The islands were likely discovered (about 1520) by Portuguese navigator Joao Alvares FAGUNDES, and were claimed formally for France by Jacques CARTIER 14 years later. They were originally settled by 30 BASQUE and Norman fishermen in 1604, but were uninhabited in 1713 when Britain claimed them under the terms of the Treaty of UTRECHT.
The claim was relinquished under the Treaty of PARIS, 1763, and France resettled the islands with 350 ACADIANS who had been deported to France. Britain attacked and captured the islands during the AMERICAN REVOLUTION and again in 1793. France resumed control permanently with the Second Treaty of Paris, 1815, and the islands were repopulated in 1816.
The rocky islands are barren, except for scrubby yews and junipers, a thin volcanic soil, and dirt removed from ships' ballast. However, the islands have provided France with a station near the richest fishing grounds in North America. By 1866, 4000 French fishermen were coming annually from St Malo, France, to fish in a fleet of 200 schooners. The fleet was devastated in 1904, when France lost its rights to the FRENCH SHORE. During PROHIBITION, Saint-Pierre was a storage base for Canadian liquor companies and a centre of illegal trade to the US.
Today, France still maintains its presence on the islands and spends some $80 million there annually. Fishing is still important, but like the Canadian fishery, greatly reduced quotas have been instituted since the early 1990s after COD stocks suffered a population collapse from which they have yet to recover. Fish processing provides some employment and aquaculture is being developed. Tourism has increased in importance and there is some farming. Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is also looking to capitalize on off-shore hydrocarbon development.
A serious dispute arose between France and Canada when Canada extended its exclusive fishing zone to 15 km (1964) and then to 322 km (1977). France's claim amounted to 14 500 square nautical miles; the Canadian claim would restrict the French to 1070 square nautical miles. In 1992 the International Court of Arbitration awarded France exclusive economic jurisdiction to a 38.6 km wide zone around the islands as well as a 16.9 km wide corridor to international waters, amounting to 2537 square nautical miles.
Author JAMES MARSH
Links to Other Sites
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Features local history and visitor's information for the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon region.
The GrandColombier.com website offers many online resources (in French) devoted to the history, culture, and ecology of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
Saint-Pierre & Miquelon Economic Development Agency
The website for the Saint-Pierre & Miquelon Economic Development Agency.
Saint-Pierre et Miquelon
A tourism website for the islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...