A region of underwater plateaus off the North Atlantic coast of North America, the Grand Banks offer an ideal habitat for aquatic life. The combination of shallow water with a mixing of hot and cold streams provided by the Gulf Stream from the south and the Labrador Current from the north creates teeming populations of plankton and other food to support a wide variety of fish and whales. It is unclear when fishermen from Europe first began exploiting this resource, but some speculate that it predated Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World. By the early 1500s, annual fishing ventures were a regular occurrence, leading to extensive contacts with Native peoples and fostering trade. One item in this trade was skins from mammals like beavers, which would join fishing as a motive for deeper penetration and eventual colonization of what is now eastern Canada.

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