During my trip down to Cornwall at the start of this year, I was thrilled to pick up what appeared to be a fishing tag from Newfoundland, dated 1989. Friends in Cornwall and on the West Coast of Ireland have reported finding these tags and even managing to trace the fisherman who lost them.
One such friend is Rosemary Hill from Kerry in Ireland who actually enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame on New England Cable News! You can enjoy the short clip, A lobster tag now a treasure, over on their news website.
As a starting point to my quest, I decided to share a photo of my tag over on the Canadian Atlantic Lobster Facebook Page, hoping I could tap into the knowledge of the very community who may be familiar with tags such as this.
That was a week ago, and I’m thrilled to report that, to date, my photo has been shared over 800 times. There have been many great comments and thoughts from our Atlantic neighbours.
The general consensus from the good Newfoundlanders is that my tag isn’t a lobster trap tag, as I first thought. It is a salmon fishing tag, and my new Facebook friend Denise explains: ‘the tags came in bags of 200, in series.’ Denise tells me that fishermen were issued a batch of tags, ‘so the only notation would have been John Doe received tags numbered ###### through ###### in 1989. Depending on the area fished, the fisherperson might have used hundreds of these tags and would not have remembered the numbers. The number on the tag was not indicating an individual person, just one number in a series. The Department of Fisheries only has to keep the records for six years, generally.’
Denise was able to give some background after chatting with her relative who works in this very area. The tag is probably unused and from ‘the commercial fishery that closed in 1992. There were no clerks in the field offices, then, and no computers, so if the records even exist any longer, they could be anywhere and are on paper records amongst many thousands of similar records.’
I am thrilled to have learned so much about the fishing industry over in Newfoundland, but I must admit, I’m also a tiny bit disappointed that I can’t find the fisherman. The great outcome from this find is that I’ve met Denise, plus all those other good people who took the time to share the photo of my tag, or leave a comment. To be honest, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the number of people who have been interested in this story.
Through my weavings, I love bringing fragments together, be it fishing gear, plastic toys, the tail fin of a surfboard, or the more eroded objects which we turn over in our hands and guess at their origin.
Every object has a history – perhaps nothing fantastic, but through my weaving I’m certain flotsam which was either lost or discarded is given a second chance; a moment to be re-framed, pondered and celebrated.
I love that we’re intrinsically linked – like Denise who is now my Facebook penpal, and all of you who saw and commented on my posting; our lives have been woven together. And if I make a few friends along the way, then even better :)
And I think that’s amazing.