Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 3
by David Lee
Part I: The Background
The Gaspé Fisheries
We do not know exactly when European fishermen first pursued cod to the shores of Gaspé. Cartier does not note the presence of any, but Jean Alfonse, who visited in 1542, mentions that "on this [Gaspé] coast and at Anticosti Island there is a large fishery for cod and other fish, more than at Newfoundland."1 Both Alfonse and Thevet (writing about 1586) claim that the fish at Gaspé are of better quality as well. Also significant, they both mention the name la Baye des Molues (the Bay of Cod), this is the first known use of this name which has been transformed over the years into "Mal-Baie."2
It seems, then, that Europeans were fishing the Gaspé coasts at an early date but it is not until 1599 that we have any details of the Gaspé fishery. In that year, two of the leading shipowners of La Rochelle, Samuel Georges and Jean Macain, joined with another merchant, Michel Marguy, to outfit and send the 120-ton Notre-Dame d'Espérance to Newfoundland and Gaspé to engage in both fishing and fur trading. Georges and Macain were to take the risks for "all perils of sea, war, friends, enemies and others" that the ships would meet from the day it left port until 24 hours after it dropped anchor in Bilbao (Spain), St. Jean-de-Luz (Basque France) or any other European port.3
In 1600, Henry Couillard, bourgeois of Honfleur, sent Guillaume Thourou to fish for cod at Ile Percé (the first known use of this name). Couillard pledged his responsibility for all "the risks of sea and war, going and returning," while Thourou pledged his life. Thourou was paid seven écus plus 35 per cent of the catch.4
These documents mention Gaspé and Percé as obviously well-known place names, indicating that fishermen had been visiting the Gaspé area for some time. In the 17th century, settlement began in New France and accounts left by traders, colonizers, colonists and missionaries document more fully the Gaspé fisheries.
Such was the beginning of a fishery which was valuable to France and New France and which made Gaspé distinct from the rest of New France. This French fishery developed a little later than that of Newfoundland. Roman Catholic France had a large market for fish and large domestic supplies of solar salt to make possible the green cod fishery for which the Grand Banks of Newfoundland were so suitable. Green curing involves salting the fish right on board the ship and thus involves no need to land on shore; the ships could hurry home as soon as they were full. The Grand Banks made this possible for they were the closest New World fishery to the channel ports of Honfleur, St. Malo and Le Havre, and because they produced the larger cod which was preferred for the green fishery. Some cod was dried, but usually after arriving home. Dried cod did not have a large market in France for the French people simply preferred green cod.
When the fishermen of southern France later entered the New World fisheries, they found that it was more difficult for green cod to survive the longer voyages to their more southerly ports of St. Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne and La Rochelle without spoiling in the hotter climate. Thus they adopted the technique of dry curing which required more men and an elaborate (and thus slower and costlier) process of drying cod on land. This process required less salt, however, thus leaving more room on ship for fish, and enabled France to supply her southern provinces and develop an important valuable export trade to Marseilles and the Roman Catholic countries of the Mediterranean. The harbours and beaches of Gaspé and the smaller, more easily dried cod found there made Gaspé attractive to those French interested in dry cod. The fishermen of southern France dominated the dry fishery but others, from Honfleur and Granville, for example, also participated.
The most favourable time for the fishermen to have their ports in France was no later than mid-April in order to take advantage of the northeast winds which are most common at this time of year in the Atlantic. The voyage from France to Gaspé took two to three months so an early departure saw them thereafter the ice had left and on time for the arrival of the first cod in June. An early departure was also necessary to claim the best drying beaches as well. Jean Talon recommended a northerly route (apparently despite the threat of icebergs) for the winds were more favourable there and the ships might also "avoid the corsairs, ... heat and calms of the south."5
The English at their Newfoundland dry fisheries found that it was more convenient and cheaper to leave men behind for the winter. The French did succeed in establishing some sedentary fisheries in Gaspé, but generally they transported large numbers of fishermen and their provisions and equipment back and forth across the ocean every year. The sedentary fishery at Mont-Louis operated with nearby Quebec as its base; Denys' establishment at Percé never became solvent and then was wiped out by the English, and the later sedentary fisheries at Pabos, Grand-Rivière and Gaspé Bay were just developing when they too were wiped out by war.
The French fishing vessel going to the Gaspé or Newfoundland dry fisheries then had to be larger than an English (dry fishing) ship or a French (green fishing) ship in Newfoundland. It had to carry all the fishermen, their provisions and equipment, chaloupes, salt (or tons of fish on the return trip) and quite frequently mail and passengers. Colbert noted the difference in sizes in an inventory dated 1664: ships going to Newfoundland for the green fishery ranged from 40 to 100 tons in size while those sailing for the dry fishery carried more men and ranged up to 250 tons.6 In 1675, two perhaps typical ships going to the dry fisheries were le Simbole de la paix of 220 tons which carried 70 men and le Bannière de France of 205 tons which carried 65 men.7
The ships had to carry an enormous amount of provisions on board to feed such large numbers of men for up to six months. The only possible supplement to the ship's diet during the voyage was that provided by the small gardens planted ashore, meat from an occasional hunt and, of course, cod, mackerel and more cod.8 Le Simbole de la paix returned to le Percé in 1676, this time carrying 56 men. As provisions it carried 4,200 pounds of biscuit, 24 casks of cider, 800 pounds of butter, 300 pounds of dried cod, 126 pounds of bacon, 14 bushels of peas and 16 of beans, and 25 pounds of oil.9 Each ship carried a surgeon (who also helped out drying fish) and a supply of medicine.10 Besides clothing, fishing nets and lines and all the other equipment, ships usually carried some sort of armed protection against pirates. Le Simbole de la paix, returning again in 1680, carried 18 cannons, 6 mortars, 40 muskets, 13 pistols, 24 pikes, 40 bandoleers, 1,400 pounds of powder, 200 pounds of cannon balls, 100 pounds of musket shot and 18 cutlasses.11
For every chaloupe used in the fishery there were about five men two on the beach and three in the chaloupe. All these chaloupes had to be transported from France to Gaspé where they were then left over the winter in the hope of finding them there the next spring. The marine ordinance of 1681 provided stiff fines for anyone appropriating another's chaloupes but also provided that if it became evident that the owner was not returning to Gaspé that year, one could use them on the condition that he pay the owners some rent on returning to France. The chaloupes were 20 to 25 feet long, cost about 150 livres and carried oars and a sail, three fishermen, their equipment and normally one day's catch (perhaps up to 500 to 600 cod); at the end of the day the fish would then be taken ashore for curing. Nicholas Denys says that some chaloupes were brought over intact but that others were transported in four or five sections and re-assembled by carpenters (who were fishermen too). The next year they might require repair but often replacement. Thus, French fishing vessels were always encumbered on the outgoing voyage with sometimes up to 10 or 12 chaloupes12
The dry fishery which characterized Gaspé required extra men for work on the beaches, but at least the ships did not have to carry as much salt as the green fishery required. The dry fishery used only about one-third that used in the green fishery,13 but salt was still important. When Brother Sagard sailed to Canada he joined a fishing ship in Dieppe which then sailed all the way around to Brouage to pick up its salt before continuing on to Gaspé. Occasionally not all the salt was used, but it was not returned to France for the space was needed for the dried cod; it was cached ashore for the succeeding season.14
As is seen in the voyage of Sagard the fishing vessels also often carried passengers to Gaspé where they then took a chaloupe to Quebec. The practice involved the transport of mail and even supplies as well as people and, of course, included travel from New France to Europe too.15
Encumbered by all this impedimenta the large French vessel was an easy prey for pirates and enemy ships. Their armament might sound impressive but the crew were fishermen, not warriors. In addition to the danger of capture were the natural perils of the sea storms and sickness. There are many accounts of shipwrecks at Gaspé and of attacks on Gaspé fishermen, both in war and peace. In 1613, refugees from Port Royal, which had been seized by the English, were sent to Paspébiac where they were put on two Malouin ships. For one of the ships the arrival of refugees was opportune, for somehow, through storm, sickness or war, "it had lost many of its crew and could scarcely have returned without this chance meeting and fresh reinforcement afforded by our wanderers."16
As can be seen, financing a vessel engaged in dry fishing was both expensive and risky. When the first news arrived in La Rochelle of the English attack on Percé in 1690, businessmen of that city were so alarmed that insurance rates on fishing vessels rose to 45 per cent in one day. Their alarm was not without reason for at least two La Rochelle ships were captured. A certain Nicolas Lion of Honfleur had a half-interest in these vessels which had cost 7,000 livres. He reports that one, l'Espérance, had a burden of 200 tons and carried 42 men. La Ste. Vièrge was new and had a burden of 150 tons and could carry 70,000 cod. The risks were great and losses like these were serious, but the rewards appear to have been large for M. Lion says that La Ste. Vièrge the smaller of the two ships would have brought him 50,000 livres. He had insured the two together for only 3,000 livres.17
M. Lion also lamented the loss of his captain and seven of his crew in the encounter: they could not be insured. His concern was probably sincere for everyone in France recognized the importance of the seaman to the kingdom. Numerous regulations were enacted to provide for his health, diet and safety and most ships carried a doctor. The seaman's salary, although varying from port to port in France, was a certain guaranteed share of the catch. The Basques are reported to have given their crews shares ranging from one-quarter to one-third to four-tenths of the fish to divide among themselves.18 Conditions were certainly not perfect, but a genuine attempt was made to protect their welfare.
Health conditions on ships going to the French West Indies were much worse, so fishermen going to Gaspé considered themselves well off. Although Talon had tried to encourage the export of dried cod from New France to the slaves of the West Indian sugar plantations, this trade never flourished. It was difficult to coordinate shipping between the fishing ports of France, the fisheries of New France and the islands of the Indies, for one had to take into account the fishing season and the ice-free shipping season in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the sugar harvesting and hurricane-free season in the Caribbean. In 1755, Sieur La Pause encountered a Malouin ship which was apparently engaged in selling Gaspé cod in Martinique,19 but it was seldom that Gaspé fishermen had to worry about health conditions in the West Indies.
Fishermen from many ports of France participated in the dry fishery of Gaspé but, as Pierre Denys noted, there were none better than the Basques. He claimed that one chaloupe manned by Basques could catch better than three times more fish than one chaloupe manned by any other fishermen.20 At the same time, the French felt that methods developed by the English were in some ways better. At one time they even considered bringing in English fishermen to captain French ships and teach the French their methods.21 The methods of dry curing were quite complex, involving an elaborate and precise series of cleaning, salting, drying, wetting, turning the fish over and drying some more (see Fig. 1). Perhaps the Basques were so expert at dry curing because they seldom bothered with any green curing. The Normans, on the other hand, tried to engage in both green and dry fishing. It was common practice in Gaspé for the Basques to make exchanges with the Normans: the Basques would give the Normans one large cod for two small cod which were more suitable for dry curing.22
But as Denys says, it was in the fishing itself that the Basques especially excelled. Novice seamen were generally given shore duty for fishing from a chaloupe required skill both in fishing and in seamanship. Six days a week, even in the rain, they would sail out in their fragile chaloupes, often to fish far from shore. They fished with lines baited with cod entrails, or bits of capelin, mackerel and herring caught earlier by nets. At day's end they had to hurry to shore and unload their cod before supper.
Often, though, it was a long distance from the fishery to a beach suitable for either drying on the rocks or for erecting flakes. The first ship arriving in Gaspé claimed the best beach; but then the fishermen might choose to fish on one of the more distant offshore banks. Or, ships arriving later might choose to fish along the shore but find that there were no more good beaches remaining nearby. The procedure of chaloupes taking their fish to beaches far from where their ship was anchored was called pêche en dégrat. At îles Percé and Bonaventure there were often too many fishermen for the extent of beach available, and many fishermen took their fish to dry on the south shore of Gaspé Bay.23
The monotonous process of catching each fish by line from a chaloupe and the laborious process of curing them ashore continued usually from June until September. By this time, the fishermen usually had enough cod to fill their ship, and anyhow most of the cod had gone by then. Men, equipment and fish were loaded on the ship for the return trip. It may have been monotonous and laborious but it was also profitable, and they came back year after year. A Captain Lefevre is reported fishing at Ile Percé in 1647 and was there again in 1660.24 Captain Claverie of Bayonne is noted at Ile Percé in 1686 and again in 1699.25
As settlement developed in New France, the rewards of the cod fishery of Gaspé became more evident and inviting. It could benefit both the colonists of New France and the consumers of the mother country for cod might be supplied more cheaply to both. As Father Le Jeune reported in 1636, Canada was an open market: "We have Cod fish at our door, so to speak. They come from France to fish for it in our great river, at Gaspé, at Isle Percé, at Bonaventure, at Miscou; and yet the codfish that is eaten at Kébec generally comes from France, because there are not yet enough men to go down to that fishery."26
The fisheries of Acadia were considered too distant to supply Canada.27 French fishermen were slow to take advantage of the Canadian market for cod, even though it could usually bring higher prices at Quebec than in France. After the peace of 1713, some habitants ventured down the St. Lawrence towards Gaspé in small boats to fish for cod. These fishermen were all small entrepreneurs usually consisting of a father and his sons and perhaps a few neighbours engagés (hired) for the season. The season was short for the men fished for only the two months between seeding time and harvest.28 The government at Quebec encouraged this practice and by 1734, so many families were participating that the price of cod had been depressed to as low as 8 or 9 livres per quintal.29
This interest in Gaspé fishing was short-lived, though, and the price of dried cod was usually higher in Canada than in France. A quintal of cod is reported to have sold for 15 livres in France in the early 1750s while in Canada it was selling for 35 livres a quintal in 1751.30 The English reported that in 1758 a quintal of dried cod was worth 36 to 40 livres at Quebec. A French source of that year reports a price of 45 livres.31 When war cut off communications with the outside world in 1759, the price rose to 250 livres.32
For years the French tried to encourage a sedentary fishery on the St. Lawrence including the waters of Gaspé. They believed that instead of having fishermen come from France or Quebec every year, it would be better to encourage them to live the year-round in Gaspé. They hoped that a sedentary fishery would provide a more dependable supply of dried cod to Canada and thus more stable prices. A sedentary fishery could also be more efficient: as Denys pointed out, if men were left to winter in Gaspé they could continue to fish until the last cod had left for deeper water; they could protect stores of fish, salt and the chaloupes left behind; and in spring, they could repair the chaloupes, flakes, cabarets and other structures. He says that while there might be 50 men on a fishing ship, only 25 were required to sail the ship: if 25 men were left behind the space filled by them and their provisions could be more profitably filled by fish.33 A sedentary fishery which used Canadians could also help solve the colony's problem of its coureurs de bois by offering youth alternative employment.34 It was also suggested that sedentary fisheries should be developed because, unlike the fur trade, they would not be dependent on the capricious assistance of Indians.35
The king did little to encourage sedentary fisheries in New France. In 1669, he allowed cod caught by inhabitants of Canada to enter France on the same tariff rate as cod belonging to fishermen from France.36 In 1689, he sent over some Basque fishermen to teach Canadians the fundamentals of fishing. The king favoured sedentary fisheries because he did not like to see French supply ships returning from New France empty (the chief commodity the colony exported was furs which were, relatively, not a bulky product): Louis felt they should drop by the fisheries and pick up a load of cod on their way home.37
The encouragement offered by the king was not sufficient to get such fisheries over the initial period of heavy capital investment. Both 17th century sedentary fisheries at Percé and at Mont-Louis were doomed before they began due to inadequate financing. Denis Riverin was allowed to freight salt to Canada in the king's ships, but that is all. Pierre Denys asked for 20,000 livres in subsidies for his seigneury but got not even a sou. The king seems to have felt that the mere grant of a seigneury was adequate assistance, and as time progressed his government ended up working against the fishing interests of Gaspé seigneurs.
At least 15 seigneuries were known to have been granted and regranted between 1653 and 1707 in Gaspé. Few of the seigneurs ever visited or used their concessions, simply keeping them for speculative or prestige purposes, and even fewer showed a profit. Two or three were used for a sedentary fishery and a few others were occasionally used for a summer fishery. Some seigneuries were granted in hopes of encouraging men of capital to begin a sedentary fishery: thus Denis Riverin was granted the fief of Cap-Chat in 1688.38 Others were granted as favours to men of status in New France: thus René Hubert, chief bailiff of the Superior Council, received the fief of Pabos in 1696.39 As might be expected seigneurial rights often conflicted with the principle that the first-arrived fishermen got first choice of beaches and led to considerable trouble between seigneurs from Canada and fishermen from France (and even some from Quebec).
The charter of the Company of One Hundred Associates (1627) granted all commercial rights in New France to the company except those of the cod and whale fishery "which His Majesty wishes to be free to all his subjects."40 Colbert's great Ordinance of the Marine of 1681 both clarified the fishing regulations in Gaspé and confused them at the same time. The ordinance reaffirmed the principle that the captain of the first-arrived fishing ship would have first choice of beaches and could even reserve beaches for associates coming later. At the same time, the ordinance also tried to solve the problem between this principle of a free fishery and the royal policy of granting seigneuries by clearly setting limits to the free fishery between Cap-d'Espoir and Cap-des-Rosiers.41 This only confused the situation, however, for the king had already granted Pierre Denys a seigneury at Percé, within the limits of this free fishery. This concession naturally gave Denys first choice of lots, although it provided that he allow visiting fishermen to use those beach lots he did not require.
There were not enough beaches at Percé to accommodate all the fishermen who frequented these fisheries and when the Intendant DeMeulles visited there in 1686, he found that war was almost ready to break out among the visiting fishermen. He solved the problem, for that year anyhow, by drawing up regulations giving preference in the reservation of beaches to the visiting fishermen.42 This was a serious setback to the fishing rights of Gaspé seigneurs.
The problem, however, continued to plague the Gaspé fisheries for decades and the government (now the government at Quebec) consistently sought compromises between resident fishermen and summer fishermen compromises which, in effect, extended the free fishery. Jean-Claude Louet, notary at Quebec, had become the principal shareholder in the seigneury of Port Daniel by marrying the widow of the original seigneur, René Deneau. Apparently he tried to exclude visiting summer fishermen, but in 1717 the Intendant Bégon ruled that he must select only the extent of beach that he required for his own fishery and allow the visitors to use the remainder without hindrance. There is no evidence that Louet himself ever did exploit the fishery at Port Daniel.43
Port Daniel was well outside the free fishery as delimited in 1681; and so were the north shore seigneuries of La Grande Vallée des Monts Notre-Dame, La Rivière de la Madeleine and L'Anse de l'Etang. These were owned by the Sieurs Hazeur and Sarazin, merchants of Quebec, who leased the rights to fishing and fur trading to another Quebec merchant, Sieur Gatien, for three years. In spring, 1725, Gatien complained to Bégon that he had been preparing to send 3 ships of 40 tons each to fish there with 14 chaloupes and 65 men. But he had learned that two other Quebec merchants, Sieurs Peyre and Becquet, had just sent five men in a canoe to reserve the beach for a later expedition.
Peyre and Becquet countered that they were only sending men to repair their flakes which they and Gatien himself had used at these beaches before the lease so there would be no delay when the season began. They claimed that although the north shore of Gaspé seemed extensive, there were actually few places where one could fish for there were few sheltered coves big enough to hold ships, and besides, due to ice and contrary winds all through May, they could only reach these beaches after the cod had arrived. They explained the difficulties under which fishermen from Canada operated and why a free fishery on the Gaspé north shore was consequently necessary: they could not compete successfully with the better organized and earlier arriving fishermen from France in the small area set aside as a free fishery in 1681; Canadians were only part-time fishermen and had to sow their fields in spring so all the beaches in the free fishery were gone by the time they arrived; nor was the Canadian fisherman sufficiently skilled to engage in the more difficult and dangerous offshore fishery. Peyre and Becquet based their case on the claim that seigneurial fishing rights applied only to waters enclosed by the seigneury and to the sea only so far as the low tide level; that the king had declared the cod fishery to be free and open to all; and, this being the king's pleasure, that it was only reasonable to assume that the king also meant to include freedom of the beaches for drying fish.
Bégon disagreed but sympathized with them and arranged a compromise whereby Gatien could appropriate only a certain extent of the beach on his own lease, leaving the remainder to Peyre and Becquet.44 There is indication that these fisheries were worked for at least the next few years. A similar situation arose at Mont-Louis the same year and was resolved by Bégon in the same manner.45
In some cases, as in Louet's seigneury of Port Daniel, there was no real problem of enforcing the government's decisions for the seigneurs never did visit their concessions or have others exploit them. In other cases, as in that of the seigneuries of Hazeur and Sarrazin, the government had no difficulty in enforcing its decisions for all those concerned were merchants resident in Quebec fishing on the northern Gaspé coast, the closest Gaspé fisheries to Quebec. The Lefebvre de Bellefeuille family, however, were permanent residents of their seigneury at Pabos which was more distant from Quebec. In the 1730s and 1740s, they clashed with visiting fishermen from France. Having established a sedentary fishery at Pabos they had access to a local source of manpower which they armed with guns to defend their seigneurial rights, and in 1730 they prevented a fishing party from Bayonne from landing there. They apparently rented beach lots in advance to selected fishermen. When there were complaints in France, the Bellefeuilles claimed simply that since their seigneury was outside the free fishery as delimited in 1681, they had full rights to decide who used the beaches of their seigneury. Still, the Minister of Marine tried to get Governor Beauharnois to force the Bellefeuilles to give first choice of beach lots to the first-arrived ship. The family's legal position was strong but Hazeur and Sarrazin had been in the same position and been forced to relinquish some of their seigneurial rights. The Bellefeuilles were able to resist the pressure, but they had the advantage of being permanent residents of a more remote seigneury. They continued to rent beach lots and eventually they were appointed agents of the Quebec Intendant in Gaspé.
In the 1750s, the Sieur Jean Barré, a long-time and prominent resident of their seigneury, appropriated to himself several beach lots outside of the Pabos seigneury, at Pointe Verte and Paspébiac. A local fisherman objected and took his case to Quebec where Bigot, the Intendant, ruled that Barré had no right to hold these beaches. Bigot also ruled that Bellefeuille, as his agent in Gaspé, should enforce his decision, but despite further reminders, Bellefeuille would not act on the matter. Perhaps his inaction was because Barré, being one of the few residents who could approach the Bellefeuilles in social standing in this remote area, was most likely a friend of the family.46 Again the titular centre of government authority was powerless to impose its will; again Gaspé showed its spirit of independence.
The government at Quebec had no intention of discouraging sedentary fisheries in Gaspé but, when the interests of the sedentary fishermen and those of the visiting fishermen conflicted, it tried to give precedence to the latter, whenever it had the power to do so. The government must have realized that the welfare of the summer fishery was more immediately important than the potential of a sedentary fishery. It was seigneurs from Quebec who stood to suffer, for it was they who ran the sedentary fisheries. But the government at Quebec also stood to lose, for it was relinquishing more authority in Gaspé. As a result, the Gaspé fisheries were obviously less within the influence of the government of New France than they were within the economic orbit of Old France or even their own independent little world.
Among the fisheries of the North Atlantic, Gaspé was never considered as valuable as, for example, Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island. But still it was considered of some importance by France as well as by her rivals. As soon as Kirke had control of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1629 (before Quebec had even fallen), there were English fishermen at Gaspé.47 On other occasions foreign fishermen, such as the Spaniards reported at Gaspé by Frontenac in 1674,48 simply tried to fish there unobtrusively, presumably in hopes they would not be challenged by the French.
The English had long been interested in the Atlantic fisheries but in the 18th century the centre of their enterprise shifted to New England.49 New Englanders were physically closer to Gaspé and thus were even more aware of the desirability of its fisheries and in a better position to do something about obtaining them. They showed an interest in them even before the end of the 17th century. In 1690, New York corsairs wiped out the sedentary fishery at Percé but French ships returned for the summer fishery when peace was restored between 1697 and 1702. But the northern colonies were now even more interested in Gaspé: they continued to seize French ships at Gaspé during this hiatus of peace.50 In 1700, the Earl of Bellomont, Governor of New York, expressed interest in expanding the fisheries of the northern English colonies into Acadia and Gaspé.51 The final result of the war which resumed in 1702, however, was that their fisheries expanded into Acadia and Newfoundland rather than Gaspé.
It was not for 30 years that the English again began to covet the French fisheries. France had lost some of her Newfoundland fishing facilities but had replaced them by developing a flourishing fishery on Cape Breton Island. The summer fishery at Gaspé probably maintained its previous production. But again the New England fishery required room to expand and this was probably one reason to go to war again. Cape Breton Island was seized, but England returned it to France three years later; but in 1758 they seized Gaspé and Cape Breton and kept them.
Discussions between the French government and the chambers of commerce of St. Malo and Dunkirk about this loss illustrate the importance of these fisheries to France. By the 1760s, the Atlantic fisheries were producing 800,000 quintals (hundredweight) of fish worth 12 million livres. The immensity and efficiency of their fishing industry allowed the French to compete favourably in both domestic and export markets; that is, little fish was imported so little French money left the country, and much fish was exported so much foreign exchange was gained. Though not heavily taxed, French fish provided a useful source of tax money to the coastal provinces. Train oil derived from the cod was important to the flourishing French woollen industry. Besides employing 20,000 men the fisheries were also critical to the French kingdom for their contribution to the Royal Navy. The fisheries stimulated the ship-building industry and dried cod was a staple provision of the navy, but more significant, the fisheries were considered "the nursery of the navy." It was the green fishery, however, which provided the more useful men to the navy for it was conducted from ships on the open sea.52
St. Malo and Dunkirk were appealing for government assistance to the fishing industry for it had been decimated by the Seven Years' War. The peace treaty of 1763 left France with only the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon and certain beach rights in Newfoundland. They were left with but one-third of their former extent of coastline so it was the dry fishery which suffered the most, and, unlike 1713, this time there were no new areas to develop.