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CONSIDERATIONS ON THE RIGHTS AND INTERESTS
OF ADVENTURERS IN THE LABRADOR FISHERIES.*
BY LIEUT. JOHN CARTWRIGHT.
(Sent to Lord Dartmouth.)
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78. When Labrador first came into our hands and the arrangements we have spoken of took place, it still required some consideration and prudence to be able to turn this acquisition to the best account. Having already as extensive a fishery in Newfoundland, as we could well occupy, it was not immediately apparent by what means we should avail ourselves of those of Labrador. We there found a few Canadians scattered along the coast in the gulph of St. Lawrence, and along the Straits of Bellisle, who carried on the Seal and salmon fisheries: and we understood besides, that the french had occasionally fished for cod from a few particular parts. The prospect of meeting other salmon streams along the unoccupied parts of the coast was encouraging, and the sealing posts, affording specimens of a fishery which depended not upon the accident of there being fresh water rivers, and in all probability abounding more and more in proportion as we should advance towards the north, promised no inconsiderable returns to the adventurer: but the informations concerning the cod fishery, carried with them no reasons for believing it was worth while to quit the certainties of Newfoundland, for the hopes of better things in Labrador. Besides, there was ample room in Newfoundland for its improvement; and it had perhaps been wiser to have seen well to it's prosperity there, by a thorough reformation of those enormous abuses which had crept into it, and still continue its canker worm and its disgrace, than to have been at any pains to have extended it, in such a state, to Labrador. But other sentiments at that time prevailed; and the protection of the king's ships in 1764 and 1765, together with that spirit of enterprize which distinguishes the commercial part of the british nation, induced some few to make trial of the cod-fishery about Chatteau Bay. Various was the success of these experiments; but they ended in giving currency to an opinion, that this was a good station to fish from in the latter part of the season, at a time that the fishing in the northern parts of Newfoundland was generally experienced to fail; as this was observed to do in the early part.
*From the Dartmouth Papers.
79. Thus then, it was now thought to be seen how we might best begin to avail ourselves of Labrador; by making it's cod fishery an appendage to that of Newfoundland; and the seal and salmon branches subordinate again to
the cod fishery; and Henley Harbour, defended by Chateau Island, was approved of as a convenient port for mooring the ships and manufacturing the fish. It was accordingly resorted to with eagerness; in so much that in a short time it was quite crowded; but these adventures, like the leading experiments, were attended with various success; sometimes being very very profitable, and sometimes attended with great loss. However these attempts served to enlarge our knowledge: the experience of every day tending to remove former prejudices and to methodize future conjectures; as well as to lead on towards farther discoveries. The seal and salmon fisheries, upon examination, appeared to be of much more value, than had at first been apprehended; as well as far less precarious and expensive than the cod fishery. The country likewise produced good samples of fur, besides which, there was a traffick opened with the Eskimaux Indians; and some reason to look for the establishment of a Whale-fishery; so that, upon the whole, the merchants promised themselves, from appearances, no inconsiderable advantages, as soon as they should be able to effect proper settlements, and be put in a capacity of reaping the benefit of their labours by suitable assistance and protection from government.
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91. Experience hath taught us, on the contrary, that the seal fishery is the grand staple of Labrador; every successive season showing its great importance more and more: and that the next in rank and consequence is the salmon fishery, as abounding to a considerable degree, and not being subject to much uncertainty; while the cod fishery is so expensive, and so precarious, except at a few particular stations westward of Chateau, as to make it the height of rashness for any one to practice it, unless it be in a subordinate way, as employment for the labourers during the intervals in their other occupations.
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108. But not to forget my hints and sketches towards a plan for regulating the fisheries of Labrador, they are as follows— Let it be enacted.
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That all the land backwards through the whole extent of every sealing post, to the distance of one mile from highwater mark, shall be accounted as part of such post and belong in full right to the proprietor: except that a
right be reserved of cutting wood for the use of His Majesty's Ships or Forts; and a general right of free passage to all through every uninclosed part of the same; and excepting also that a right be reserved to any* cod-fisher of
* 'Tis probable that it will rarely happen that cod-fishers should thus interfere with Sealers; for, if a post be advantageously situated for both fisheries, the first occupant will undoubtedly erect works for, and carry, on, both: so that it may possibly be thought unnecessary to leave the posts open in this respect to any other than the first proprietor.
erecting upon and adjoining to the same; every building and work necessary in the cod-fishery; and of cutting wood sufficient for such buildings and works upon the shore, and for fuel; but nothing more.* But the Seal-fisher being the proprietor of the soil, that his necessary works and erections shall not be encroached upon, or interfered with, by those of the cod-fisher, nor he be any way obstructed by him in the execution of any part of his business.
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109. Let it be enacted— 1st. That any qualified person, having possessed himself by premier seisin, limitation and occupancy, of any river, rivulet or brook as a salmon fishery, shall hold the same to himself and his heirs for ever on the same conditions as a sealing post is to be held upon (as expressed in art. 2d, 3d, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th.) with this difference only, that instead of the regulation in the 4th and 5th articles of the foregoing section, the following shall in this case take place; viz.
2d. Every distinct river, rivulet, and brook shall be accounted a separate salmon fishery; and the inferior shall never be esteemed dependent upon the superior except united in the possession and real occupancy of the same proprietor: so that the minor streams, if unoccupied, may be taken possession of by another, notwithstanding the principal river into which they empty themselves shall be in the hands of a proprietor. But then the proprietors of these lesser streams shall confine themselves in fishing to the same; and the proprietors of the rivers into which they flow shall not by nets or works of any kind block up the mouths of these lesser streams so as to prevent the salmon from running into the same; but shall leave a clear passage into them wide enough at least for a skiff to row in and out with room for her oars on each side.
3d. All that part of the land bordering on every river so occupied as a salmon fishery, which shall be more than a quarter of a mile below the upper salmon house upon the same, & shall be free and open to the use of the publick for the general service of the cod fisheries, navigators or others, (except it become appropriated for the use of other fisheries). Then the land on each side of the river, from the said limit of the free and open part upwards, by the fishing house, and so along the course of the river for three miles in length, that is to say, a quarter of a mile below the said salmon house, and two miles and three quarters above the same towards the river's source, shall belong to the proprietor of the salmon post; and this property shall likewise extend one mile from the water backwards, on each side of the river. Except it would interfere with a like property on the other side of an isthmus or point as aforesaid, in which case to be equally partitioned longitudinally as aforesaid. But such property in the land shall not extend in length higher than or beyond the source of any river, although it shall be less than three miles from the limit abovementioned. A free
* Wood of a tolerable size is scarce in this country: so that 'tis reasonable he who has the property in the soil should not be obliged to accommodate the cod-fishers farther than is necessary; as they can repair to the unappropriated places for timber and plank for boat building masts, oars &c.
road and passage to all through every unenclosed part of the same being reserved as above, and the same to hold good in every other appropriation of land.
110. Let it be enacted— 1st That any qualified person may possess himself of any post for Whale fishing under the same conditions and limitations exactly as of a sealing post, and with all the same priveleges; agreeable to the first clause (108) and no person but the proprietor of such whaling post to have a right to take possession of or to occupy any part of the same for a Seal-fishery.
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112. Let it be enacted—1st That every proprietor of land under the sanction of any of the foregoing clauses shall have the sole right of furring, hunting, and shooting within the same.
2d. That, in the unappropriated part of the Country, the Furrier shall have a permanent property m all death-fall paths pit falls, traps and snares; in all tilts, huts, and other works necessary or useful to a furrier which he hath made, raised or constructed, on condition of continuing to occupy the same.
3d. That upon non-occupancy for three successive winter seasons they shall revert to the publick.
4th. That every furrier who shall discover and* mark before any other, any beaver house, shall have a property in the same for the season, commencing the 1st September and ending the 31st March.
5th. That every wilfull destroyer or robber of any Beaver house, Deathfall path, pitfall, trap or snare; tilt, hut, or other work belonging to the furring business, shall upon conviction render damages sevenfold; and be incapable ever afterwards of exercising the business or of enjoying any of the rights and priveleges of a furrier in Labrador.
113. Let it be enacted—1st That the Cod-fishers shall have a right to fish for bait in all places and to draw their sains to the shore if necessary; except only that they shall not have a general liberty of interfering with the salmon nets; but, in case of occasion, may remove any salmon net once in every day, in order to draw a sain. That in this case they shall have the trouble of removing it and, when they have drawn their own net, of replacing it in a proper manner and that it shall not be displaced more than one hour at a time, nor more than once a day; under a penalty of one quintal of merchantable dry cod fish for every trespass or illegal removal. And if they shall do any wilful damage, to the said nets, or wilfully injure or obstruct the salmon fishery in any other particular, that they shall upon conviction pay seven fold for the same. Nor shall they set any bait net across any
* This is a law among the furriers themselves; but the dishonest, being liable to no punishment, frequently break it. The necessity of it arises from this, that after the discovery of a beaver house, time, ingenuity, and security from interruption, are necessary to the trapping of the beavers one after another.
river or stream in which there is a salmon fishery from side to side, so as to obstruct the entrance of the salmon; nor shall any of their bait nets, crossing the stream and moored, be put out within a quarter of a mile of any salmon net; nor shall they, under pretence of taking bait, have a right to catch salmon at all within any salmon fishery; but all such salmon as shall be caught in their nets shall upon demand be delivered to the proprietor; on penalty of being ever after excluded from taking bait in that river or stream.
114. Let it be enacted that every property now held of any lands in Labrador, or that may hereafter be acquired, shall be registered with the Governor or his officers appointed for that purpose either in Labrador, Newfoundland, or London, within eighteen months at the farthest after a day appointed, or after the time of taking possession; and that the parties shall make oath, if required, to the truth of their registry.