Translator Disclaimer
1 January 2009 Early Migratory Fishermen and Newfoundland's Seabird Colonies
Peter E. Pope
Author Affiliations +

The migratory fishery at Newfoundland was a key step in the expansion of the European world system and was, for centuries, one of the largest industrial enterprises in the New World. But large-scale predation of cod was only part of the impact Europeans had on the northwest Atlantic. The shore-based salt-cod fishery involved a complex interaction with local ecosystems, creating predatory pressure on animals used as bait. Cod fishers were large-scale predators of seabirds as well as cod. Use of the Great Auk from the Funk Islands off northern Newfoundland for provisions is well known. It is less often recognized that early fishers preferred seasonal stations close to seabird colonies, in order to use nesting birds as bait. By 1600, human predation in Newfoundland's coastal ecosystem was already a complex business, involving local seabirds and several of the largest marine mammals, as well as fish. Even if only a relatively minor factor in the marine ecology of the northwest Atlantic, industrial-scale harvesting of seabirds probably had a major impact on the maritime cultural landscape, between 1550 and 1750. The early European toponymy of the Petit Nord, a zone exploited primarily by Breton fishers, suggests the possibility that a major seabird colony, now extirpated, once existed on the Atlantic coast of northern Newfoundland.

Peter E. Pope "Early Migratory Fishermen and Newfoundland's Seabird Colonies," Journal of the North Atlantic 2(sp1), 57-70, (1 January 2009).
Published: 1 January 2009

Get copyright permission
Back to Top