Classroom Edition: Last Fish, First Boat

Welcome to the elementary classroom edition of “Last Fish, First Boat,” about a fisherman who becomes a boat-builder when the fishery closes. The story is based on a chapter from the book, “Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys.” This class will cover a range of subjects from human geography to history to environmental science and more. At its core, this story is about making your way in a world that has changed overnight.

Last Fish, First Boat was exceptional! The students and teachers at St. Peter’s Academy thoroughly enjoyed the visually engaging and interactive presentation while guest presenters, Jenn and Kat, demonstrated a wealth of knowledge about the NL Cod Moratorium in what is a unique and relaxed style of presentation. It was quite evident that Jenn and Kat enjoyed interacting with students as they patiently listened to student’s stories and provided thought provoking questions to assess student’s historical knowledge and opinions about a significant event in NL’s history that is oftentimes forgotten.” – Brad Lambe, Social Studies Teacher, St. Peter’s Academy, Benoit’s Cove, NL

Scroll to the end to watch the film!


Eugene Maloney is 87-years-old and lives in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland and Labrador.

He spent his whole life fishing—just like his father and his father’s father and so on down the Maloney family line.

But then, one day, Gene returns home for dinner (what Newfoundlanders call lunch) and his wife asks, “Don’t you know the fishery is closed?”

“I didn’t know,” says Gene, “Just like that, that was the end of it.”

caption: Eugene Maloney—real life to illustration (photo by Jenn Thornhill Verma; illustration by Kat Frick Miller)

Too may fisherman were fishing too few fish—that’s what the Canadian government said when they closed the cod fishery in July 1992.

Gene and his crew spent the next week hauling up their fishing gear. They hoped the cod fishery would reopen in a couple of years, but it never did.

Unable to go fishing, Gene started to build boats. Now, well into his eighties, he’s still building wooden boats.

In 2022, the cod moratorium, as the fishery closure is called, marks its thirtieth anniversary.

“Last Fish, First Boat” from sketch to illustration (by Kat Frick Miller)
From photo to illustration. Behind the real-life story (photo by Jenn Thornhill Verma, illustration by Kat Frick Miller)


Meet the teachers: Ms. Jenn (writer) and Ms. Kat (artist)

Introduction | A child learns the seasons

Icebreaker | What is something you love to do in nature? Why?

Watch “Last Fish, First Boat”

Take a tour behind the scenes OR Name that object

Test your knowledge | Play Kahoot! | Last Fish, First Boat

Spot the difference | How can we fish and look after the ocean?

Closing | A child learns to fish

Bonus content: Watch Alan Doyle’s “Back home on the island”

Image Gallery (Illustrations by Kat Frick Miller)


Jenn Thornhill Verma and Kat Frick Miller are looking forward to joining your class. If you have questions, please connect with us. If you share “Last Fish, First Boat” in your class and wish to share some of your class reflections, please do so using the hashtags #lastfishfirstboat or #codcollapse.

Kat Frick Miller and Jenn Thornhill Verma