‘I love be­ing on the wa­ter’

The Compass - - Sports - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.”

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