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Author: Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

"This flag will stay in Newfoundland!" - Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe in peaceful protest

The bow of our 18 foot Newfoundland built boat was riding the beautiful, blue, velvety carpet of the waters of Smith Sound this past Saturday, August 20th , 2005. The sun reflected off the water, the sky was the brightest blue imaginable. It was not quite 9AM, and we had a place to be by that time. It was the second ‘All boats on the Water Fishery Protest’ and we were heading to Harcourt, the designated meeting place.

My husband was looking through the binoculars at a little rowboat, with one man in it, rowing in the direction we were headed. We approached the rowboat. Yes, it was a man who had already rowed three miles, against the tide, and planned on continuing to row, giving him five more miles down Smith Sound, to Harcourt. NL. Tying his boat and helping him was our pleasure.

Such is the determination of the Newfoundland people now as we fight for our fishery, and will continue to fight. We joined a group of thirty boats that morning, every one carrying people absolutely committed to the cause. The same activity was taking place all over the island of Newfoundland. Every cove and bay, every sound, and every shoreline had the ‘Little Boats of Newfoundland’, carrying the flag high, and demanding attention from Ottawa, which obviously is not forthcoming. The Federal Ministry of Fisheries is turning a blind eye to the plight of the fishers, the provincial Minister of Fisheries tries but has no answers.

The first Food Fishery Protest was held July 30th. Cod was caught and DFO videotaped, circled the boats, and made a bungled attempt to put an end to it. They did not, and could not, because we are many in number, and that number is growing. Charges were laid for illegal cod fishing, and people summoned to court.

In some areas fishers reported downright intimidation by the DFO boats and officers. In telling you this I have to say that if they put as much time into driving off the massive foreign ships that are fishing 60 miles of our shores, well within the 200 mile limit, maybe we would not be finding it necessary to fight for what is rightfully ours. Cod is abundant in the bays, even in the harbours of Newfoundland, something that is a new phenomena. Little wonder the fishers do not trust the science that is being shoved down our throats, because these people who made a living fishing know that the fish are there, and they are big fish. It seems that the powers that be prefers to leave them for seal food, rather then letting the Newfoundland fishers have their share.

Salute the NL Flag
After the first Food Fishery Protest people were charged with illegal fishing, but the foreign vessels were still there-oh yes-still there!! Meanwhile, I attended a meeting of the Rural Rights and Boat Owners Association, being held to discuss strategy and hear what our legal counsel had to say. Over 200 people attended that meeting from all over the Province. What was most noticeable was that there was no person in the room under fifty years of age. A whole generation has out migrated, and it is incredibly sad. The ‘Baby Boomers’, like me, who have returned home to retire, the elderly, and the ‘Boomers’ who never left Newfoundland, make up our population now. The situation is worsening. Incompetent attempts by government and DFO, has caused such a tangled web that it will be some time before that web can be untangled, if ever! The second protest was planned for August 20th, and that was why we were in our boat last Saturday. Cod were caught, given to seniors, and information gathered by the DFO will now result in further charges being laid.

Another strange, but not unbelievable fact, is that the number of people protesting is downplayed by the press. But this time an older gentleman is doing a province wide survey to determine once and for all how many boats were actually on the water. It will be three times what has been reported by the Fisheries people.

In our Terms of Union with Canada, there is an ‘Ancient Clause’ (the name been assigned to it now) that states ‘Every Newfoundlander retains the right to fish three miles off their shore, headland to headland.’ That Term of our Union with Canada is being challenged and working its’ way through the courts with a ruling expected by the end of September. By then anybody charged will have their court appearance dates, and if law in the ‘Terms of Union’ is still upheld, then ‘CASE CL0SED’, that is until another wedge is driven into our collective heart.

The Little Boats of Newfoundland

Our Island that we love so much is being pounded on all sides. This ongoing situation is causing family rifts, brother against brother, or father against son, friend disagrees strongly with friend, the young people are leaving in droves, and the popular saying now is ‘LAST PERSON OUT OF NEWFOUNDLAND PLEASE BRING THE FLAG!’, a way of dealing with it with our brand of special humour!

Why are the large boats fishing within sixty miles of our coastline? Why is the law not enforced to end that practice? Newfoundland went into Confederation with ‘Pine Clad Hills’, which are now stripped bare by woods operations and disease, the codfish in the area that is open to a small cod fishery is an area where the cod are infected with parasites from the overabundance of seals. There seems to be no place to turn, and nobody to listen.

"They mistrust the scientific data on the state of the cod stocks, the governments’ inattention is a slap in the face, and the cod are abundant, irregardless of scientists’ figures."

But the Newfoundland spirit is strong and unbroken! New cottage industries are springing up around the Island. A yogurt company started in Stephenville, using Newfoundland Berries, are hard pressed to keep up with the demand for their product, two women have started a sewing business making beautiful products from used clothing that are truly amazing, best-selling books are being written about bygone days, music artists are doing extremely well, tourists visit and hate to leave, and now the Moose Hunting outfitters are gearing up for their hunting season.

Newfoundlanders are living in uncertainty. They mistrust the scientific data on the state of the cod stocks, the governments’ inattention is a slap in the face, and the cod are abundant, irregardless of scientists’ figures. So they have reason to question. The determination shown by the man in a little rowboat is just as strong in the men and women in every boat. The Protest will continue, there is no surrendering.

I wonder as I sit in our boat and hold high the flag of Newfoundland, surrounded by so many other boats, the sound of guitar music skipping across the blue, smooth water, "What happened to us? Where did the days go when the first question asked after school was ‘Goin’ out in boat?". We had no boat but we certainly could arrange getting one. Our scrawny knees and strong spirits knowing no fear as we would commandeer some little punt and row out to the middle of the harbour and catch cod. Now a small child is thrilled to be in a boat, wearing a life jacket, something we knew nothing about back then.

But-WE CAUGHT FISH! This little boy is not introduced to the handline, he sees it as a decoration in a gift shop. We will continue our quest, we will not be broken, and as for the last person leaving Newfoundland bringing the flag, IT WON’T BE ME, ‘CAUSE I AIN’T GOIN’!

May God Guard Thee Newfoundland, as your boats move into unchartered waters and confused seas. Meanwhile we will continue the fight for our fishery, and we will remain unbroken, our heritage is strong, and will continue to be so!

 


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