Just 15 minutes south of St. John’s, nestled in the heart of the small community of Petty Harbour, we find the red paneled walls of the Island Rooms. Here is where Fishing for Success, and project manager Kimberly Orren, lead a non-profit community teaching traditional fishing knowledge and culture. 

Karren Orren

Kimberly Orren

“I grew up in Newfoundland, and when I was a kid you just went down to the wharf and helped bring in and process the fish,” Orren explained while we sat in the nearby waterShed Coffee Shop looking out onto the rooms. “It just always amazed me. It was an amazing childhood to have access to something like that.”

It was through this fishy curiosity as a child that Orren not only became passionate about fish, but science as well. As a high school science teacher in the US, she would often bring her students outside and noticed that younger people have become more and more disconnected with the animals and plants in their surrounding area.

Seeing this trend, Orren has since dedicated herself to teaching fishing, targeted especially towards youth, and in 2009 moved back to Newfoundland and Labrador to create her own learn-to-fish program. “Of course, I went to as many museums as I could, and cultural centers, because I recognized that it wouldn’t just be a learn-to-fish program, it would be a culturally embedded, community-based, place-based program.”

After doing her research, Petty Harbour proved to be the prime location due to its proximity to the St. John’s’ urbanized youth, and Petty-Harbour-Maddox Cove is a protected fishing area, which means “the families here have maintained hand-lined fishing for cod only,” Orren explained. This also meant that the community did not view fish necessarily as a commodity (to make money), but more so as a cultural food.

Both spiritually and physically in the middle of the community, the Island Rooms is traditionally built as an homage to what this location used to be used for. The only non-traditional structure they plan to build on premises is a wheelchair accessible fishing pier.

Fishing for Success is mostly dedicated to their youth programs, but are truly open to any age group, either local or foreign. Orren hopes to not only to get people involved in fishing as a cultural practice, but also hopes this produces an interest in sciences, as it did with her. “People are not compartmentalized. You interpret the world around you right away with this multi-dimensional lens, and so why we train people in a single discipline and then don’t look anywhere else,has been beyond me.”

Other than Twine Loft programs, heritage fishing guided excursions, and learning how to fish, fillet, net knit, and camp cook, Fishing for Success organizes events all year round that hope to amuse everyone of every age!

Currently underway is the Wild Family Nature Club will be exploring parts of the East Coast Trail, which are heritage trails, and teach people about the surrounding nature and heritage stories, such as certain place names. Keep an eye on their Facebook and website for more news.

Join Orren, the Fishing for Success team and the Petty Harbour community on Oceans Day weekend of June 4-5 for their dory launch, fun and food!

Article by Ema Noella Kibirkstis