Shortly after dawn, Tom Best prodded his rusting boat past the copper-colored cliffs of the continent’s most eastern point, until it was idling over the deep, frigid waters that were once home to the world’s most bountiful fishing grounds.
The 70-year-old captain, like most other fishermen still working here, is old enough to remember better times. On a recent morning, as he eased up on the throttle and the Motion Bay came to a stop, he signaled to four grizzled men at the stern to cast their lines. Each lowered several specially designed hooks into the dark bay, unspooling their nylon lines by hand, like generations of Newfoundland fishermen before them.
But that way of life ended nearly a quarter century ago. After years of overfishing and damaging changes to the ocean environment, the Canadian government in 1992 banned nearly all commercial fishing of cod, an iconic species even more central to life here than in New England, where the fish stocks are also imperiled.