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Maritime Image of the Day: “Filling Cod Barrels”

PortandTerminal.com, November 5, 2019

Editor’s note: Today’s “Maritime Image of the Day” is deeply personal for me as it was taken at my family’s cod plant/wharf in the 1930s along Halifax’s harbour, not far from the Port of Halifax. The family wharf is long gone but its site is now home to The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. This photo comes from the Museum’s archives.

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – Today’s Maritime Image of the Day is of factory workers stuffing wooden barrels with salt cod for export. The photo was taken at a fishing wharf in Halifax, Nova Scotia owned by a company called A.M. Smith & Co.

The salt cod industry

Fisheries drew the first Europeans to what is now Canada, and still sustain large coastal and inland regions. 

Europeans, including the English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Basques, began fishing off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the 16th century. The plentiful, easy-to-catch cod was the most valuable commodity: dried or salted, it could be transported long distances and would keep for several months. 

Onboard a factory ship: gutting, cleaning and storing cod in the hold. Engraving from Encyclopedia of Natural History, Augsburg, 1804 © Bridgeman Images.

Fishermen arrived from Europe in the spring and stayed until early fall. They fished directly from the boats using hooks and lines.

How important was cod fishing in Atlantic Canada? They put a cod on their stamps by the portrait of the King.

Cod were plentiful and grew to be one of Atlantic Canada’s top exports. Once caught and gutted cod would be dried and then salted to preserve. They would be packaged in barrels and exported as far away as Portugal, where salt cod remains a beloved part of the national cuisine to this day.

Air drying cod

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