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LETTER: Fish is why we're here

As seagulls fly past looking for scraps, a trio of boaters returns to Petty Harbour on the first day of the recreational cod fishery.
As seagulls fly past looking for scraps, a trio of boaters returns to Petty Harbour on the first day of the recreational cod fishery.

Observing an occasional stream of small fishing boats motoring in and out the Bay Roberts harbour is a delight.

The crews are (most of them) taking advantage of the 2017 recreational fishery still underway. And the yield appears good as suggested by the filleting going on atop filleting tables on wharves (private and public) from Madrock to Coley's Point. 

It feels good to rise early in the morning and see these 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 (transplanted townie) a first hand look into the lives and loves of these men and women.

They want to fish.

They have a right to be out on those waters.

It is in their blood, passed on to them from generations before, the genes of which they carry in their boats with them.

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? Why not let them (us) fish all season as long as conditions are right to be out there with jiggers, poles and fish buckets in tow?

I feel and witness 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 fisher people standing on our wharves looking at a few paltry fish they were only allowed to take by law.

My career found me at the CBC.

I was a publicist for shows that included "Land & Sea" and the radio "Fishermen'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 & Sea" was Dave Quinton (who I often referred to as "Mr. Land & Sea"). Nobody I knew, and still know, had and still has such a passion for Newfoundland and Labrador and those who made and make their living from the land and the sea. That was obvious in his work and in his writings.

Dave, along with the 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 (20 or so I believe) 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.

It (the sign) suggested subtly to all those involved in the 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 recreational fishery continues for another while, let us enjoy the sights, the sounds and, of course, the yield.

But as Quinton's sign reminded us, fish is where we're from 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.

— Bill Westcott writes from Bay Roberts

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