They introduced the bultow
, or trawl fishing, to replace the traditional handline used from the deck of vessels.
The attempted sabotage led a local newspaper editor to praise the trawl lines, and remark that "like every thing else that comes into collision with established customs (however ridiculous these customs may be) the bultow has had to make head way against a torrent of prejudice." While only twenty of the bultows had been set in local waters, this editor looked forward to their future, more widespread use.
By the mid-19th century, some Newfoundland fishing people were also using longline trawls, often called bultows. These trawl lines consisted of buoyed, set lines strung out in the water from which hung many smaller lines at intervals all baited often with hundreds of hooks.
Get your bultows to rights - ply your herring nets, and prepare your hooks and lines, aye and cod seines too, if you have them." (65) The writer of these sentiments noted that the fishing season was short, and that the greatest amount of fish possible had to be caught during it.
Official support for new technology, especially trawl lines, stemmed from the manner in which Newfoundland's main competitor, France, had successfully employed bultows in a reinvigorated migratory fishery on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland after 1815.
The colonial government's encouragement of bultows in the bank fishery suggested that it wanted to follow a policy of shifting the areal focus of exploitation of cod stocks to an offshore fishery because it knew that something was amiss inshore.
The Newfoundland government's attempt to encourage the use of bultows in the bank fishery reflected in part its knowledge of the successful catches by the trawl lines used in Conception Bay, even as the overall catch of the old inshore areas appeared to be "less than one fifth of the average quantity caught twenty five years ago." (79) The Bounty Act came into effect despite warnings from merchants such as Robert Pack of Carbonear, who testified before a select committee of the House of Assembly in 1845, that the use of bultows on the Grand Banks represented a new, more intensive exploitation of the largest cod which congregated there.
In Lost Country: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland, 1843-1933, O'Flaherty tunes the nationalist instrument to fever pitch, describing the French as "dangerous," "harassing," "threatening," "obstructing," and "sly." He bristles at France's use of bounties to aid its fisheries; at the presence of French fishermen on Newfoundland soil and on the Grand Banks; and at French fishermen's use of supposedly destructive seines and "bultows
(12) It is also suggested by the fact that merchants began to restrict credit by the middle of the 19th century to fishers who could and would invest in technologies like bultows, cod seines, and cod traps that enabled them to catch more of a declining resource locally, or to those who could afford the larger vessels needed to seek out and harvest fishing grounds either further offshore, or in more remote regions off the coast of Labrador.
While bultows, seines, traps, and the bank and Labrador fishery may have provided short term solutions to problems of supply, they also meant that processors (the "shore crew") had to contend with large quantities of fish all at once.
Finding it increasingly difficult to sustain profitable enterprises, at around the middle of the nineteenth century merchants began to restrict credit to those who could and would invest in such technologies as bultows, cod seines, and cod traps that enabled them to catch more of a declining resource locally, or to those who could afford the larger vessels needed to seek out and harvest fishing grounds further offshore or in more remote regions off the coast of Labrador.
(31) Moreover, while bultows, seines, traps, and the bank and Labrador fishery provided short-term solutions to problems of supply, they also meant that processors (the "shore crew") had to contend with large quantities of fish all at once.