April 2002
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We Have To
By Jillian Dollimont Caines, Level III student, Roncalli High School, Port Saunders, NF

Conway Caines and Andre Gould They are fishermen and they live off the sea. Their lives are filled with adventure, hard work and danger and although it may seem very adventurous and interesting to those who are not common to it, to their wives and children it's far from exciting

Since the beginning Newfoundland's greatest resource has been the ocean and we are proud of our work ethic and we are proud people. We've fished cod, lobster, crab, shrimp and other various species, and since the 25th of March Newfoundlanders have been busy with the seal hunt, perhaps the most treacherous fishery of all.

Just like the time of Death on the Ice countless numbers of men, from communities around the island, gather in boats of every shape and size to partake in the great seal hunt. A seal hunt that for several reasons is not so great. In the past tragedies were always on the minds of wives, mothers and children. Wives and children who stood on their porch, scanning the horizon, searching for the boats of their beloved, boats that didn't always return.

These days the risk is not as great, but a fear still remains. The ice is an unpredictable place; a place that maybe we should avoid, but men still climb over the side of their boats unto ice pans to catch the animals that will help their family survive.

Beverly Plowman, a resident of Port aux Choix, has seen her husband Larry, head to the seal hunt for years and still dreads it. She said, "I hate the ice. I'm frightened to death every time he leaves, but it's something you have to learn to live with I guess."

Mr. Plowman doesn't only leave his wife at home to wonder and worry, but leaves two daughters as well. Allison is his youngest and while remembering how scared she was when her father got caught in the ice, said, "I was really worried, but a lot of the time you don't really worry, you just have to think he'll be fine."

How can Newfoundlanders refuse to seek out seals; we are a struggling people. We need to participate in such events merely to survive and just as animal right organizations like Green Peace fight for the lives of seals, Newfoundlanders fight for the lives of their children, their wives, their livelihoods, and their culture. The seal hunt means families no longer have to face problems like unpaid bills, broken furnaces and unrepaired vehicles, but it also means the hunters face the great outdoors, the merciless ocean and the slippery, untrustworthy ice.

Toby Parsons, a 20 year old fisherman from Parson's Pond, takes part in the seal hunt with his uncle and family from Port Saunders. To him the seal hunt is a way to support himself and his son and is something he looks forward to. He said, "I love it out there...but you've got to be careful, make sure the ice is thick enough and have to be careful when jumping from pan to pan." Although Toby looks forward to the hunt this does not mean his family does. "My family is always telling me to watch myself, keep warm, be careful."

Can we really blame the hunters? They have to support themselves. They have homes to keep, mouths to feed and although the time of the hunt may seem awful, inhumane and wrong to some, to most Newfoundlanders it is a sign of hope. All we can do is wait at home, pray that our daddies and husbands come home safe, pray that we continue to be proud people; pray that our culture and a way of life keeps food on the table and a roof over our heads.

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