The Cape Breton blockade that kept some boats from fishing
Cod fishers were protesting limits in 1993 by preventing other boats from going out
If they couldn't get their usual amount of fish, no one would.
On Sept. 24, 1993, cod fishers upset with limits on how much fish they could catch took action in Glace Bay on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island.
"They want the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to reverse its decision to shut down all longline fishing," explained the CBC's Carol Anne Drake.
To that end, she explained, they had "built a blockade" and arranged their boats in the harbour so that the two draggers, which caught a different species of fish not under restrictions, could not leave.
Unfair all around
"It's just not fair," said a fisherman who favoured the blockade, noting that one sector of the fleet was allowed to work while another wasn't.
Drake said the DFO claimed cod fishers were catching "up to 2,500 to 3,500 pounds of cod per trip" when their quota was just 500 pounds. That was why they had put a stop to the in-shore cod fleet.
"They have to know that the draggers are fishing different species ... and that they are keeping that plant going, on-shore workers busy and so on," said the DFO's Fred Allen.
The fish plant manager, Greg Mitchelitis, told Drake about 170 workers were thrown out of work by not having unrestricted fish to process due to the blockade.
"We're fishing red fish and that's a very clean fishery. You get strictly redfish," he said. "We're not catching codfish."
The blockade continues
"It started with eight boats," said the CBC's Laurie Graham, picking up the story three days later. "Now it's up to about 40."
By then, the workers at the Highland fish plant had organized a protest of their own.
"Who the hell are they, to tell us that we can't work?" a woman was heard asking a group of fellow employees assembled outside the plant.
Some of them had made signs directed at the longliners nearby, and George Gibbs described their actions as "illogical."
'It's my livelihood'
"They can't work if the draggers can't fish, and they want the longliners to stop the blockade," said Graham.
But to the longliners, they had been left with no other options to make their frustrations known to the DFO.
"It's my livelihood. It's all I've ever done," said cod fisher Bruce Strong. "If I lose my boat I could possibly lose my home, my vehicle ... it's very important."
According to further reporting by CBC, the Clearwater Fine Foods fish plant twice made applications for an injunction that would stop the blockade and was turned down twice by a judge in Sydney, N.S.
The blockade came to an end after 15 days and a "small concession" from the DFO.