A future in the fishery

Aaron
Aaron Beswick
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KMKA Voyager launched in Anchor Point

Markets be damned, the Genges will fish. They've been fishing since William Genge built his big house at Anchor Point some 200 years ago. The cod moratorium didn't stop them and neither will the current low shrimp prices and ominous signs for next year.

"Some years you think you're gonna get rich, others you think you'll starve," said Rufus Genge, as he stood at the bow of the 69-foot KMKA Voyager.

The dragger KMKA Voyager was launched Dec. 5 in Anchor Point. Over the winter its engine, electronics and fishing gear will be installed so that it can begin work next spring. Photo by Aaron Beswick/The Northern Pen

Anchor Point -

Markets be damned, the Genges will fish. They've been fishing since William Genge built his big house at Anchor Point some 200 years ago. The cod moratorium didn't stop them and neither will the current low shrimp prices and ominous signs for next year.

"Some years you think you're gonna get rich, others you think you'll starve," said Rufus Genge, as he stood at the bow of the 69-foot KMKA Voyager.

The 72-year-old fisherman who started out as a boy in a trapskiff, then grew into a man taking a speed boat to Belle Isle and the Labrador, was watching his son far below.

Theodore Genge walked around the boat he, his son Rodney Genge, master boatbuilder Wayne Marsh and four men from Englee had toiled on since June 15. He was checking the blocks that held their huge creation, oblivious to the growing crowd. Excitement and murmuring grew as wedges were hammered into place, lifting the 30-foot-high dragger for launch. Genge had too much on his mind to crack a smile.

This boat was the dream of his father and will be the future for his son. A future they're planning in the fishery.

"It's like this." He laid it bare. "If you're fishing you've got to keep on till you can't fish no longer."

The keel for the KMKA Voyager was laid six months ago, as protestors gathered on the opposite side of the harbour to vent anger at the 34 cents per pound for shrimp offered by processors.

Negotiations between the FFAW and processors continued through the following weeks as the giant plywood ribs were lowered by boom truck onto the keel. As the first sheets of fibreglass were applied, a last-minute bargain was reached that saw fishermen return to the water for 37 cents/lb., well below the 42 cents/lb. they asked for, and plantworkers arrived at the Anchor Point shrimp processing plant each day hoping to get enough hours work to pay off some bills and qualify for employment insurance for the coming winter.

The weekend before the launch was the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union convention - during which fishermen heard from the Association of Seafood Producers that another bad year could be coming, then declared they'd shut the fishery down if prices didn't increase.

"It looks like its going to pick up," Genge said. "It's got to, no one will fish if prices don't go up."

The Straits area's economy depends heavily on lobster and shrimp. Attempts to diversify the economy with tourism haven't borne much fruit - making it critical to the area's survival that the brightly painted draggers, the pride of their harbours, keep at it.

Theodore and Rodney Genge share the attitude of most fishermen - fish until you can't fish no more.

"It's a good life," said Rodney Genge.

The KMKA Voyager is built for the future - its bulbous bow sticks out from the base of the hull to increase fuel efficiency and stability. Higher up, the bow is flared for the seas it will batter through off the Labrador coast.

It's even named for the future - after Theodore's grandchildren Kaitlyn Genge, Matthew Genge, Kyle Genge and Aiden Hughes.

"We'll be flat-out all season," added Rodney Genge, showing a little more excitement than his father.

So it was that the blocks were knocked free, the gathered crowd went silent and the KMKA Voyager slid slowly back into the harbour. Drivers laid on the horns of their pickups and Theodore Genge found himself surrounded by men wanting to shake his hand.

Between their Gulf of St. Lawrence quota and their northern quota, the Genges have 950,000 lbs of shrimp to catch.

But before they trawl their first load next spring, they've got a busy winter ahead. All the interior work is left to be done, motor and transmission, rigging and pumps and hydraulics need to be installed.

But hard work didn't scare William Genge away from Anchor Point and it appears his descendants are up to the task.

"I always said we could do it," said Rufus Genge as he stepped ashore, a proud father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Organizations: Allied Workers union, Association of Seafood Producers, Theodore's

Geographic location: Anchor Point, Labrador, Belle Isle Englee Straits

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Recent comments

  • vrp
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    The Anchor Point Genges are a breed apart. They're bold, they're brash, they're in your face, they never quit - and they're the best fishermen in Newfoundland!

  • g-man
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    i just dont understand why people in this province still have these cadilac trawlers built with the state of our fisheries.with a fishery like we have,whats wrong with a used cheaper trawler.im sure there lots around.i hope i dont hear this guy in a couple years complaining all the goddam fish is gone and i got a boat to pay for .

  • vrp
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    The Anchor Point Genges are a breed apart. They're bold, they're brash, they're in your face, they never quit - and they're the best fishermen in Newfoundland!

  • g-man
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    i just dont understand why people in this province still have these cadilac trawlers built with the state of our fisheries.with a fishery like we have,whats wrong with a used cheaper trawler.im sure there lots around.i hope i dont hear this guy in a couple years complaining all the goddam fish is gone and i got a boat to pay for .