Did you know that a form of slavery once existed in the magnificently beautiful province of NL ?
The island’s economy was built on the backs of poor fishermen, who rowed small white boats onto the cold waters of the North Atlantic. The men did not know how to swim, and had no life jackets. Many never returned home from a day’s fishing. Commercial fishing is one of the world’s most dangerous occupations.
The fishermen did not receive cash for their fish. Instead, they brought their fish to a few powerful wealthy merchants , who gave them basic food stuffs and supplies to repair their nets. Without cash, ‘getting ahead’ was impossible for fishermen.
200 steps from our house stands Walter’s ‘ fishing room’. He started fishing at age 12. The fish he caught were stored in the little wooden building. Then, his wife and children were responsible for what was called ‘making the fish’, that is, splitting the cod fish, salting them, and allowing them to dry on the adjoining platform called a fish flake. The wealthy merchants then shipped the salt cod to markets in the Caribbean, and Europe, at huge profits.
Walter’s fishing flake is crumbling now, as you can see. My husband and I have been lobbying the government to restore the fishing room and fish flake, so that future generations can see what fishing was like in rural NL. It is unlikely to happen, however. It is probable that the government would rather allow such a symbol of exploitation to crumble and disappear. Perhaps it embarasses them.
I walk past Walter’s fishing room almost every day.
As I do, I pray for all exploited workers, and I also pray for those who choose to exploit others.