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Fishermen's Stories
Food for Thought:
Safety in the Fishery
The Lobster Fishery Grows
The Co-operatives
The Fisheries and Settlement Patterns
The Folks Who Fish
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The Co-operatives


Fishermen are generally self employed and have been known to cultivate a 'lone wolf' image. Dr. John T. Croteau remarked upon this in his book Cradled in the Waves: "The fisherman is an individualist. In his little boat, pitted against the terrifying and majestic force of nature, he has to rely upon himself alone."1 Croteau, with some frustration, remarks that this rugged individualism made fishermen "just about the hardest people to organize."2 Despite such obstacles, Island fishermen banded together to form the first fisherman's union, or co-operative, in Tignish in 1924.3

The Fisherman's Union of Prince Edward Island was created to help fishermen gain greater economic independence. Many Island fishermen did not own the boats they fished in; instead they were rented from the owners of the lobster canneries for half the seasonís lobster catch. Those fishermen that did own boats were still at the mercy of the cannery owners, who set the prices and sold them equipment. The members of the Union sought to change this situation. The Union members set up a fishermen-owned cannery and bought equipment as a group, which allowed them to buy at lower prices and sell their product for a better price.4

During the 1920's unions became increasingly popular throughout the Maritimes, and in 1929 the United Maritime Fishermen (UMF) was formed. This Union included fishermen from all over the Maritimes, and was led by the President of the Tignish Union, Chester P. McCarthy. However, tensions soon arose in the UMF. Islanders were afraid of being dominated by their provincial neighbors, and in 1932 McCarthy led Prince Edward Island out of the UMF.5

After their withdrawal from the UMF, the Fishermanís Union continued to prosper on the Island. By 1941, there were 27 branches across the province. However, the fishermanís unions and co-operatives never had the success that it first seemed they might.6 In general, unions seemed to make a more lasting impression in Acadian and Irish Roman Catholic communities. This could be because these groups felt like exploited minorities in Island society, and so had good reason to stick together. This could also have been due to the Catholic priests who championed the union movement of the time from Antigonish, Nova Scotia.7


Footnotes
1. Croteau, J.T. Cradled in the Waves. Charlottetown: The Ryerson Press, 1951. (84)
2. Ibid., (85)
3. Canada Yearbook (539)
4. Wells, Kennedy. The Fishery of Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown: Ragweed Press, 1986. (163)
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid., (164)
7. Ibid.