By the 16th century, many French ships were crossing the ocean each year to fish the cod-rich waters of Canada's Atlantic coast. Producers of morue verte [salt cod] fished on the high seas, gutting and salting their catch onboard ship. In the much more common sedentary fishery, which resulted in morue sèche [dried cod], the catch, taken just offshore, was cleaned and dried in buildings on the coast. During the 17th century, the French ran such operations in the Gaspé Peninsula, Acadia and on the largest scale, in Newfoundland. In 1660, the King established a fortified settlement and administrative headquarters on the southern part of the island, at Plaisance (Placentia), with the aim of supporting the cod industry, which was by this time a significant source of revenue for France. The labour, supplies and capital involved in these Atlantic fishing operations, together with the markets they supplied, remained primarily European.

The Fishery
Le plan de l'habitation de Charles Mahier Encien habitant de la colonie de Plaisence en lisle de terre Neûve [Plan of the dwelling of Charles Mahier, former inhabitant of the colony of Plaisance on the island of Newfoundland], after 1714