CHAPTER VI.--THE FISHERIES.

I.--DESCRIPTIVE AND EXPLANATORY.

The Cod Fishery.

MARKETING ARRANGEMENTS. (continued)

  290. At the beginning of 1933, all that the fishing industry could show as a result of years of unrestricted individualism, was (1) the loss of first place in the markets for heavy-salted fish and the virtual impoverishment of the Labrador fishery, (2) a severe decline in the Bank fishery, (3) a deterioration in the cure in the shore fishery, as well as in the Bank and Labrador fisheries, (4) the pauperisation of large sections of the population owing partly to the operation of the credit system and partly to a series of years of low prices, (5) an all-round depletion of vessels and gear and deterioration of equipment, (6) an entire absence of organisation or co-operative effort (except in the case of a localised Fishermen's Union to which reference will be made later), (7) the continuance of internal jealousies among exporters, carried to lengths which had the effect of depressing prices in foreign markets and thus in the long run depriving the fisherman of the full reward for his labour, and (8) the absence of suitable local shipping for carrying fish to market, giving rise to the now almost universal practice of chartering Scandinavian vessels for the purpose.

  291. This catalogue of misfortunes, most of which could have been prevented by the exercise of forethought and common sense, to say nothing of business acumen, speaks for itself. It is satisfactory to be able to record that, as a result of measures taken this year by the present Government, machinery has been set up with the object of regularising conditions in the fishing industry and of inducing a measure of co-operation among exporters. A statutory Board, called the "Salt Codfish Exportation Board," has been established with wide powers. The Board may consist of three persons, of whom only one, the Chairman (Mr. D.J. Davies, lately Acting High Commissioner for Newfoundland in London), has so far been appointed. Two important steps have already been taken on the initiative of the Board, (1) the abolition by statutory regulation of the "talqual" system of purchasing fish from fishermen, and insistence on the requirement that all fish should in future be culled or valued, (2) the promulgation of a regulation prohibiting the shipment the shipment of fish to Oporto in any direct steamer except with the written permission of the Board. The Board has established a close liaison with the trade and regular meetings are held with Advisory Committees appointed by the merchants. It has not yet been long enough in operation for any comprehensive measures to be taken for the grading or standardisation of products, or for the regulation of shipments to markets other than Portugal, but it is hoped at least that the need for co-operation among all sections of the industry is now beginning to be realised and that the old practices which have done so much to handicap the progress of the industry will tend gradually to disappear.

STATISTICS.

  292. The following table shows the quantity and value of the annual exports* of salt codfish in the years since the War. We would have wished to include a table showing the prices actually paid to the fishermen by the local merchants in those years, but we have found it impossible to do so since no comprehensive statistics are recorded by any Government Department or other organisation.

EXPORTS OF SALT CODFISH.

Year.
Quantity.
Quintals.
Value.
$
1918-19
1919-20
1920-21
1921-22
1922-23
1923-24
1924-25
1925-26
1926-27
1927-28
1928-29
1929-30
1930-31
1931-32
1932-33
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
1,894,023
1,878,115
1,394,237
1,617,763
1,506,265
1,301,832
1,181,605
1,397,513
1,600,930
1,609,243
1,364,253
1,327,957
1,167,698
1,113,606
1,208,144
25,860,112
23,258,666
13,495,451
11,781,088
10,209,821
8,595,299
10,520,712
12,180,569
12,093,064
11,665,753
11,849,879
11,889,580
7,790,193
5,036,715
5,124,493

Fisheries other than the Cod-Fishery.

  293. Considerable space has been devoted above to the consideration of the cod-fishery, in view of its outstanding importance. Brief reference should, however, be made to the methods of prosecution of subsidiary fisheries.

  294. Salmon are caught in ordinary gill-nets, set from the shore, with or without a pocket or trap at the seaward end. The chief fishery occurs in spring, being earlier in the south than in the north. In any one locality it is of only a few weeks' duration, and it is necessary for the two refrigerated vessels which brine-freeze the major portion of the catches for the United Kingdom market to move gradually northwards with the trend of the fishery. They operate in connection with fast collecting boats, which in turn collect the salmon from the fishermen, bringing it in ice to the mother vessel. A fair quantity of salmon is exported in ice to Canada from the south-western region. In various localities some quantity is still salted in tierces. There is a minor salmon fishery late in each fall, the fish caught going into local consumption.

  295. Lobsters occur chiefly in the south and west, and are fished for by individual fishermen, operating 100 or more traps each. Five hundred licences, more or less, may be issued each year, these empowering fishermen to can lobsters. Lobsters are less plentiful on the Newfoundland than on the Nova Scotian coast, and centralisation of the industry presents peculiar problems not yet solved.

  296. Caplin are caught all round the Island by small cast nets or by small caplin seine nets. This fishery is not vigorously pursued. There are numerous uses (hitherto neglected) to which this prolific fish may be put.

  297. Smelts are caught chiefly by traps on the west coast. On the east coast use is also made of hook and line (through the ice) and of seine nets. The catches are iced for transport to distributing centres.

  298. Halibut are fished for from the western portion of the south coast. Small boats, equipped with hook and line, are utilised, since the grounds lie close inshore. The chief fishery occurs in the late fall, and the catches are mostly despatched in ice to Canada, although small amounts are consigned to St. John's for local consumption.

  299. "Turbot," or Greenland Halibut, are salt-pickled for export to Mediterranean or other European ports. Most of the catch is made by means of line fishing from small boats in Trinity Bay and Notre Dame Bay.

Herring Neck Herring Neck, n.d.
Photo by Holloway. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Larger Version (48 kb)

  300. Herring occur at most parts of the coast in spring and in the fall and are caught chiefly by gill-nets (there is no drift-net fishery) and by herring-seine nets. The local aggregation of large herring shoals each winter in the Bay of Islands region provides the chief organised herring fishery of the Island, but this fishery has never attained a stable position. During recent years the total pack of salt herring has seriously fallen off. The following figures give the total exports of herring since 1915:--

EXPORTS OF HERRING.

Year.
Bulk.

Barrels.
Frozen and
Pickled
.
Barrels.
1915-16
1916-17
1917-18
1918-19
1919-20
1920-21
1921-22
1922-23
1923-24
1924-25
1925-26
1926-27
1927-28
1928-29
1929-30
1930-31
1931-32
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
......................
76,060
33,444
22,163
23,870
13,142
21,856
21,739
18,930
18,387
21,595
20,340
12,831
16,194
16,866
 8,981
 6,091
 4,462
165,527
156,299
193,885
188,499
129,980
 78,232
 93,753
 73,197
 52,833
 40,437
 41,264
 54,908
 48,446
 57,436
 36,740
 39,315
 43,526


  * An estimate of the total annual catch may be arrived at by adding to the above figures 200,000-300,000 quintals, retained for local consumption or exported fresh.


Image description updated May, 2004.



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