An Economic History of Canada

By Mary Quayle Innis | Go to book overview

An Economic History of Canada

CHAPTER I
THE FISHING INDUSTRY IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

We found eleven saile of Normans and one Brittaine and two Portugall Barkes and all a fishing.

In the first view that history discloses of the shore waters of Newfoundland, men are to be seen fishing. These teeming waters, yielding to-day, perhaps, as freely as they did four hundred years ago, were the magnet that continued to draw Europeans to the threshold of the new world. The coast of Newfoundland is cut into many deep and landlocked harbours which have been important resorts of fishermen since the voyages of the Cabots.

The great island, extended invitingly toward Europe, is the highest of a series of plateaus, the rest of which, submerged only a few fathoms, are called the Banks. The shallowness of the water over them allows sunlight to penetrate it and develop a profuse marine life which attracts fish and makes the area one of the world's greatest fishing grounds.

The great masses of floating organisms, called plankton, which are found in the water and on the sea bottom at the banks, are moved here and there by currents and increased or diminished by changes in temperature and salinity of the water. The abundance and the movements of the plankton govern the numbers and movements of the fish that directly or indirectly feed upon it. Intermingling of the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Arctic Current provide fluctuations of temperature, and the presence of melting ice affects the salinity of the water and determines the length of the fishing season. The eggs of the cod are carried in the plankton, but they require a high degree of salinity to keep them afloat; this fact makes the Gulf of St. Lawrence an unfavourable breeding place. The fry feed on plankton but the older fish have a wider range and feed on weaker species. Caplin, herring and other small fish live entirely upon plankton and are the natural prey of more voracious species, such as the cod. One kind of fish chases another, the weaker follow the plankton, which in

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