CHAPTER VI.--THE FISHERIES.
II.--GENERAL REVIEW OF EXISTING SITUATION. (continued)
1. METHODS OF FISHING.
309. (a) Deep
Sea Fishing.--There has been a severe decline in the most adventurous
type of fishing, that by schooners on the Banks. This decline has been
responsible not only for a loss of morale but also for a serious decrease
in the quantity of fish caught in March, April and May, when good drying
weather is often experienced and when much idleness now exists. Contributory
causes of the decline have been lure of easier employment in Canada and the
United States, the attraction of regular work in railway construction prior
to the War and in road construction after the War, the high price of outfits
and the dead time waiting for bait. Lack of apprenticeship or training in
navigation among the rising generation and the time wasted in locating the
best fishing grounds, which vary from year to year, are also factors which
have contributed to the decline.
Shore-Fishing.--Most of Newfoundland's total catch is now obtained
by traps in-shore. This method attracts the fisherman, as bait is not
required, large catches are frequently made, and the work is carried on
during the best summer weather. The outfit is, however, expensive, and,
as traps are stationary and fishermen usually ballot for stations, catches
are necessarily speculative. This method of fishing has the additional
disadvantage of restricting the active fishing season to a very few weeks
of the year, and within these weeks most of the catch may be taken in a few
days. It is difficult for a fisherman and his family to handle fish properly
in such large quantities, and the fish frequently have to remain in
"salt-bulk," until they can receive attention, for an undesirably long
311. (c) The
Labrador Fishery.--This is prosecuted by "floaters," i.e., schooners of
50-70 tons, mostly proceeding from ports on the east coast and visiting the
Labrador coast for a month or two each summer; and by "stationers," i.e.,
individual fishermen conveyed to the Labrador coast by coastal steamers and
fishing from the shore in the same manner as the shore-fishermen in
Newfoundland. The fishery is of great importance in that it is responsible
for about one-fifth of the total catch, and one-quarter of the total exports
of the Island. The product is heavy-salted but there has been a deterioration
in the cure partly because of a tendency to use too little salt, and partly
because attempts to dry the fish in situ have been accommodated by unsuitable
climatic and other conditions.
||Red Bay, Labrador, n.d.
Photographer unknown. 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.
312. (d) The
Fall Fishery.--This takes place all over the Island and is usually
prosecuted by motor-boats using bultows. Unfortunately, this fishery
frequently fails owing to lack of bait. Small boats with hand lines also
prosecute this fishery; while jiggers may also be used.
313. (e) The
Winter Fishery.--This fishery, prosecuted on the Banks off the western
portion of the south coast, is of small proportions.
314. Facilities for
curing are, on the whole, inadequate, chiefly owing to lack of running
water for washing, and of apparatus for artificial drying. There has been
much controversy in the Island as to the merits of artificial drying but,
while it may be conceded that fish cured with care in good drying weather
cannot be equalled by fish cured artificially, yet the fact remains that in
the absence of facilities for artificial drying the quality of the cure is
dependent on the vagaries of the weather. It cannot be doubted that if
apparatus for artificial drying were available in each outport for use in
damp seasons or in bad curing weather, the standard of cure would be achieved.
The average air humidity in Newfoundland is well above normal, and thorough
drying of fish frequently proves difficult or impossible. Moulds or bacterial
infections are apt to result. The use of artificial drying as an aid to
out-door drying would save the fishermen from these anxieties.
315. The salt used in
curing is mostly sea-salt, imported mainly from Cadiz and from Turks Island.
It was formerly the practice for salt imported one year to be used the next.
This is not now done and the suggestion has been made that in many instances
the salt supplied to the fishermen has not been mature. In any case, however,
sea-salt is more liable than mineral salt to carry bacterial infection.
Mineral salt is sometimes used, usually being imported either from Hamburg or
Malagesh, Nova Scotia, and it would seem that this practice might be extended
with advantage. An essential requisite is, however, that the premises and
utensils of fish-curers and fish-exporters should be kept clean. Unless this
is done, even mineral salt cannot be kept free from bacterial
316. It was sometimes
urged by witnesses that it was essential if uniformity of cure and
standardisation of product was to be achieved that the occupations of
catching and curing should be kept separate, i.e., that the men who caught
the fish should not be expected to take part in the curing, this operation
being undertaken by shore-workers. To enable this principle to be maintained,
it was suggested that curing stations should be set up round the coast, at
first in all important fishery centres, and later at such intervals as would
allow of the absorbtion of the total catch. If this were done, the fishermen
would have nothing to do but catch fish, the fish when caught being sold
"green," i.e., fresh from the sea and unsalted, to the curing stations to be
cured. Such stations would be equipped with apparatus for artificial drying,
and a greatly improved cure would result.
317. The suggestion is
attractive but we regret that, after careful consideration, we have come to
the conclusion that, so far as the shore-fishery is concerned, it is
impracticable--at any rate under present conditions. Had the fishery
been more compact, the establishment of such stations would doubtless
have been an economic proposition; but spread, as the fishery is, over
some thousands of miles of coast-line and limited, as the present season
is, to a few short weeks in the summer, the cost involved in the construction
and the upkeep of such stations, and the very short intervals at which
stations would be required if the fish were to arrive at them in fresh
condition, would make the expenditure prohibitive. Nor do we feel that
any useful purpose would be served by the erection of such stations at the
principle shore-fishing centres, since the fish would mostly be brought in
with a rush in two or three weeks of the year, and would require, if it was
to be properly handled, a large and specially engaged staff, some acres of
"flakes" or "stages," and a large-scale artificial dryer. Any advantage
which might be gained in these circumstances in the direction of uniformity
of cure might be off-set by the additional expense involved, with the result
that the price paid to the fisherman for his fresh fish would be so low that
he would be compelled to make a large additional catch if he was to make both
ends meet. While feeling unable, however, to support this suggestion, we
shall indicate later other directions in which the existing system might be
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