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Lifelines: Canada's East Coast Fisheries

Cross Currents
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing 
in Atlantic Canada
The Porpoise: Fuelling an Economy
Cross Currents: 
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing in Atlantic Canada


Sea mammals such as the porpoise were traditionally hunted for food and for the oil that could be rendered from its fat. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Passamaquoddy people of New Brunswick and the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia turned their hunting skills into a commercial pursuit, in response to the European demand for fine oil which could be used as a lubricant and lamp fuel. Lighthouse-keepers, for example, preferred porpoise oil for their beacons, because it was unaffected by cold weather and burned with little odour.

With the production of petroleum-based oils in the late nineteenth century, commerce in porpoise oil rapidly came to an end and, with it, a loss of lifestyle and income for Native hunters.




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