Explorers from the old world started fishing cod in the North Atlantic waters around Newfoundland in the early 1600’s. The cod was dried, salted and then sold to Spain and Portugal. France and Britain fought over ownership of Newfoundland, due to it’s valuable fishing industry, until 1713 when France acknowledged Britain’s claim, but fighting between the two countries continued on Newfoundland’s soil into the late 1700’s.
Newfoundland didn’t became part of Canada officially until 1949. The Canadian Minister of Fisheries allowed unrestricted fishing in the North Atlantic waters until 1992 when the 500 year old industry collapsed, putting 35,000 people out of work.
The environmental devastation was immense, and to this day, cod stocks are still extremely depleted, perhaps only 10% of the original population. Outside of the maritime islands and Newfoundland, Atlantic cod is considered a “don’t eat” fish due to the inability of the ocean environment to be restored.
The fishing way of life is still ingrained in Newfoundland’s culture. The small maritime villages seemed to have stopped in time, and Newfies enjoy the small catches fishermen bring home. I had many delicous cod dinners while traveling in Newfoundland; my favorite being at the Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi, near St. John’s.
The Fishing Stage is a small shack where the fish is processed for market. I was fascinated by the variety, color, and humor bestowed upon the small stages I found in every village I passed through along the coast. Today, some are still used to prep fish, but others are for storage, tourist attractions, historic landmarks or maybe just a quiet spot for friends to gather and enjoy some Screech.
My favorite fishing stages: