Our her­itage – founded on fish

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Bill West­cott Bay Roberts

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.

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