Marine Resources Use
As a minimum, permanent settlement required a resource base that permitted year round
habitation by a population whose exploitation capabilities was determined by knowledge,
experience and technology. Community location and size, subsequent growth rates, levels of
economic complexity and standards of living, in turn, were determined largely by the quality,
quantity and diversity of local resources. For several centuries after 1500 Europeans migrated
annually to Newfoundland and Labrador for cod, but it was not until other resources, notably
salmon, seals and fur, were exploited commercially in conjunction with cod that a resident
population took hold.
Newfoundland sealing vessel, Carino in whelping patch off
southern Labrador, March 1972.
© 1972, C. W. Sanger.
Early in the 18th century landsmen sealing (sealing carried out from land bases using nets and
small boats) became an important winter activity in the more northerly areas of the island. It was
especially important in the expansion of sedentary settlement in areas adjacent to the migratory
route of the harp seal. Later in the 18th century a more capital-intensive seal hunt using larger
vessels developed offshore, which had a far greater economic impact than did the landsmen
While a seasonal Basque whale fishery flourished on the Labrador side of the Strait of Belle Isle
during the 16th century, commercial whaling in Newfoundland and Labrador did not evolve until
the late 1890s. Altogether, 21 shore-based whaling stations processed almost 20,000 whales.
Each of these factories had a strong influence on local communities.
Post-card: Blue whale on factory slipway, Cape Broyle,
Newfoundland ca. 1912.
© 1998, C. W. Sanger.
The seasonal wages earned in sealing and whaling became an important source of income for
many families to supplement their earnings from other activities such as cod fishing.
© C.W. Sanger, 1998