The 1992 moratorium on fishing for Northern Cod marked a symbolic end to the way of life that had sustained Newfoundland's out ports for hundreds of years. It also marked the completion of an ecological regime shift, from an ocean ecosystem dominated by cod and other predatory ground fish, to one in which such fish are comparatively scarce, and lower-trophic-level invertebrates more common. We examine patterns of change seen in large-scale social indicators, which reflect the smaller-scale adaptations of individuals and communities during this ecological shift. Trends in population, migration, age, unemployment and dependency suggest declining conditions in rural Newfoundland over the years of fisheries troubles. The 1992 crisis accelerated previous trends, but did not produce great discontinuities. Some trends date instead to the late-1980s resource-depletion phase that ended the "glory years" of Newfoundland's ground fish boom. Government interventions meant to soften the economic impact of the 1992 crisis also blunted its social impacts, effectively postponing or distributing these over a number of subsequent years. Out port society is adapting to shifts in the regulatory and global-market environment, as well as changing marine ecology. Adaptive strategies include new investments in invertebrate fisheries, changes in education and migration, and continuing reliance on the informal economy.



Publication Date

Winter 2001

Journal Title

Human Ecology Review


Society for Human Ecology

Document Type



© Society for Human Ecology

Included in

Sociology Commons