Published: April 2007

Newfoundland's Fishing Woes


End of the Line

A village in Newfoundland faces a bleak reality.

By Chris Carroll
Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged

The story of how the Vautiers began generations ago to make a living pulling cod from the waters off Newfoundland, hefting each sleek green-and-white fish by hand as it came off the line, is lost in family history. But how it all will end is perfectly clear.

Ray Vautier is trying to sell his boat, and when he succeeds, all the uncanny skills repeatedly passed from father to son—the ability to read the surface of the water, to know each crevasse and outcropping of the bottom, and most of all to sense where fish are lurking—will die in his family. Vautier, 45, prepared for this when he sent his son to college in St. John's to study automotive technology.

What keeps him on the water for now is the glut of fishing craft going on the market as small-scale harvesters around Newfoundland abandon the industry that once defined the province. So far, no one has made a decent offer on the 35-foot (11 meters) fiberglass-hulled diesel Vautier bought new in 2003, at last realizing a goal he'd held since he started fishing as a teenager. "I'd always wanted a new boat, something solid with no leaks," he says. "Looks like I picked a poor time to get her." Scant months after his purchase, Canadian officials declared a moratorium on all cod fishing, the second time in a decade they closed fishing grounds because of overharvesting. Cod fishing became legal again the following year, but with catch limits so small and strictly enforced that Vautier has finally accepted that he can't make a living aboard the boat he christened Awaited Dream.

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