The Newfoundland fisheries and Jersey connections

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Jersey's involvement in the fishing industry of the Gaspe peninsular of New Brunswick, Canada, is extremely well documented, but it was to Newfoundland that adventurous, sea-faring Jerseymen first headed in the 16th century, and they and their descendants were to have a major influence on the cod fisheries based on Canada's offshore province.

16th cetury

There are records of Jersey-based ships and their crews operating from Newfoundland as early as 1562 and within 21 years the island had been taken over in the name of Queen Elizabeth.

Some Jerseymen travelled to Newfoundland every spring, returning to the island later in the year, but expecting to earn several times their winter income on Jersey farms from their expenditions across the Atlantic.

Some decided to settle in Canada, the earliest including the Clements at Burgo and Sablon (Labrador): the Fruings at Blancs Sablons (Labrador), Nicolles at La Pouile and Jersey Harbour, de Quettevilles at La Pouile and Sablon, Le Feuvre at Burin, and Syvret at Ile Vert.

When he first visited Jersey after his appointment as Governor, Sir Walter Raleigh learned that at the end of the 16th century islanders were saved from starvation by the arrival of a cargo of fish from the colony, and he encouraged more young Jerseymen to cross the Atlantic to find the work which was not available for them in their home island.

Their involvement in the Newfoundland fishing industry was to last over 300 years.

Derivation of names

Some Newfoundland historians believe that Jerseymen who ventured across the Atlantic to fish off the island's shores had a much greater influence than has hitherto been suggested. The first two articles linked to below put forward these arguments, one going as far as to suggest that Newfoundland was not discovered, as the history books state, by John Cabot, nor was it's capital named after him, but Jersey fishermen got there first and gave island place names and family names to many Newfoundland towns and coastal areas.

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