I can remember traveling to Little Bay Islands in 1957 when I was 10 years old with my father on the MV Grace Boehner delivering flour and other freight.
I marveled at how alive that community was. Boats going and coming in the harbour, wheelbarrows full of salted cod as they were pushed to the weights. Wheelbarrows full of Atlantic salmon. Seemed like hundreds of people working on the wharf. Children at play, singing and laughing.
Now, this fishing outport community is beaten to its knees and voted to relocate because the loss of fish resources and the closure of its fish plant. No more new money for our country from fish resources. Another casualty of the government plan started so long ago. Young people moving away to look for work and government services declining, the people had no other choice only vote for resettlement.
This thriving fishing community once had a population of over 600 people and survived on resources from the ocean for centuries. Still, right off its doorstep, they have a rich resource of cod, lobster, turbot, salmon, shrimp, seal and other fish the world wants for protein.
Right at its door is the exact thing tourists come all the way around the world to feel the freedom and beauty that a place like this as to offer.
It is easier for government to let places like Little Bay Islands die than it is to fight for its survival.
When it comes to the fishery government has no vision and shows a defeatist attitude towards it.
Poor science, and rumours of poor fish resource is circulated around our province and it’s told so often that people believe it.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We have an excellent fish resource, a lot of it underdeveloped, underutilized.
Some of the problem is that there is no free enterprise in the fishery if someone wanted to start up a fish plant in Little Bay Islands using their own capital they wouldn’t be allowed to because government would not give them a license.
If a Chinese business wanted to start up a seal-processing plant, tanning the seal skins processing the meat from the 400,000 quota of harps allowed to be harvested, they wouldn’t get approval.
Companies from the United States or mainland Canada even for underutilized fish wouldn’t get a license.
Yet if someone wants to start up a hotel, club, hardware store, B and B etc. it wouldn’t make a difference if there were 10 other businesses like this in a small town they get a license to operate.
No vision for new ways of catching fish by the provincial or federal government.
Right now there are conditions of license that gill nets can’t be used on the inshore crab grounds. Why isn’t longline with hooks fishing allowed for this abundant turbot resource? Harvesters don’t need a big Total Allowable Catch because the price is high. Canada could take back the turbot quota from Japan and other countries that Canadian boats are catching for them. Use shrimp pots on the inshore grounds because there is an excellent shrimp resource that has never being touched in the deep water bays and on the inshore crab grounds.
Again harvesters don’t need a big TAC because of the excellent price of shrimp, shrimp that could be harvested daily just off shore and brought to shrimp plants.
Maybe the closed shrimp plant in Twillingate could open again for a sushi and underutilized urchin and periwinkle market.
In the very near future there are going to be a good many Little Bay Islands closing its doors. Black Tickle once the cod capital of the north is just holding on by its finger nails with one of the world’s richest fish resource at its door step.
People in rural Newfoundland better wake up its Little Bay Islands today and your beautiful community tomorrow.
Oil will not save these fishing communities but fish will.
Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor and other big service towns better heed that these fishing communities are dying because the sale of trucks, outport motors, fishing gear will have a devastating impact on their business as well.