Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Acadian Economy, History and Development, by Aurèle Young

“For a very long time, fish were abundant and no one thought of protecting the stocks since catches were limited, given the relatively small labour force employed in the industry.

At the beginning, the Acadians regarded fishing as a family business in which each member performed a set task. This traditional fishery was a way of life, a subsistence economy carried on within a small community group. Such a conception of the fishery favoured a certain stability in the Acadian population.

So long as this practice lasted, it was natural that fish marketing would not be considered an important factor by the fisherman. This created a kind of barrier between market requirements and what the fisherman were prepared to provide. It also explains why few companies were interested in setting up fish-processing plants in Acadian areas. Marketing only reached our communities in the form of a barter system, whereby fisherman exchanged their fish for consumer goods in company stores. Unfortunately, this system of trade, which was often disastrous for the fisherman, lasted until the 1930’s.

About 1930, fisherman became aware of their precarious position and sought to correct it. The organizers of the cooperative movement realized that the fisherman would have to abandon their subsistence economy in favour of a market economy. There was confusion among fishermen at first, because the market economy required production to be organized so as to provide maximum benefit for producers of goods. However, in the face of growing needs and the necessity of securing enough income to meet them, the fishermen agreed to coordinate their efforts to increase the profitability of the entire industry.

To succeed, they had to introduce new techniques that would increase the quantity of fish while decreasing their unit cost. Confronted with this development, Acadian fisherman found themselves in a perplexing situation: for lack of sufficient capital they could not launch a modernization program to meet the requirements of a competitive economy.

To meet these new needs, fishermen’s cooperatives arose in various Acadian localities. These cooperatives showed vitality, and strove to keep up with the march of progress. However, we must stress the fact that with a few exceptions, the fishing industry is still suffering from backwardness in its administrative, technical and research personnel. We have reason to believe that this phenomenon is more pronounced in the Francophone areas. Even though the number of fisherman is bound to diminish, the industry will experience considerable growth in the future. New Brunswick alone has 5484 fishermen, distributed in 230 villages. Of this number, 1768 live in the northeast. In addition 87 plants which specialize in fish processing hire 5000 to 6000 people each year.”

(Quote from: P.200-201, The Acadian Economy, History and Development, by Aurèle Young; Daigle, Jean. 1982. Acadians of the maritimes : Thematic studies. Moncton, N.B.: Centre d'études acadiennes.)

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