CHAPTER VI.--THE FISHERIES.
362. What is most needed in
Newfoundland is the resuscitation first of the deep-sea fishery and, secondly,
of the fall fishery: the revival of these fisheries would add four months to the
intensive fishing season, since fishing could start generally in February or
March instead of in June and would not end until the last week of October or the
middle of November. The inshore trap fishery could be carried on as usual. This
extension of the active season would enable a much larger catch of fish to be
obtained and the increased earnings, if combined with measures to breakdown the
credit system, would offer the average fisherman the prospect of achieving
independence. The country has now sunk so low that the rehabilitation of the
fisheries on a paying basis must be regarded as of immediate and capital
importance and as the first objective of the new administration. Little can
be expected of private enterprise in present conditions, and it falls to the
Government both to indicate the way out of present difficulties and to give the
country a lead which will set the industry on the right road. We fully appreciate
the disadvantages of government participation in matters which would ordinarily be
the care of the trade itself; but seeing that the whole economic structure of the
country rests upon the fisheries, and that the welfare of every Newfoundlander is
linked directly or indirectly, with the well-being of the fishing industry, no
Government of Newfoundland can afford to stand by while the fisherman sinks lower
and lower and the country moves steadily nearer to economic collapse.
Organisation of Fisheries Bureau of Department of Natural Resources Chart.
From Newfoundland Royal Commission 1933 Report (London:
His Majesty's Stationary Office, 1934) 129.
363. We have therefore
worked out an experimental scheme for the resuscitation of the deep-sea and fall
fisheries, which we recommend should receive the urgent consideration of the
Government. It should be understood that this scheme, which is outlined in the
following pages, is based on the data which we have collected in the course of
1. SCHEME FOR THE RESUSCITATION OF THE
DEEP-SEA AND FALL FISHERIES.
(a) Deep-Sea Fishery.
364. It is desirable to
recover much of the ground which has been lost, as far as the prosecution of
the Bank fishery is concerned. While, of course, the steam or motor trawler
is the recognised modern fishing unit, particularly where part or all of the
catch can be sold fresh, and therefore at a fairly remunerative level, there
are two chief reasons why trawlers are, at present at all events, unlikely to
prove superior or equal to schooners as agents for prosecuting the Bank fishery
365. In the first place,
approximately one-fifth only of the Bank area is suitable for trawling. This
area is, on the whole, sandy and smooth; the remainder is rocky or boulder-strewn
and would destroy nets hauled over its surface. Schooners can set their long
lines (locally called "trawls," a misnomer causing some confusion) on practically
any portion of the Banks, and thus have a longer fishing season, as fish can be
followed from one ground to another. Similar considerations apply also to the
Labrador area, almost the whole of which is unsuitable for trawling.
366. Secondly, there is
practically no fresh-fish market open to Newfoundland codfish at the present
time, nor is any such market likely to be available in any near future. Only
saltfish prices can therefore be expected. These are, in general, too low to
justify the overhead costs entailed by working steam trawlers, unless continuously
great catches are obtained, an objective which can only be achieved for part of
the year (the spring in particular) on the Banks. French trawlers obviate this
difficulty by turning to Greenland, Iceland and other prolific grounds such as
the Spitzbergen region, as and when necessary.
367. In these circumstances,
it is considered that schooners, working in groups from single bases, avoiding
dead time in port while awaiting bait and other supplies, and working intensively
on a circuit of the best yielding fishery grounds according to season (e.g., the
Western Banks, Grand Bank, the Straits of Belle Isle, and Labrador), should prove
to be the most economical and remunerative fishing units. In the first instance,
further data on the subject of the possible utilisation of occasional steam
trawlers can be obtained by working the existing vessel, owned by the Government,
in conjunction with the first schooner group.
368. The following is the
outline of the scheme we have in view:--
(1) The object
to be aimed at is the establishment of schooner bases at strategic points, such
as Port Union, Harbour Grace or Carbonear, Bay Bulls, Cape Broyle, St. Mary's,
Burin and Belleoram. (See Map. 5.)
(2) With a view to encouraging the formation of such bases, one of
these points would be selected by the Government and a schooner base established
there for experimental purposes under Government supervision.
(3) The Government would hire or purchase up to twelve schooners of
the large banking type, i.e., about 150 tons, would man them with local crews and
would operate them from the base as a business proposition. A start might be made
with four schooners and the numbers increased gradually. The personnel would be
built up over a period of time selectively and by training. They would be paid
regular wages, and would receive in addition a bonus based on the value of the
(4) Bait and salt depots would be maintained to prevent dead time
between voyages; other supplies for the vessels would be obtained at the best
(5) Curing would be on the centralised plan and would be aided by
(6) The schooners, which would work as a group under the command of
a specially selected Captain, would be assisted in locating the best fishing
grounds from time to time by the scouting cruises and hydrographic work of the
steam trawler Cape Agulhas, whose services for this work are available for the
next two years at least.
(7) It is suggested that, in order that this experiment may be
conducted in conjunction with other experiments which we recommend below, the
base selected should be Bay Bulls and the execution of the scheme be entrusted
to the Director of the Fishery Research Laboratory. Some facilities for curing
and artificial drying and for cold storage of bait already exist at Bay Bulls,
and can be amplified as required.
|Cape Broyle (Southern Shore), 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.
Image description updated May, 2004.