Witless Bay

Witless Bay is located about 30 km from St. John’s, on the Southern Shore of Newfoundland. According to legend, the name Witless Bay originally came from an early European habitant named Captain Whittle from Dorsetshire, England. The area was originally named Whittle's Bay, after this one family. Upon the death of Captain Whittle, his widow and children decided to return to England. Hence, the remaining settlers referred to Whittle's Bay as Whittle-less Bay and eventually, it became Witless Bay.

This community is a small, scenic outport, originally settled to participate in the cod fishery. Migratory fishermen began visiting the vicinity in the late 1600s and by the mid-1700s, Irish fishing servants began to settle, quickly outnumbering any English who had settled. In 1835 Witless Bay had a population of 542, and within ten years, this substantial population saw a school and chapel built. During settlement history, residents of Witless Bay kept gardens and tended livestock, such as sheep, to supplement the inshore cod fishery. However, residents were still susceptible to the eventual decline in the fishery. As the fishing industry rose and then fell, so too the population of Witless Bay grew and then dipped.

Nowadays, with the fishery all but gone, the main industry is tourism, with The Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve as its main attraction. This reserve consists of four seabird colonies, which breed on four different islands in the surrounding waters. These islands, Gull Island, Green Island, Great Island and Pee Pee Island, provide breeding habitat for the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America and the world’s second largest Leach’s Storm Petrel colony.

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