Nfld. & Labrador

No cutting, no gutting: A Quidi Vidi wharf is off limits to fishers

Yoga, lunches and wedding photos are OK, but there's no cleaning of fish on a wharf in historic Quidi Vidi Village.

Yoga, lunches and wedding photos are OK, but don't clean your fish by the Plantation

Actor and filmmaker Ruth Lawrence thought a sign prohibiting gutting fish on a wharf in Quidi Vidi was a joke — but she's not laughing anymore. (Submitted )

When Ruth Lawrence noticed a sign next to the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation prohibiting fish gutting, she thought it was a joke.

"At first I found it funny," said the actor and filmmaker, who was in the area for a photo shoot.

Lawrence wasn't laughing for long.

The City of St. John's sign bans the gutting and splitting of fish and use of fuel on the wharf in front of the Plantation, a building used as a business incubator for craft workers.

The building opened in 2012 following consultations with people in the village, a settlement that dates back to the 16th century.

Fishing boats spend the winter next to the wharf at the Plantation. (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

Before being purchased by the city, the area was known as Tucker's Wharf, a place where locals would land and gut fish.

Splitting tables rather than picnic tables

At a consultation meeting, a resident suggested there should be splitting tables rather than picnic tables outside the building. That didn't happen.

"I did find it a little jarring to see that people who live in a community side by side with artists, suddenly those people who, you know, have built that place, are being prohibited from doing the things that they spent their whole lives doing," said Lawrence.

During the summer the wharf is used as a place to eat lunch and practise yoga. (Todd O'Brien/CBC )

Lots of wharfs to gut and split fish

Hope Jamieson, the area's city councillor, says there are lots of wharfs in Quidi Vidi on which people gut and split their fish but the Plantation's wharf serves a number of other purposes

"People get married there, people do yoga there, people that eat their lunch there, and so I suppose that is the rationale for the sign."

The Plantation officially opened June 27, 2012, and a press release that day quotes then-mayor Dennis O'Keefe as saying, "The name Quidi Vidi Village Plantation comes from our earliest colonists who settled in the region and were known as planters and their fishing rooms called plantations. We are pleased to honour the history and heritage of the site with this name."

A photo with the news release shows the sign wasn't up at that time.

The Plantation wharf boasts a tremendous view and is a great place for wedding photos. (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

Lawrence says she doesn't have a problem with people practicing yoga or eathing their lunch there, but wonders if the sign is even needed.

"I really do question where we're going as a culture when we start making rules that are going to actually like push that culture aside, especially in places that were traditionally fishing communities."

Haven't received complaints

Jamieson said she hasn't heard any complaints.

"There's an interesting narrative about Quidi Vidi in that some people think that the old and the new are sort of fighting against one another," she said, but she doesn't see it that way.

"I think that it's perfectly acceptable for people splitting and gutting fish to exist on one wharf, and on another wharf for people to be eating their lunch and doing yoga. I think all of those things are of benefit to Quidi Vidi harbour."

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