The Basque whalers and cod fishermen in Newfoundland


IXth century: The Basque fishermen, influenced by the Vikings, begin whale hunting in the Basque Country.

XIIth century: Whaling becomes the backbone of the economy in the Basque Country.

XIIIth and XIVth centuries: The whalers are obliged to enlargen their fishing areas as the  whale stocks have decreased in the waters of the Basque Country. They cross the Atlantic to fish in the northern waters. They are among the first regular visitors on the banks of Newfoundland, Labrador, Gaspesie, Saguenay and the St. Lawrence. Vestiges of stone ovens used to extract whale oil found on l’Ile aux Basques attest to the presence of the Basque whalers.  It appears that they had friendly relations with the natives; in particular,  they traded with the Micmac Indians.

End of the XVIIth century: The English and the Dutch also wish to benefit from whaling, they invite the Basques to teach them their techniques. Little by little the Basques lose their monoply.

1713: After the ratification of the Treaty of Utrecht, the presence of the Basque whalers in the waters of New France is reduced and even forbidden. The Basques give up whaling.

2003: The rowers of Ibaialde acheive the feat of sailing up the St. Lawrence in the wake of the pioneers of the early XVIthe century. They row 500 kilometres from Sept-Iles to Trois Pistoles in a  XXth century wooden fishing longboat. The vessel is now on exhibit at the Basque Adventure Park (PABA) in Trois Pistoles.

2013: Ten years later a second expedition takes place in June 2013. This time our rowers cover again a distance of 500 kilometres with a carbon fishing longboat between Trois Pistoles and Montreal. Rowers from Quebec participate in the expedition with Basque rowers. The fishing lonboat which was donated to l’Euskal Etxe in Montreal allows our friends from Quebec to continue to row on the St. Lawrence river.

2017: A new Newfoundland project in the icy waters of the Canadian north, this time around Newfoundland as well as Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The participants will include our friends from Montreal as well as the future owners of the new fishing longboat which will be donated to l’Euskal Etxe in Saint Pierre at the end of the voyage.