Grand Banks

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Also known as the Newfoundland Bank, an extensive shallow patch of the North Atlantic ocean lying south and east of Newfoundland, which used to be a prolific breeding ground of cod. The Banks were first discovered by John Cabot in 1497 and attracted fishing vessels from Britain and several other European countries, but, with the cod proving, so it seemed, virtually inexhaustible, there was only occasional friction between the fishing fleets of the various nations.

As North America grew, the Grand Banks proved an irresistible source of fish and a number of ports were developed along the coast, chiefly of Massachusetts and Maine, to handle the trade, of which Gloucester, Mass., was probably the largest and most important. These ports each had fleets of schooners with which they exploited the Grand Banks and which were named after them. However, the increasing popularity of cod, and the introduction of powered fishing boats with more efficient means of using trawls, eventually led to overfishing, and in July 1992 the Canadian government closed the Grand Banks, along with Newfoundland waters and most of the Gulf of St Lawrence, to all commercial fisheries.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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