The Cod Moratorium of Newfoundland and Labrador

On July 2nd 1992, the Canadian government placed a moratorium on the Northern Cod fishery on the east coast of the country. This moratorium came after years of over-fishing posed a serious threat to ocean cod stocks and the government hoped that this moratorium would allow the species to rebuild. After 500 years of fishing activity in Newfoundland and Labrador, the moratorium came a huge shock to the province’s fishers and put approximately 30,000 people out of work which stands as the single largest mass layoff in Canadian history, accounting for 12% of the province’s work force. Plants closed, boats stayed in their berths and hundreds of coastal communities saw their main source of livelihood disappear overnight.

While the Cod Moratorium equated to hard economic times for those who relied heavily on the fishing industry as a means for living, many aspiring musicians used these hardships to their advantage. The many song written in response to the moratorium convey great hardship and respond explicitly to the fisheries crisis. Some “Moratorium Song” singers had turned to songwriting for the first time, seeing music as an appropriate vehicle for social commentary.

Take a listen to “She’s Gone Boys, She’s Gone” by Wayne Bartlett

Lyrics:

The old man looked down in his dory As he stood on the wharf one more time. With the wind in his hair, he stood there and stared “Look at her now, what a crime!” Said, “I can recall when I built her, When I lived in the place I called home. ‘ Twas a good life back then, but never again, ‘Cause now, SHE’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE.

He said, “M y father once told me That surely there would come a day When the fish that you’d get would be too small to sp lit And too big to just throw away.” I never thought that I’d ever live to see such going on. To think that the end could ever have been, But now, SHE’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE.

 She’s gone, boys, she’s gone, she’s gone, She’s gone boys, she’s gone. What we didn’t destroy, we allowed to die. And now, she’s gone, boys, she’s gone, SHE’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE.

He stopped for a moment, just stood there With a handkerchief, he wiped his eyes. He looked out to sea, then he looked at me He said, “I pities you, boy. You’ll never see the great big old codfish Float up in the trap and go on Out over the heads like one time they did, Cause now, SHE’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE.”

He said, “You see that old dory; One day I thought she’d be yours: She’s still just as good, you know, as she was, Except for the gunwhales and oars. She might need a new plank there somewhere, And the bottom might be a bit drawn.” Then a lump in his throat as the old man spoke: “SH E’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE, BOYS, SHE’S GONE.”

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