This letter is in response to an article in the August 2023, Navigator Magazine by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) entitled Labrador Discovery, Scientists Find Something Unexpected in the Labrador Sea.
A recent discovery has shown why DFO scientists have discovered a hotspot of corals and sponges near Makkovik, Labrador.
The research for this coral and sponge hotspot started two years ago when Joey Angnatok, a Nunatsiavut fish harvester, thought he had discovered a seamount while fishing crab.
This story is based on an expedition in 2021 on the Canadian Coast guard ship Amundsen.
In 1980, I was captain of a fishing vessel, Nancy Bartlett, that fished the Labrador Coast until 1990 in the Makkovik area. I gave up that year because you couldn’t get one to eat because the ocean had gone barren two years before the 1992 cod moratorium.
The area they found corals and sponges was the area I fished extensively (every inch) from the day I started until the last trip. I was catching corals and sponges in my fishing gear and many are on display at my home on Triton Island. In fact, I had some on display at an Environmental Network meeting in St. John’s approximately 30 years ago.
But back then, no one gave much attention to the ocean or what was in it, especially the managers of our oceans, which we gave to Canada, as is proven by the moratorium in 1992 and not much has changed since. My collection of corals and sponges was photographed a few years ago by DFO.
I only fished in that spot once, but it was not a sea mount, but a very steep cliff with a very deep hole and was destructive on fishing gear. But all over the area that I fished there were many corals and sponges and the only reason they were there was the bottom was too rough for the bottom draggers and would ruin their gear. The last year I fished on the Grand Banks, there were no corals or sponges and the bottom like a gravel pit.
While fishing off the coast of Labrador, there were many species of plant life and corals on the ocean floor, as well as different fish species and insects I didn’t know existed.
This letter is not to discredit anything in that article, but to provide some facts.
DFO ended the article with this statement, “they are excited to share this discovery,” which just goes to show once again Labrador is a special place both on land and under the sea. I found that out my first year in Makkovik.
I have a sister, her husband and her son and grandson laid to rest in Labrador. I spent many fishing seasons in Labrador and always referred to it as my second home, a place I got to love very much.
It’s a very important place in the ecosystem and must be nurtured and brought back to life or we will never return our ocean to its full potential, and we have to do it for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Conception Bay South