get the Canadian draggers off the cod spawning grounds. We believed the draggers were destroying the cod while they were reproducing. We had one lawyer, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had three, National Sea and FPI had one each. While we were unsuccessful, we were lucky, if we had been awarded court costs, we would have lost everything that we owned, including our homes, but that didn’t faze Cabot.

One other incident I recall was in December 1990, which witnessed the worst landing of cod ever. We went to White Hills to met with DFO and pleaded with them not to open up the fishery for the offshore fleet of draggers until the cod status report was in. They ignored our warnings and in January the offshore fleet started fishing and returned to port empty. They couldn’t find any fish and on July 2, 1992, we all know what happened.

From the time we met 35 years ago, we became friends. We both respected each other and became friends for life and kept in touch over the years.

In 2011, while taking treatment for cancer, he came to the Daffodil Place on several occasions and took me around town and showed me his beloved garden on Waterford Bridge Road. My last contact with him was this year when we marked the 30th anniversary of the cod moratorium, in the same room where John Crosbie announced the closure and where Cabot stopped the boys from beating down the door — his words “this is not the right way.”

I invited him to attend, his reply to me, “I would rather stay home and mourn in my own way.” That was Cabot, he never did forget what happened or forgave the federal Government.

I did see him on many occasions over the years, mostly at funerals and we exchanged Christmas cards for 35 years. Although he is gone, I will value him as one of my most treasured friends and will be forever thankful for what he did for the inshore fishery of this province, a true hero in my books.

Smooth sailing my friend.


Wilfred Bartlett
Conception Bay South

No Replies to "Unsung Hero of the N.L. Inshore Fishery"

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published.