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Lifelines: Canada's East Coast Fisheries

Cross Currents
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing 
in Atlantic Canada
Saltwater Fish
Cross Currents: 
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing in Atlantic Canada


Coastal environments provided rich feeding grounds, and it was here that aboriginal peoples found much of their sustenance during the year. The cold Labrador current, combined with the warm Gulf Stream, created a plentiful source of food for fishing peoples.

It is only through historical accounts and oral traditions, however, that we can truly appreciate the vast extent and diversity of marine life available to aboriginal peoples. Most peoples used their knowledge of seasonal cycles to target particular species at strategic locations. Smaller fish species such as herring and capelin were usually trapped or netted; larger species such as salmon and striped bass were speared. Shellfish were collected seasonally - primarily during the spring to mid-summer period - but were available year-round.

Fish and Shellfish

Fish and Shellfish of Atlantic Canada
Illustration by Frédéric Back
(Source: Claude Villeneuve and Frédéric Back, Le fleuve aux grandes eaux (Les éditions Québec / Amérique inc. - Société Radio-Canada: 1995))




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