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.

Telegram file photo by Keith Gosse

John Cros­bie is es­corted by po­lice af­ter an­nounc­ing a two-year mora­to­rium on the north­ern cod fish­ery.

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

Brian Walsh looks over the har­bour in Bay de Verde last month, 20 years af­ter the clo­sure of the cod fish­ery.

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