Nifty Keen in a Pinch

Hello dear One,

nifty pierce is a character among all, living in one of the most obscure places in the world (next to a cave in afghanistan)…a little visited seaside village called harbor le cou.  “cou” meaning “a sack” in French, because the harbor itself is shaped like a protective little bag, a tranquil sanctuary set amongst rocky cliffs and dangerous rip currents of the north atlantic.  nifty is a survivor, as all of harbor le cou’s residents are.  but among those i met while visiting on the yacht dagny, nifty struck me as the most respendantly charismatic of all.  why?  because he alone among those i met, dared to buck the system.  but poor ol’ nifty got caught BIG TIME.

nifty pierce doin' his thing, un huh

nifty pierce in front of his newfie house, with his nova scotia old car plates

what happened to nifty, emblematic of the current predicament of his country, the Rock (as newfies call newfoundland), is this:

back in the early 90s a moratorium (“a suspension of activity set by authority”) on cod fishing was declared by the governing powers of canada, the mother country of newfoundland and labrador, the two outlying provinces that, for centuries, relied solely upon cod fishing for their livelihood.

as a result, nifty, the same as most other newfies, was flat out of a job.  with no cod fishing, there’s hardly any other way to earn money in the mossy marshlands of the rock, unless you are a shopkeeper.  so nifty left and spent time working odd jobs over in bigger, more industrial nova scotia.  but, like all newfies, he longed to be where he belonged–back on the rock.

the moratorium, by the way, was the only hope the government had of restoring their fished out northern atlantic territory that had, in just a few years, been totally wiped clean of fish and all other sea life by gigantic “fish factory ships” that russia and japan sent throughout the world.  these colossal ships (are they still out there???) sent out smaller boats that literally chewed up the floor of the ocean with their miles-long draglines, destroying all and everything of the oceanic environment in their path.  everything was wiped clean that lived on the bottom of the sea.  no longer was there any place for a fish to feed off of, hide from predators, or spawn, or … live.  so the fish died in huge numbers.  those that were brought up in the gargantuan draglines of the trawlers, and those that no longer had the protection of the sea’s ecology, the natural bottom of the ocean.  not only were marketable fish decimated by these monstrous fish factories, but also people’s morale and livelihoods on land.

back in the fishing villages that dot the atlantic coastline, newfies relied upon the second part of the fishing industry for their jobs.  namely: the processing (gutting, packing, icing down) and shipping of the local boats’ catches.  the villanous factory ships did it all–kill, gut, and pack–without ever touching local land.  no longer were the newfie ladies or men who handled the fish needed.  fish factories closed down.  jobs disappeared.  the entire nation had nothing to do–but hang out.

the (combined) nation of newfoundland and labrador suffered a mid-life shock: they were no longer wanted or needed.  no longer did they have any jobs.  no longer were there any fish for them to catch, as their ancestors had been doing forever, or at least since the basque people “discovered” newfoundland, long before leif erikson, the viking discoverer did.  hence the name port aux basque, one of the largest ports of southern newfoundland.

back to nifty, who returned to harbor le cou from nova scotia, determined to live like his father, and grandfather’s people before him, at home in harbor le cou.  what would he do to exist there?  well, like everybody else in nifty’s situation, every man and woman who didn’t want to leave their island home to find a job on the mainland–many traveling as far west as b.c. (british columbia) to work on the pipeline–went on the dole.

naturally, in a country with so many on welfare, an excessive amount of drinking became a substitute for feeling useful.  nifty was not exempt.

with no cod to catch and nothing much else to do, nifty, one day not too long ago, made a very bad decision.

he wanted to catch a few fish for himself.  why not? he figured. he lives next to the big vast atlantic, where some  fish always can be caught.  he figured even if the fleet is legally grounded, why can’t a man have a little fish to eat?  simple, right?  it’s a person’s right, to eat fish!

except for the moratorium.

a meager allotment is now allowed, after these fifteen-some years of the sea replenishing itself.  each individual boat is alloted a small quota, a total yearly harvest of 13,000 pounds of cod, which, if figured at current market price, amounts to less than $10K per boat, which hardly pays for even the fuel, let alone a meager salary for the two or three men needed to handle boat and longlines.

newfie fishermen with their meager cod quota

newfie fishermen with their meager cod quota

so on this day in question, frustrated, daring, and a tad inebriated, nifty borrowed a small skiff from a friend of his in harbor le cou to set about bringing in the few salmon that had taken the bait in the traps he’d set out the night before, close to harbor le cou’s sea-washed rocky shore.  unbeknownst to him, five game wardens were watching him through their binonculars from atop a cliff.  as he hauled in his catch of just enough to eat and to share with some to his friends, the wardens came rushing from the cliff.  nifty was arrested upon reaching the lonely site where the locals haul up their sturdy single-engine runabouts.  taken into custody, his catch confiscated as evidence, nifty did the noble thing.  he lied and said he’d stolen his friend’s boat, in order to keep his friend out of it.  now nifty’s out on bail awaiting trial, on charges of stealing a boat, which he suspects will bring him jail time, as it’s a more serious crime than poaching fish.  nifty’s resigned to spending some time in jail.  he sure as heck doesn’t have anything to pay a fine with.  but … he’s a survivor.  he’ll be all right.  maybe a few months drying out in jail will be good for his head.  maybe it’ll be nifty pierce who will come up with the perfect solution, of how his countrymen and women will be able to make this difficult transition into the “modern age.”

nifty’s challenge is the same as what all newfies face: how to make a living now that the cod fishing industry is virtually over.  the ocean can no longer sustain the huge numbers of cod it used to.  there simply is no more fish for the time-honored lifestyle of being a newfie cod fisherman, to exist any longer.

this dilemma of obselescence is one that humankind has faced throughout milennia.

what to do when what we’ve done for so long…is no longer relevant, no longer possible…and we are faced with being forced to change.

when this “needing to change” hits an individual it can be something to think about, amounting to a personal choice.  but when a moratorium on fishing, or any other life-changing situation faces an entire nation, an entire populace, it’s a collective grief that first occurs. in the case of the newfies this has been going on now for close to twenty years (they are a stubborn, hard-to-change lot; even their accents, music, and quaint stomping dance style twang with their irish and scot ancestry).  with the hopes of innovative solutions coming left and right from “outsiders”…the newfies themselves remain mostly in a state of perpetual, communal shock, grief, and frustration.  and, for those like nifty pierce–rebellion.

we’ll be thinking of you, nifty!  sending you the white Light to surround your court case, as we do the entire nation of newfoundland and labrador, in their continued struggle in discovering how to survive “after the cod.”

in the Light, lordflea

the rock from our boat's porthole

the rock from our boat

3 thoughts on “Nifty Keen in a Pinch

  1. rhea says:

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    Like

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    Like

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