Technological and spatial adaptation in the Newfoundland seal fishery during the nineteenth century

Sanger, Chesley W. (1973) Technological and spatial adaptation in the Newfoundland seal fishery during the nineteenth century. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The Newfoundland seal fishery is an example of the exploitation of a biotic resource by man. In systems of this nature there are usually three components: the human element, the environmental setting and the resource itself. As the environment remained relatively constant throughout the nineteenth century the alterations that occurred in the original interrelationship established between these three elements could only have been initiated in the human component or in the resource. -- The renewability of the seal herds was essential to the continuance of the industry. Prior to the introduction of larger sailing vessels towards the end of the eighteenth century the Newfoundland seal fishery had been basically a landsman and small craft operation. The size of the sealing fleet and the number of personnel involved in the venture continued to increase throughout the first sixty years of the nineteenth century. Although there was a corresponding increase in the annual seal catch there was, after the early 1840s, an overall decline in the number of seals killed each year. It appears, therefore, that the sailing vessels had enabled the participants to over-exploit the resource to the detriment of the long-term prospects of the industry. -- This trend was reversed by the introduction of steam-powered vessels in 1865, enabling the human effort to become more efficient. This revitalization of the industry, however, was short-lived due to an apparent further downward readjustment in the seal stocks. In this instance it appears as if the introduction of more efficient technology was less effective in the long run than the less efficient technology it replaced, for when its full potential was realized the ability of the resource to renew itself was even further reduced. -- This new technology was vastly superior to the level of technology represented by the sailing vessels and consequently, entirely new methods and strategies were developed in the hunt which enabled the participants to optimise the advantages which the steamers offered. Subsequently, the character of the Newfoundland seal fishery was completely changed in terms of the on-ice activities, the average size of sealing crews, the total number of participants, the areas of the island represented by the owners, outfitters, masters and sealers, and also in the sharing arrangements between the companies, captains and ordinary sealers.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7532
Item ID: 7532
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [242]-260.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: 1973
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Sealing--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Sealing--Methodology

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