The History of Long and Brier Islands

Fishing Bounties 1882-1967

by | Sep 21, 2021 | Brier Island, Long Island, Photos, Shipbuilding | 0 comments

 Late in the 1820s the government of Nova Scotia tried to get people involved in fishing by offering bounties (financial incentives) based on the amount of fish caught.

At Canada’s Confederation in 1867, the federal government was given authority over the fisheries, and set up the Department of Marine and Fisheries and other provisions, solidified Canada’s status as an independent nation.  The Parliament of Canada was given the legislative responsibility for seacoast and inland fisheries under the British North America Act in 1867. Following the end of the reciprocity agreement, Canadian authorities confiscated several American vessels.

The department regulates licenses, fishing seasons, fishing bounties, and quotas. It also assists with marketing and the development of markets.

Our price of fish here in Canada was derived from the American Market. It was published in our local newspapers weekly. This is the price we would get if we delivered our product to the US market.

Digby Weekly Courier; April 30th 1892

What I am trying to show here is what a fisherman would make fishing for large Cod. We see that at the Gloucester Market in the USA, large cod is going at $3.50 for a hundred pounds. So one lb. is worth 3 1/2 cents. This is what the boat would get. The fisherman would only receive a share of this as the boat share plus the amount of men that is in the crew and the expenses has to come out of this also. If you didn’t take the fish in to Gloucester yourself and sold it at home (Canada) you would have to take less, as the middle man would have to have his share to deliver the fish to market. So it does not sound like the fisherman would make much money for his fish.

Digby Weekly Courier; Sept. 2nd 1892

Fishing Values for 1891

A fishermen’s life was not easy. They were away from home most of the time and there was the chance they would not return home from fishing. If we look at how much an average fisherman in Freeport made fishing in 1891, the value they received for their fish was $222,330.00. So there was 180 men + 60 boats=240 divided in 222,330.00 =$926.38  .  Each Fisherman in Freeport made on average $926.38 (the boats didn’t land all the same amount of fish. So this is only average) . Now we don’t know what the expenses are to catch these fish, so all we can say is before expenses. But all didn’t receive this much as they did not all catch the same amount of fish.

The Fishing Bounty the fishermen received in the spring was the only extra money they would receive from the government at this time, and was a blessing.

These fishing bounties played a big part with the income of the fishermen and their families, and some of this extra money coming went for the purchase of a new vessel.

The fishing officer of the area would come to the villages, usually in March to pass out the fishing bounties.

          It was paid at first by cash and later in the 19th century by check. This money today does not seem to be much, but at the last of the 18th century, these few dollars was a lot of money, especially money coming in at the beginning of spring, to tie you and your family over till the weather was favorable for fishing again.

 These fishing bounties continued until 1966. I think with the decline in the fish landings the government had no recourse but to stop payments for these bounties, as these bounties were not being issued for what they were intended to be for, and that is to stimulate the fishermen for more energy and enterprise, leading to the building of a more suitable vessel.

FISHING BOUNTIES. The payments made for this service are under the authority of an Act passed in 1882, “An Act to encourage the development of the Sea Fisheries and the building of Fishing Vessels.” This Act provides for the payment of a sum of $150,000 annually, under regulations to be made from time to time by the Governor in Council. It is to be hoped that the bounty offered by Government will stimulate them to more energy and enterprise; lead to the building of a suitable vessel”, encourage the adoption of improved implements, find modes of fishing, and induce them to wipe out the reproach under which they have hitherto rested, of seeing their best fishing  grounds occupied and utilized by foreign fishermen.

The fishermen had to meet these guidelines in order to receive this bounty.


The total number of fishing bounty claims received for the year 1888 was 16,027, against 15,576 in 1887, an increase of 451 claims for the year 1888. Of this number 113 were rejected for non-compliance with the regulations and 328 held abeyance for investigation.

The total number of claims paid during the year 1888 was 15,599, an increase of 183 as compared with the year 1887.

The total amount of bounties paid on the basis of $1.50 per ton to vessels, $3 per man to boat fishermen, was $150,185.53, a decrease of $13,572.39 as compared with the previous year. The decrease is chiefly due to a reduction of 50 cents per ton in the rate of bounty payable to vessels, in order to bring the expenditure within the statutory appropriation.

            The number of vessels which received bounty in 1888 was 827, with a tonnage of 31,640 tons, an increase of 15 vessels and a tonnage of 671 tons.

The number of boats on which bounty was paid was 14,772, as against 14,605 in 1887, and the number of fishermen who received bounty was 28,256, an increase of 167 boats, as compared with the previous year.

Vessels in Digby Co. that Received Fishing Bounty 1887

New Bounty Act for 1891

Digby Weekly Courier; Sept 2nd 1892


Digby Weekly Courier; Sept 30th 1892


Digby Weekly Courier; Sept.2nd 1892

New Regulations (sorry for the poor quality of article)

Digby weekly Courier: Feb. 10th 1893

Digby Weekly Courier: March 3rd 1893

Westport News

Digby Weekly Courier: March 10th 1893

Digby Courier; April 20, 1934

Fishing Bounties

Freeport News





The Fishing Bounties were stopped in 1966


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