‘I love being on the water’
PLACENTIA, NL — Leonard Mulrooney Jr. was 13 when news of the cod moratorium came in 1992.
The Jerseyside, Placentia native had two parents — Leonard Mulrooney Sr. and Madonna Mulrooney — making a living as owner-operators.
While the 1992 moratorium did not extend to those fishing on the south coast — in the fishing zone known as 3Ps — they felt the brunt of it in 1993, when the moratorium was extended to southern fishing zones as well.
“They made a living from the sea,” said Mulrooney, standing on the Placentia wharf after checking on his speedboat. “The only thing that kept them going then was the few lobsters when the cod was closed down . . . and then they went from there.”
The harsh economic challenges presented by the closure of the cod fishery impacted families in many ways. But the younger Leonard fished with his parents from the moment he left high school, and today the 38-year-old makes a living on an offshore trawler harvesting Greenland halibut in the summer and shrimp in the fall.
“When you get into the fishery, it’s hard to get it out of your blood,” he said.
In the case of his parents, the creation of the inshore crab fishery certainly helped keep them in the game. They still fish to this day, as does Mulrooney Jr.’s brother Paul, who the younger Leonard assists when he’s not working offshore.
“There’s good money there, and I’ve been with this company now going on 12 years,” said Mulrooney Jr., who now has a family of his own to support. He works with a crew of 28 on a vessel that mostly harvests off the coast of Labrador.
He’s concerned about the future for inshore harvesters in light of the decline in shellfish stocks, and he’s hesitant to believe cod will come back in the way some might hope. Offshore trawlers harvesting the product year-round are doing more harm than good, he added.
“They’re out on the Saint Pierre bank (and) they’re fishing 24-7,” he said. “If they’d get them out of (harvesting cod), it would make a big difference.”
As for his family’s ongoing love affair with the fishery, it’s still going strong.
“Mother is at the point now where she’s going to try to retire. Father, he’s never going to retire. He loves it too much,” Mulrooney Jr. said, noting his dad recently purchased a new boat.
Leonard is much like his dad when it comes to making a living at sea.
“I love being on the water. I’ve got a little one there now (Jacqueline), she’ll soon be seven, and she loves the water — same as meself.”