Newfoundland National Convention, 26 March 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


March 26, 1947

Report of the Fisheries Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

[The committee passed the section on the seal fishery, and then passed on to the section concerning the whalefishery[2] and Appendix E[3]]
Mr. Ashbourne I was wondering if there is any fear of overfishing, or whether there is any sign of diminution of whales around the coast. I was also wondering whether there is any ambergris. which is used as a base for highly priced perfumes, and if it is exported, and I was wondering if we could get any idea of the value.
Mr. Crosbie As far as we can learn there is no sign of the diminution of the whales, and they have got a scientist there the last few years. To my knowledge there has not been any ambergris.
Mr. Smallwood Is there a tendency towards a shortage of whales?
Mr. Crosbie I would not be sure, but the quota has been filled this year.
Mr. Smallwood There is an international quota?
Mr. Crosbie There is an international agreement, which sets the number of whales that can be taken.
Mr. Smallwood Do you remember the number?
Mr. Crosbie In the Antarctic it is 16,000.
Mr. Harrington These figures on page 7 would seem to indicate that there is no shortage of whales. There is a steady increase.
Mr. Crosbie From 1940 to 1942 the Hawke's Harbour plant was closed.
Mr. Job Do you have two steamers there or only one?
Mr. Crosbie Only one for 1940.
Mr. Ballam Mr. Crosbie says this is a million dollar industry, and he anticipates in the future it will be reduced to $600,000. Why do you anticipate such reduction if the demand is so great?
Mr. Crosbie Most everyone realises that during the next three or four years the price will come down. I would not expect to see the price maintained.
Mr. Ballam It could be maintained if you had a greater production?
Mr. Crosbie No.
Mr. Hickman is it a fact that the Norwegians have already lowered their price this year?
Mr. Crosbie True, it has dropped from $550 a March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 397 ton to $503, but I don't think that's a fair value. It's in connection with the British government quid pro quo, and on top of that I might say that Canada is mixed up with it.
Mr. Smallwood How?
Mr. Crosbie Great Britain gets her wheat from Canada for $1.50, so Canada and Great Britain got together and set the Norwegian price. They can still charge us $18 for flour.
Mr. Smallwood Could Mr. Crosbie tell us what happens to most of the whale oil produced in Newfoundland after it goes away, and why the thing that happens to it after it leaves does not happen here in Newfoundland. He knows what I mean. It goes to Canada does it not? What do they do with it?
Mr. Crosbie Prior to the war it all went to Europe. Only under wartime conditions has it gone to Canada. It goes to a plant where it is deodorised and hardened; some parts of it are used for eating, and some is sent back to Newfoundland for margarine. In this country you can't establish a plant of this kind without a minimum of 5,000 tons.
Mr. Smallwood ....How many tons would you get out of the whales we have here?
Mr. Crosbie About 3,000 tons.
Mr. Smallwood Could you import some oil to make up the rest?
Mr. Crosbie No, but you can use seal oil and herring oil, but the last five years we have not had that much including all the oils. It looks brighter in the future, but I can't say for sure. I understand Lever Brothers may do it in the future.
Mr. Smallwood I thought you were going to do it.
Mr. Crosbie It costs too much money.
Mr. Hollett Are they all Newfoundlanders employed in the whaling factories?
Mr. Crosbie All except the gunners, who are mostly Norwegians. There are two Smiths who have been whaling for 20 years and neither one of them will take a gun yet. Outside of Williamsport[1] they are all Newfoundlanders, but the gunners are all Norwegians.
Mr. Northcott This list of wages, does that include all people employed?
Mr. Crosbie All men employed ashore.
Mr. Job I am rather surprised that this whaling industry is not conducted on a very large scale in Newfoundland. I think there were factories in ten different places around the island some years ago, and it was manufactured just the same as it is today.... There was between $500,000 and $1 million invested in that industry, which was lost by the disappearance of the whales.
Mr. Smallwood There was a world wide shortage of whales for a time.
Mr. Job And the price of whale oil at that time — I think Mr. Crosbie mentioned it was around $503 a ton — had gone down to about $60 a ton, and it was impossible to continue.
[After some further discussion the section passed, and the committee moved to the section dealing with subsidiary fisheries]
Mr. Job ....We talk cleverly of the development of the fisheries but there is a good deal to be said as to whether we will have the manpower to develop them unless we change our method of catching, etc., because without question the tendency has been in recent years to leave the fisheries and go to the forestry industry for one thing; also the growing generation is perhaps better educated than the older generation and a number of them like to seek what they term white collar work, and what effect those two points will have on the fishery is a question for the future. I think for that reason we have got to consider more the mechanisation of the fishery if we are going to keep our quantity up.
[There followed a discussion of the halibut and salmon fisheries]
Mr. Northcott ....I see dogfish were left out. I am glad to see that the lobster industry is a big thing. I notice some lobsters were sent to Sweden. The price is really marvelous.... We have good inspectors, but not enough. Around our way an inspector will give us a license, and go to the other place and give another man a license. Then he goes off, and when he returns nobody has seen the lobster that has gone in those tins. It is not his fault, he is worked to death. If we could educate some of our teachers to assist in the inspection of lobster, salmon, herring, etc., during June, July and August I think it would be a good thing. Every other day you could have them come in and look over your factory and see that everything is tidy and clean. It is a sad state of affairs.... I think all lobsters should be inspected right on the road before anybody buys them. For instance Jack 398 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 Jones puts up 100 cases of lobsters and sends them to St. John's. When these are inspected ten cases are thrown out, and when this man gets his returns he is disappointed. The merchant is not to blame. When they are culled out in St. John's they feel that something has gone wrong. Last year we bought 500-800 cases of salmon and lobsters, and these were culled on our premises, and we sent the man his report back and his cheque. Five cases were spoiled and he got disappointed and hurt over it, but if these lobsters could be inspected right there on the premises and that man given a clean receipt there would be no need of any other inspection.
Mr. Job You mean in the tins?
Mr. Northcott Yes, sir. In nine cases out of ten they come in to St. John's before any inspection is made, and they come from Green Bay or Lumsden, and when that man gets his final receipt perhaps ten cases were thrown out, and it creates a bad feeling between the buyer and the man. If we had a few extra inspectors he could grade the lobsters before they came in to St. John's.
Mr. Vardy That is what is being done in our district. I have personally inspected some of the factories. One man made three visits last year in my presence He just picked a tin and opened it.[1] The existing fisheries inspectors have not complained about being overworked The regular inspectors make inspections, and I have not seen any fish plants as clean as the lobster factories.
Mr. Harrington Mr. Northcott raised an interesting point, and this is the matter of the dogfish. I have here The Life History of the Spiny Dogfish, and the Vitamin A Value of Dogfish Liver Oil by Dr. Wilfred Templeman.[2] He says an abundance of dogfish affect unfavourably every other fishery, particularly net fisheries, such as salmon, and codfishing, particularly handlining and trawls. Dogfish lie near the surface or in intermediate layers of water and take all of the bait before the hook can reach the bottom where the cod reside. In view of the importance of this matterl wonder if the Committee had considered what could be done about the dogfish.
Mr. Job I am afraid the dogfish don't have much commercial value, and the fishermen must wait until the dogfish end. Its only a problem for a few weeks of the season.
Mr. Hillier What Mr. Harrington has said is quite tme. There are times when they are unable to bait their lines because dogfish are so plentiful, but there seems to have been no remedy discovered, there must still continue to be dogfish.[3]
Mr. Chairman Is the committee ready for the question?
Mr. Penney I wonder could Mr. Job tell us the meaning of the export value on Appendix F of the salmon fishery. Salmon chilled, exported to Bermuda 30 lbs — $16, and frozen, to Bermuda, 60 lbs. — $16 Now then again, to Australia 48 lbs — $50 These are the correct values, are they?
Mr. Job They were probably presents sent by people I should imagine, but they had to go through the Customs, you see.
Mr. Ashbourne Mr. Chairman, according to the figures given here it is very evident that these fisheries, particularly the lobster fishery and the salmon fishery, are very important fisheries to Newfoundland, and it is very interesting to note that the lobsters exported to Canada and United States amounted to over $650,000. We see also that the markets, Canada and the States together with the United Kingdom, for our salmon fishery exports is good, and in view of the high value of these fisheries to Newfoundland I think that some scientific investigation should be undertaken and continually pursued to see that we are not overfishing these important fisheries. To my mind, there are no statistics in this report to back it up, but I rather think that the salmon fishery is a declining one, and I have often wondered what will be the future of the salmon fishery, and what are the causes of the serious decline in the catches of salmon particularly. Some people think that the increase in the number of seals the past few years has been probably brought about by the fact that these seals may be preying upon the salmon. I don't know. I believe the recommendation that some assistance be provided for Dr. Templeman in the biological department would be money well spent in investigating the decline of these fisheries, because they are very important March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 399 fisheries. The lobster and salmon fisheries come to almost $2 million, and we should certainly be greatly interested to see that they are scientifically fished and conservatively fished, and not over- fished, so that by and by the salmon and lobsters will have to have a closed season to prevent their extinction.
Mr. Newell On that point I note that on the first page of the Appendix the total poundage of live lobsters to Canada and USA is approximately 2.5 million pounds, and the total returns approximately $650,000, and I think that works out to around 25 1/3 cents per pound as the declared value to the Customs. When I take what value is declared to the Customs, and the figure we have is 25 cents per pound on that basis given there, and then on page 57 of the report, which has not been read yet, in the section on co-operatives, you have the fact that they shipped 900,000 pounds and got a net proceeds of $300,000, and the price to the fishermen is given as an average of 32 cents per pound. Well, that would seem to further substantiate the argument that this other figure is considerably too low, that actually it should be a good deal higher than that. I don't know if losses involved by the private companies were so much heavier than the losses of the co-operative, because the figure of 32 cents per pound averaged by the fishermen in your co-operative take the losses into account.
Mr. Hollett What page?
Mr. Newell Page 57. That would seem to strengthen the idea that the value of our lobster exports might be up to $1.5 million.
Mr. Keough In the shipment of live lobster the exporter might invoice them up at this price and then the price might jump and he gets that extra.
Mr. Newell I am not questioning the validity of our information, but what I am suggesting is that if one group of people average that price over the season it stands to reason that all others might have had a chance to do likewise — therefore the value would be considerably higher.
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, I wish to retire owing to being on the Woods Labour Board.
Mr. Chairman Very well, sir.
Mr. Chairman The motion is that this section do pass as read.
Mr. Reddy I would like to make some reference to Mr. Harrington's remarks re dogfish. They are a menace to fishermen all overthe country. A few years ago, due to persistent agitation by fishermen, an experiment was carried out in connection with IR. Dickson of Fortune, and large numbers were caught and freighted to Canada. The thing became uneconomical because it involved too much expense, but it did destroy much dogfish. It had to be abandoned although it did do much good. The Commission of Government agreed whole-heartedly in destroying this menace.
[The section was adopted]
Mr. Job The next section is "By Products", pages 324-35,[1] and Appendix G.[2]
[The Secretary read from the report]
Mr. Smallwood These two plants which you spoke of in St. John's and Bonavista, is there not one in Harbour Grace for fishmeal?
Mr. Crosbie No, there is a freezing plant in Harbour Grace.
Mr. Smallwood But aren't they arranging to make fishmeal?
Mr. Crosbie It may be brought from Harbour Grace to St. John's.
Mr. Reddy There is one at Burin.
Mr. Hickman Cod liver oil factories — there were 127 licensed in 1945 and only 111 in 1946, yet further on in the report it says that the demand is in excess of the supply. I was wondering why the reduction of 16 plants last year.
Mr. Keough I obtained these figures from the Fisheries Board, and I put that question to them but they could not give me any satisfaction. It was not a matter of licenses being refused, they were not applied for.
Mr. Starkes The price last year did not warrant it and they did not ask for a license.
Mr. Smallwood Won't you have to amend this now: "We are advised that the operators of one large plant in St. John's (and another in Bonavista), have now made arrangements for the manufacture of their waste." Mr. Reddy says there is a plant in Burin, and that will be three.
Mr. Crosbie Earlier in the report it was mentioned that there was one in Burin and one at Isle aux Morts. There will be four.
Mr. Smallwood Could Mr. Crosbie tell us what white fishmeal is, is that meal made from codfish rather than herring?
Mr. Crosbie The difference between them is that white fishmeal is made from non-oily fish, and the other is that which is produced from fish of oil content.
Mr. Smallwood I missed that. That's mainly codfish?
Mr. Crosbie Yes, and haddock and flounders.
Mr. Smallwood What type of manufacture of fishmeal do they have in these two plants, is it the new process or the old method?
Mr. Crosbie The plants in St. John's and Bonavista will have the new method, the others have the old method.
Mr. Bailey I wonder if we can utilise sharks' livers in this country?
Mr. Crosbie The number of sharks that go ashore is negligible. T here's not the quantity of fish to warrant it.
Mr. Smallwood We have lots of sharks in this country, Mr. Crosbie!
Mr. Crosbie I quite agree with you, Mr. Smallwood!
Mr. Smallwood If we could manufacture all the sharkes we would have a very large ourput.
Mr. Vardy I wonder, did the Committee give any consideration to pothead whaleoil in this country?
Mr. Crosbie The Committee did not give a great deal of consideration to it. As you know these are driven ashore, and by the time you have gotten around to processing them they are fairly putrid. Of course some are taken in the canning season over in Trinity bay, and they can be used. I believe that's going ahead in Trinity Bay this summer.
Mr. Vardy Yes, I know. I asked the question for the benefit of my listeners. It will be a future industry in this country, I believe.
[The section was adopted]
Mr. Job The next section is pages 35-37,[1] Canning Industry, and Appendix H.[2] That's the second last subcommittee report. The next section is pages 37-40.[3]
[The Secretary read from the report]
Mr. Smallwood I can see some little idea of how they can guess at $24 - $25 million for the future. Can they give us some idea of how they break that down?
Mr. Job I think it was probably due to the state of the livers of the Committee because there is absolutely no way to make it up. It is clearly guess work. We simply took what we thought was a reasonable amount to allow for the decline. Many people think that we will have a considerable increase in volume, especially in such things as herring and canning and by products, and we thought we should put something in. If anyone can tell us how to get any other figures we will be glad.
Mr. Smallwood I will be glad to help you, Mr. Job! Seriously, further back in your report here, dealing with codfish alone you said that the future value of exports might be $10 million, and to be on the safe side you had better put it at $8 million. Well, if you take the production last year, $34.5 million, counting the million that was eaten here in Newfoundland, you will find that nearly $17.5 million of that was salt codfish alone, and you figure for the future $8 million, less than half. Incidentally in this total for last year, have you got the oils?
Mr. Job Yes.
Mr. Smallwood Yes, $2.5 million for oils beginning a year or two from now. Surely oils are going to be worth a lot less than $2.5 million, unless the fall in price is more than made up by the increase in output? We might still have $2.5 million worth to export in that case, but all through this long table making up $3.5 million, surely to goodness in the next three or four years there is going to be considerable decline in value of a great many items, even if there is an increase in the value of many others, and to make a total of $34.5 million and thenjust lop off $10 million and call it $24 million for the future is nothing more than a pious hope.
Mr. Job A 33% decline.
Mr. Smallwood The Convention is trying to find out if the country is likely to be self-supporting in the next ten or 12 years. If we can't make some kind of fairly reliable estimate of what our fishery economy is going to be worth in the next eight or ten years, half of the country's economy, we are only guessing. We have surely got to arrive at something in the nature of a fairly reliable estimate of what the fisheries are going to be March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 401 worth in the next eight or ten years.
Mr. Job You will have to show us how to do it.
Mr. Smallwood Well, I would too, but if we can't do it how can we say whether we will be self-supporting or not in the next eight or ten years? I hope that will bring Mr. Crosbie to his feet.
Mr. Crosbie I don't know, there is an awful lot of hot air around here. I don't agree with Mr. Job. It was not a blind guess. I don't know if he knows how this $2.5 million was made up on oil. It was not until sometime in November or December that the large increase in oil came, so actually it would be nearer $5 million instead of $2.5 million — pretty near double, so actually that figure of $2.5 million is somewhere near double since November, and in some cases triple.
Mr. Job We can only take the Customs' declared value.
Mr. Crosbie I am not criticising. I am trying to explain to Mr. Smallwood what the position is. I am not one of the critics, and I don't intend to be. Now with regards to the drop, where we estimate a drop in salt codfish around $8 million. As I said before, this country has one fish only, the codfish, and as soon as we forget that attitude the sooner the country will get on its feet. For one thing alone, these figures for 1947 will be closer to $4.5 million rather than $2.5 million, that's for the same quantity, and you are going to get increased production over the next two or three years, and additional quantities of fishrneal that have not been exported before will take up a lot of the slack. You have those canning plants, last year it was somewhere in the vicinity of $8 million, and there is no reason why we can't export $2-3 million worth of canned goods. I don't think this estimate is too far wrong. lfI were to make a little bet I might say that in the next few years it might be $40 million.
Mr. Smallwood I am glad to hear Mr. Crosbie express such optimism, but we have got to keep our feet on the ground, you have to admit that. Just come back to that table: haddock was $300,000 last year, lobsters $1 million, and salmon close to $1 million. Sealskins $500,000 last year, squid $136,000, and then you have a large number of other items, all at I imagine inflated, shortage prices. Now, say you are right, oil that was worth $2.5 million in 1946 in 1947 comes to be worth $4.5 or $5 million, and even in 1948 let's say it is worth $5 million, surely by the end of 1948 the world shortage of oil would be won. There will be no shortage of oil two years from now. It is true you can be producing more by that time than you are now, but is it possible, unless you get into herring in a big way, to increase your output of oil and take up the falling prices? Even if it is worth $5 million now, will it be worth that two or three years from now? There must be a limit to the amount of salmon and lobster you can get. I am a tremendous believer in herring. Iceland, which we look upon as a codfish country, at the end of 1944 had 62 quick-freezing plants in operation costing $10 million. In l945 they produced 200,000 tons of fish — how much of that was codfish? 3,000 tons out of the 214,000 tons of all kinds of fish. We have not begun to think of herring. I agree with Mr. Crosbie. We must keep our feet on the ground.
Mr. Crosbie You are a great confederate, I believe? There is a magazine called the Fishing Gazette and in it is an article called "The Year To Come"; if you read that, you might be optimistic about this country. I am not a magician. Lots of people cannot tell what is going to happen within the next five years. If the price comes down in thiscountry, it will come down in other countries. Within the next two years I expect to see $3 million worth of herring oil. We agreed upon an annual expectancy of $25 million from our fish ing industry. The only country I have seen pessimistic is my own.
Mr. Smallwood There is an editorial in the Canadian Fisherman of January 1947, a review of the past and the future; it reads: "The past year has brought to an end an era of war-time prosperity and easy markets for the commercial fisheries. During the war there was a big demand for sea foods. After the cessation of hostilities, the demand continued to rehabilitate and feed the destitute people of Europe. From now on we will have to sell seafoods to countries now producing their own requirements: during 1947 through their lower standards of living. They are able to fish the same grounds as ourselves, transport their catch long distances for processing and then ship back again at a market price which we cannot meet."
Mr. Crosbie I do not care ifthis country never sees a codfish for the next ten years. There are halibut banks in the Gulf never touched. There 402 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 are all sorts of fish. Personally, I am an optimist more than a pessimist.
Mr. Bailey After listening to Mr. Smallwood I was wondering just how countries like Portugal, Spain and France can compete with us over here. I can see how it can be done. We have no doubt, as Mr. Crosbie says, a competitor in Norway as far as codfish is concerned. Iceland has never been a competitor. I cannot see how even Spain and Portugal are going to feed the people, let alone feed their own.... In 1909, 1907, 1908 and 1911 we could buy more for a dollar than we do today. We should be concerned with what we will be able to buy with what we produce. Take the fisherman today, he is in one of the worst places he has ever been in in the history of the shore fishery. The men of my district, on the shore fishery, their average earnings are $325; out of that they had to come home and feed their families — flour $18 a barrel. How much better off they were if they caught 50 quintals in 1929, than the men who catch 50 quintals today. He was five times better off then. If the price of producing fish comes down, then let the prices come down. If it was not for the woods and land, you would have more men on the dole than in 1930. That is our shore fishermen.
Mr. Hollett I feel the Committee has made a fairly conservative estimate of what things to come are going to amount to as far as fish is concemed.... I admire Mr. Crosbie's optimism I feel quite sure that it will not go back more than half.... I cannot agree with Mr. Smallwood that the Committee overestimated on any false basis whatsoever.... Looking at the figures, I am sure the Committee which brought in this excellent report has not falsely estimated. Nobody can make an exact estimate. It must be tantamount to a guess, although I am sure it is not a guess. I entirely agree with the conclusions the Committee has come to.
[The section passed. The committee rose, reported progress, and the Convention adjourned]


Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:181. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:191. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [3] Volume II:231. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] A community on the Northern Peninsula.
  • [1] The following section, is taken from the recording of the proceeding.
  • [2] Wilfred Templeman, The Life History of the Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and the Vitamin A Values of Dogfish Liver Oil. (St. John's: Newfoundland Department of Natural Resources, 1944).
  • [3] End of the section taken from the recordings.
  • [1] Volume II:193. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:236. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:195. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:239. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [3] Volume II:196. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

Personnes participantes: