CONDITIONS ON THE LABRADOR COAST.
EXTRACT FROM “ NEWFOUNDLAND IN 1911.”
BY P. T. MCGRATH [LONDON : 1911], pp. 169-170, 173, 174.
Newfoundland's chief dependency, where one of her greatest cod fisheries is prosecuted, is Labrador, a territory half as large as Europe, and yet containing a resident population of only 3,400 whites, or “ livyers,” though every summer 15,000 fisherfolk—men, women, and children—emigrate there for codcatching and locate along the coastline which forms the base of the enterprise.
It has no settled form of Government, justice being dispensed by the medical missionaries who labour there and who hold commissions of the peace. Such trivial disputes regarding fishery matters as arise in the tiny hamlets along the coast, where a peaceloving people have their abode, are their only cases.
The shallows off the Labrador coast are the resort of countless “ schools ” of cod, and the fishermen net them from suitable points. The whole coast is fringed with barren islands of naked rock, engirt with wide, deep channels. Great fiords eat for miles into the granite steeps, and countless harbours are formed wherein the fishing crafts can lie in safety.
The world has probably nothing so unique as the annual migration of these Newfoundland fisherfolk to this region, nor an industry so strange as they pursue. About May in each year they embark in their vessels with their goods and chattels, shut up their homes and sail for Labrador, where they disperse along its extensive seaboard. The fishermen are of two classes—“ stationers ” and “floaters.” The former have homes in certain harbours and fish near by, shipping much of their cured product direct to market from the coast. The latter carry on their venture from their schooners and cruise farther north as the season advances. About 1,000 to 1,200 vessels classed as “ floaters,” are annually engaged in the Labrador fishery.
In October the season is over, and these hardy voyagers return to their homes, the 3,500 “ livyers ” residing there permanently. These “ livyers ” (live heres) are so called to distinguish them from the summer fishermen, and
there are one or two families in every harbour. During the summer, they reside along the coast for the fishing, but in winter most of them retire to the wooded tracts at the heads of the bays, where there is shelter, warmth and a means of increasing their food supply by the killing of game which abounds there. The trapping of furbearing animals is also undertaken, the peltries being exchanged for food and clothing when the traders are on the coast in summer.