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Rod and Rita Roul – Partners in Life and in Fishing

September 21, 2019

This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 edition of the Union Forum Magazine. 

Located at the tip of the Burin Peninsula on the province’s south coast, Lawn is a small community of around 600 people. Like much of coastal Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s a town with a history steeped in the fishing industry. To this day, much of Lawn and the Burin Peninsula rely on the inshore fishing industry, including husband and wife team Robert (Rod) and Rita Roul.

The Roul’s come from a long line of fishing families, and Rod himself got started in the industry very early in life. Rita and Rod had their daughter Amy in 1977, were married in 1978, followed by their second daughter Felicia in 1982 and their son Clay in 1989. Rita worked an office job while Rod fished, but in 1999 she made the jump to fish full-time.

Four years of steady sea sickness didn’t deter Rita, and 20 years later she is still fishing alongside Rod.

The couple got their start in a small 20-foot open boat fishing for lump and cod. In 2000, they upgraded to a 27-foot Manta Ray and gained a crab license. They were committed for the long haul.

Since then, they worked their enterprise, just the two of them.

“He’s the brawn, I’m the brain. We work together well,” Rita says.

Each spring they steamed about 20 miles to catch their crab quota, and from there they’d steam down to St. Bride’s to catch their cod.

In 2010, they added a second crab license and a lobster license to their enterprise, and in 2013 a 34’11 longliner.

“It was one of the best decisions we ever made. It secured a future for us here in Newfoundland,” Rita says.

Rita and Rod are the proud owners of an enterprise that changed their lives, improved their quality of life and provided financial stability for their family. Their enterprise is their retirement plan, and one day it may allow a young person to get into the fishery themselves, carrying the industry into the future.

“There are a lot of small boat owner-operators here. Which benefits the community because they spend money here. From the fishermen to plant workers, the fishery is the backbone of our economy,” Rita explains.

The Rouls know that without the inshore fishery, there is no future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s very important to protect the owner-operator so that the inshore fishery doesn’t disappear. We don’t want the companies buying out the enterprises or there will be nothing left of our communities. We need fisherpersons to buy the enterprises and work them to protect the fishery for years to come,” says Rita.

Rod and Rita enjoy spending time with their family and their seven grandchildren, two of whom live nearby in Lawn. Fishing gives them the flexibility to be there for their grandchildren, who have shown a keen interest in what Nan and Pop do for a living.

Now in her 20th year fishing, Rita always said that once they owned their own enterprise, she would give up fishing. But it turns out she’s not ready to give it up just yet.