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Letter: Our fishing heritage has been gutted

['<p>Dan Doiron fillets a cod fish on a filleting table in Petty Harbour Saturday on the first day of the recreational cod fishery.&nbsp;</p>']
Dan Doiron fillets a cod in Petty Harbour. — Telegram file photo

“A nation that forgets its past has no future.”— Sir Winston Churchill

The Plains Indians of the American west, the bands of First Nations peoples in North America, were attacked by white settlers and the U.S. cavalry who eventually killed the buffalo herds, the one resource which was essential to the tribes’ existence and their culture. Hunting buffalo was their past, and when that was taken from them they had no future. Today, over a hundred years later, their future is a life on reservations.

The Polynesian peoples who settled Easter Island in the Pacific during the 1500s developed a great culture of art and religion, and were great fishers and farmers. But they lost sight of what allowed them to build such a beautiful society — the forests that initially covered their island. They indiscriminately cut all the trees to build boats and huts, which resulted in the richness of the soil being leached away in rain so that crops failed. They forgot what gave them an existence, what made them prosper, and because of it their future was destroyed.

Two tragic cultures, their demise summarized in Winston Churchill’s eloquent phrase.

Our governments have shown no understanding of the fishery and no respect for the dignity and life of the fishers of N.L.

Since Newfoundland and Labrador joined Confederation, Canada’s dominating action has been one that has usurped the province’s resources for Ottawa’s benefit in creating jobs, wealth and productivity in Canada and the rest of the world. This includes control of provincial air space, the exporting of billions of tons of raw ore smelted elsewhere, shipping out hundreds of millions of barrels of oil not refined here, and the tragic abuse, mismanagement and destruction of the province’s founding resource, that which was and is the foundation of our maritime culture, the fishery.

When Canada took control of our fishery, its dominant activity was to produce wealth, power and position centrally as they sold, bartered and traded the resource, its licences, quotas and its processing jobs to foreign countries and elite industry players.

Years of their authoritative mismanagement undermined the fisheries’ health and biomass, leading to a point where the rich fishing culture and once strong coastal fishing communities cannot support themselves. Indeed, recent comments about the resettlement of our outports by the provincial government foretell of a decimated future for our heritage industry and its people.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s past was the fishery, and the character and culture of our people were built from it. Our governments have shown no understanding of the fishery and no respect for the dignity and life of the fishers of N.L. The Canadian and provincial governments have forgotten Newfoundland and Labrador’s past, the great renewable ocean bounty and the productive way of life of coastal fishers. Our past has been forgotten and, because of it, the province has a dismal future. This would be the assessment of Sir Winston Churchill.

Is there one of our government statespeople who will respond to this unfolding tragedy? Is there anyone who cares?

Phil Earle

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