Our heritage – founded on fish
Observing an occasional stream of small fishing boats motoring in and out of Bay Roberts harbour is a delight. Most of the crews are taking advantage of the 2017 recreational fishery. And the yield appears good as suggested by the filleting going on atop filleting tables on wharfs (private and public) from Madrock to Coley’s Point.
It feels good to rise early in the morning and see fishermen and women heading out to the jigging grounds before sunrise. Similar activities take place here in the early evenings, often up until sunset.
It gives this Newfoundlander (a transplanted townie) a firsthand look at the lives and loves of these men and women. They want to fish. They have a right to be out on those waters. It’s in their blood, passed on to them from generations before. I am sure countless examples of these activities can be seen from harbours and inlets from Nain to St. John’s and points in between.
While I delight in the sights and sounds of the recreational fishery taking place on the picturesque bay across from our home, I feel sad it has to be this way. Why not let us fish all season, as long as conditions are right to be out there with jiggers, poles and fish buckets in tow? I feel a tinge of resentment, even anger, at what has happened to our fishery and to our people. All one has to do is say hello to those fisherpeople standing on our wharfs looking at the few paltry fish they are allowed to take by law.
My career found me at the CBC. I was a publicist for shows that included “Land and Sea” and the radio “Fisherman’s Broadcast,” programs that were hallmarks of the CBC and still are, respected by everyone and everybody associated with the fishery down through the years to present day.
One of the most passionate hosts of “Land and Sea” was Dave Quinton (who I often referred to as “Mr. Land and Sea”). Nobody I knew and still know had — and still has — such a passion for Newfoundland and Labrador and those who make their living from the land and the sea. That was obvious in his work and in his writing.
Dave, along with hundreds of thousands of our fellow Newfoundlanders, was shocked and saddened by events that eventually ended up with the shutdown of the cod fishery. (A cod moratorium, the feds named it.) Our cod fishery. A kick in the gut to those depending on it, from their fishing boats to plant workers and many others in fishery related services. After so many years — 25 now — it still has not been restored.
I remember Quinton had a small sign near his desk in his office located off the “Here and Now” newsroom. It read (“FISH is why we’re here boys!”) I noticed it placed there during the obvious excitement generated by the beginning of the era known as “Oil in the ’80s,” when program after program, news specials and panel discussions ad nauseam were featured just about every night about oil and oil related activities now reaching our shores.
Quinton’s sign was a red flag reminder to all of us, with no exception, that fish is why we’re here. It was what brought John Cabot and countless generations to come out here to this beautiful place in the North Atlantic. The sign suggested subtly to all those involved in oil mania that “long after the last ounce of oil is sucked from beneath our shores, hopefully and God willing there will be a fish left to be caught.”
As the summer recreational fishery continues for one more weekend, let us enjoy the sights, the sounds and, of course, the yield. But as Quinton’s sign reminded us, fish is why we’re here, boys. Let’s remain angry and determined to claw back a God-given right for us to be allowed to fish our waters, not just a few weeks a year, but all year long.
God guard thee, Newfoundland.