The unlikely fisher
Beachside woman found a place on deck, in spite of the moratorium
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.”
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.