A life without cod
Bay de Verde prospering with shellfish, but it’s not the same, say fishermen
It’s mid-June and Tony Doyle, an outspoken and spirited fisherman from Bay de Verde, is sitting in his kitchen, a cup of tea cradled between his large, leathery hands.
His modest house sits on an elevated point of land, and offers a panoramic view of the bay, which is radiantly blue on this sunny spring day.
From his chair, he can look across the bay, and vividly recall what the scene on a day like this would have been like more than two decades ago, before the cod moratorium was called on July 2, 1992.
“You would see red balloons everywhere (marking the locations of cod trips), boats would be going and coming, the wharves would be alive with people clearing away cod fish, and workers would be back and forth to the plant. The place would be bustling,” says Doyle.
Just describing such a scene fills Doyle with emotion. He has to clear his throat repeatedly, and his eyes start to water.
It’s obvious he looks back on those pre-moratorium days with fondness and nostalgia. Those were the days when he fished with his father and uncle (both now deceased), when catching cod was a craft that took time to master, and required a strong back, an unrelenting work ethic, and a healthy dose of courage.
He learned the art of making and setting a cod trap from his father, Ronald, but never got the opportunity to pass along the same skills to his own son, 30-year-old Thomas.
A decision by the federal government to close the fishery, sending shockwaves throughout the entire province, made sure of that.
Doyle said it did away with an important part of the province’s history.
“My son was 11 the last time he saw a cod trap hauled. He doesn’t know anything about it … all of that is going to be gone,” he states.
John Crosbie is escorted by police after announcing a two-year moratorium on the northern cod fishery.
Brian Walsh looks over the harbour in Bay de Verde last month, 20 years after the closure of the cod fishery.