The un­likely fisher

Beach­side woman found a place on deck, in spite of the mora­to­rium

The Compass - - Sports - BY CORY HUR­LEY THE NORWESTER cory.hur­ley@thenor­wester.ca

BEACH­SIDE, NL — Nancy Bow­ers was just fin­ish­ing up high school when the cod mora­to­rium of 1992 dev­as­tated ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties such as the one she grew up in.

The Beach­side woman still re­mem­bers the im­pact it had on her par­ents, Lloyd and Mar­garet, in­shore fisher har­vesters in the small Notre Dame Bay town in North­east­ern New­found­land and Labrador.

“It was quite dev­as­tat­ing for my par­ents, know­ing there were fish around and they couldn’t go fish­ing.

“It was sad be­cause he loved it on the wa­ter.”

At that point in her life, a con­cern over the fu­ture of the cod fish­ery was noth­ing be­yond the worry she had for her par­ents and the halt to their liveli­hood. In fact, she moved to On­tario for a short time be­fore re­turn­ing to the prov­ince.

It was love that changed her out­look on the fish­ery.

First, it was the love of a man — Terry Bow­ers of Nip­per’s Har­bour, a fish­er­man. Then, it was a love for the in­dus­try it­self.

“Af­ter that, I just took a pas­sion for fish­ing,” she said. “I to­tally loves it.”

Bow­ers con­tin­ues to live in Beach­side. They con­tin­ued to fish for lob­ster af­ter the clo­sure of the cod fish­ery, but she says it was never the same for them. They have since died.

It was a sim­i­lar story through­out the small town and oth­ers through­out the White Bay and Green Bay ar­eas. Beach­side was once bustling with fish­ers, now there are a se­lect few.

The Bow­ers own the only long­liner in Beach­side now, she says. They fish most ev­ery species — crab, lob­ster, caplin and cod — as she sees it as pretty well the only way a fish har­vester can make a liv­ing in the prov­ince today.

“You can’t sur­vive just on one fish­ing li­cence,” she said. “You need mul­ti­ple li­cences. If you don’t have them, you will just get swal­lowed up like a whale.”

As pros­per­ous as the re­bound of cod stocks has been, Bow­ers warns de­ci­sions of gov­ern­ment could lead to an­other mora­to­rium in the fu­ture.

Bow­ers is crit­i­cal of Oceans Choice In­ter­na­tional’s (OCI) in­vest­ment and in­volve­ment in the cod and tur­bot fish­eries. The com­pany’s boat, Kat­sheshuk II, a shrimp ves­sel, is be­ing con­verted to fo­cus on the ground­fish in­dus­try. Some $8 mil­lion is be­ing in­vested, in­clud­ing an on-board pro­cess­ing plant.

“You have fish­er­men in un­der 65-foot boats with a 20,000pound quota of tur­bot and this boat can go 12 months of the year drag­ging cod,” she said. “Since the mora­to­rium, I don’t think the fed­eral gov­ern­ment learned any­thing. Noth­ing at all.

“Us small boats have so many re­stric­tions, and they (off­shore boats) can go out and de­stroy what­ever they gets their hands on.”

She re­ferred to the cod mora­to­rium as a “to­tal dis­as­ter,” a “mis­man­age­ment of the fish­ery.”

Bow­ers is to­tally against Oceans Choice In­ter­na­tional, Quin­lan Broth­ers and other com­pa­nies hav­ing ac­cess to quo­tas of fish.

“They are able to drag up cod 12 months of the year, what is go­ing to hap­pen to the fish again?” she said. “They are go­ing to spawn at some point of the year. This is go­ing to wipe ev­ery­thing out again.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Nancy Bow­ers of Beach­side never imag­ined a life in the fish­ery in 1992 or for years af­ter­wards. She now has about 18 years on the wa­ter.

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