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History of the Northwest Atlantic Fishery


30 April 2009


Historical Overview of the Northwest Atlantic Fishery

John Cabot, n.d.
John Cabot in the Matthew off Cape Bonavista in 1497.

Painting by C. Dinsmore.
From J. R. Smallwood, ed., The Book of Newfoundland, Vol. 2 (St. John's: Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1937). 

Early History of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries

30 April 2009

Early History of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries

International commercial fishing in Northwest Atlantic waters dates back to the discovery of the rich cod resources off Newfoundland by John Cabot in 1497. His famous quote was:

... and they affirm that the sea is covered with fish which are caught not merely with nets but with baskets, a stone being attached to make the baskets sink with the water .... and thus I heard the said Zoane Cabot relate.

International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF)

30 August 2012

International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF)

1949 to 1978

Formation of ICNAF – events leading up to the 1949 conference 

The first regulatory convention that pertained to the North Atlantic was the 1943 Draft Convention relating to the Policing of Fisheries and Measures for the Protection of Immature Fish (Halliday and Pinhorn 1996, Sen 1997). However, Canada and USA shared doubts that North American interests would be well served by a North Atlantic-wide organization dominated by European states. That convention never came into force in the northwest Atlantic.

Recent History - Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)


31 August 2012




Historical photos

old ship

Photo of the "Matthew" sailing near North America Ref: Cabot's Discovery of North America, by G. E. Weare, 1897. 

cod and child

Photo showing child with two cod taken 1910 in Battle Harbour, Labrador. Ref: National Archives of Canada; Neg. No.: C76178


NAFO Perspectives booklet (pdf 4.7 MB)

Contact us

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
Summit Place
1601 Lower Water Street 
Suite 401
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canada B3J 3P6

Tel: +1 902 468-5590