Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986


The first thing a visitor will notice about the Southwest Arm area is its scenery. The spectacular views from the hilltops are the kind that people go on vacation just to see. Sleepy coves, small boats tied up at weathered wharves, houses nestled on rocky cliff faces—all are part of the panorama. Not readily visible, however, are the problems residents must face. 

Problems include seasonal employment and unpaved roads. Historically, people settled to take advantage of the lumber in the area. Others went to fish on the Labrador and there was always a small inshore fishery. Fires and uncertain markets all but destroyed the lumbering, and the traditional Labrador fishery has disappeared as it has in other areas. While the inshore fishery hasn’t been of prime importance in all communities in this area for many years, it is on the verge of collapse. Some say the offshore industry catches the fish before it has a chance to reach the inshore grounds, others claim discarded nets are ghostfishing the waters, but whatever the reason, the inshore sector is in trouble. This year, cod and turbot were notable by their absence, and herring and mackerel fetched a mere five cents a pound. Fortunately, the caplin were plentiful, and prices paid were much higher than last year, although fishermen had problems with the amount of red feed. 

Roads are a major concern. There are sections of unpaved roads around most communities. School buses must travel these roads twice daily as do residents working outside their home communities. Fish that must be trucked over these roads suffer a loss of quality. 

Residents have found a variety of solutions to their employment problems. Some fishermen go elsewhere to fish, as they say, “We go where the fish are.” This entails long absences and travelling far from home. Even then, there are no guarantees they will find the fish they so earnestly pursue. Nonetheless, they manage to make a living overcoming difficulties many would find daunting. Others have abandoned the fishery and found work mostly in nearby Clarenville. Still others have travelled as far as Toronto for jobs. Some men take their families with them; some leave their families at home reasoning that they can save more money that way. 

Most residents want to stay in the Southwest Arm area and they are taking steps to make this possible. But the problems are not, for the most part, new ones. One man recalls that as long ago as 1964, people were already finding the cod trap fishery was failing. Over 20 years later things haven’t changed that much. Another man points out that until the late 1970s the area had survived without government funds—whatever they had, they achieved through their own efforts. For a long time the region was dependent on boat then rail transportation. With the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway in the sixties, Southwest Arm changed dramatically. Existing local roads developed into major links between what had always been independent communities. This independence which served so well in the past has likely been why there are no community councils today. 

Residents now realize they must organize to take joint action in their area. The development association now only six years old has had remarkable success in attracting government grants but firmly believes that make-work projects have little or no long-term benefit. There are some signs of planning for long-term projects, but this will take a lot of time, effort and money. The question of pavement could be one such project. 

Other good support systems are evident. Students are staying in school longer, people are very supportive of their churches, community spirit is high. The re-opening of the Come by Chance refinery is expected to bring a return to the optimism and prosperity of the late 1960s and early 1970s when many residents made the daily journey there to work. A promising future appears to be on the horizon for the people of Southwest Arm.  

We wish them well.          


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, January 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.