After the Gold Rush
1st December, 2004
The biggest and most indiscriminate killers of wildlife on the planet, commercial fishing fleets have brought us to the edge of a maritime ecological disaster, with fish stocks facing extinction all around the world.
Bonavista, Newfoundland. Fall. What no one prepares you for is the beauty. Along the peninsula, the road winds through fishing settlements known as outports. As I turn off the highway onto the coast road, the sun breaks through a stormy sky making the squat orange maples and yellow birch glow against the wind-stunted fir and spruce. Seawards, in the bays between the rocky promontories, stand wooden stages or flakes, where cod used to be dried. These look like the remnants of a gold rush, which in a sense is what they are: relics of a gold rush that lasted 500 years.
In Abbotts’ B&B on Capeshore Road home-made sheets of tourist information tell how John Cabot discovered the cape in 1497. Cabot, a Venetian whose name was anglicised to reflect the national significance of his mission, was trying to find a western passage to Asia for Henry VII. What Cabot actually found was a landfall on which Britain’s claim to North America was based, and, as luck would have it, the world’s largest population of cod: a population so plentiful the fish could be caught by lowering a basket from a ship’s deck.
The typed sheets in Abbott’s tell you that the Bonavista peninsula is windy all year...
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