Newfoundland fishing tag

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.

Newfoundland fishing tag washed ashore in Cornwall, UK

Newfoundland fishing tag washed ashore in Cornwall, UK

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.



  1. That is actually a Lobster Tag, I have some information for you, which I received from The Department of Fisheries in Newfoundland. Should I share it on this page or email it to you?

  2. The tag that you found was a Lobster trap tag issued by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador Region in 1989.  These tags are issued to ensure that fish harvesters are using the authorized number of lobster traps.   Tags are issued to licence holders in accordance with the number of traps that are authorized to fish.  The tags are sequentially numbered and are issued annually.  As well, the colour of the tag is changed from year to year.  A tag must be securely fastened to the frame of a Lobster trap prior to it being set for fishing.  The Lobster trap tag will identify the fish harvester who owns the trap to DFO Fishery Officers.   It is illegal to set a Lobster trap, when the Lobster season is open, without a valid trap tag fastened.  The Lobster trap tag numbers are identified in the fish harvester’s licence.   Any traps identified by Fishery Officers without a tag are fishing illegally and the trap would be removed from the ocean. 


    I cannot tell you the exact location or where that tag was issued on the island of Newfoundland, since those records are no longer available.  

    DFO has recorded trap tags going as far as the Bahamas, the Shetland Islands, Herm Island and various locations in Ireland and Scotland. I hope this answers your question and I thank you for bringing your inquiry to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ attention.

    Annette Rumbolt
    Resource Manager/ Gestionnaire des resources

    Fisheries & Oceans Canada / Peches et Oceans
    Newfoundland & Labrador Region/ Newfoundland et Labrador Region

  3. Jo,

    I found a similar tag yesterday at a beach in Dorset and researching it led me to your blog. The tag I found is very similar to yours except a year earlier and a lighter colour. Have you managed to find out if it is either a salmon or lobster tag? I’d be really interested to know.

    1. Hello Neil, and thanks for leaving a message about your fishing tag. Despite the discussion this sparked, having spoken to lots of people, I am inclined to believe these are lobster trap tags which are allocated to fishermen to regulate their quota. I’d love to see a photo if you would like to email me –

      A friend found one recently on Southport beach in Lancashire. An amazing journey to think that it had found its way, not only across The Atlantic, but also negotiated the Irish Sea currents before coming to rest in the dunes!

      I’d love to hear more about your find. Do you regularly go beachcombing?

      Thanks again for stopping by 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s