A fierce advocate of the Newfoundland and Labrador inshore fishery is dead at the age of 74.
Tom Best died of cancer Tuesday afternoon at the Miller Centre in St. John's.
Best became a licenced inshore fisherman in Petty Harbour in 1963 after finishing high school.
Petty Harbour mayor and fisherman Sam Lee said, "I've known Tom all my life really, but I've been working with him for over 50 years closely. It's a great loss to our community and not only to the community but to Newfoundland as a whole."
Best was founding president of the Petty Harbour Fishermen's Cooperative, a position he held for most of the last 36 years. The Co-op is owned and operated by fish harvesters.
Spoke up for the inshore fishery
Lee also helped found the Co-op in 1984, "He spent his whole life fighting and arguing, doing whatever he had to do for the betterment of the fishermen. And not just fishermen either. Anybody that came across his path knows Tom Best was a very good man."
Never media shy, years prior to the collapse of the northern cod fishery Best took aim at the fishing practices of offshore draggers. He often spoke out against the use of gill nets because fish left for too long in the water affected quality.
Fisherman Doug Howlett has been a member of the Petty Harbour Fishermen's Cooperative since 1984 and says he got to know Best over the years.
"Coming into your shed or seeing him on the wharf to have a chat with him. He was always asking your opinion if there was anything going on in the fishery," Howlett said.
"He had his own opinion, he was very outspoken but he listened to other people."
Lee said Best was the kind of man you could have a disagreement with, then have a beer and continue on being good friends.
"He was always down in his shed. Whenever we came in out of the boat we'd sit down in the shed and have a drink and we'd talk about the day, whatever went on, discuss what the future is going to bring."
Best travelled to different parts of the world to talk about the cooperative movement and the idea of sustainable fisheries and communities.
Fishermen in the small outport came to expect visitors from far and wide to arrive at Tom's invitation.
"You were always welcome there no matter who you were." - Sam Lee, mayor of Petty Harbour
"You were always welcome there no matter who you were," said Lee.
To the end, Best always believed in the fishery. Speaking to CBC in 2012, he said, "Oil and gas and the movement to Alberta, that's only going to be what you call a sequence in time and after that we're back to where we were a few years back. We need to be looking at our renewable resources. If it's managed properly and it's handled properly and it's pursued properly, we could do things a lot different then we did in the past and have a very lucrative fishing industry."
Best sat on numerous local and national committees and was a founder of the town's harbour authority.
Tom Best is being cremated and has asked that some of his ashes be scattered at sea.
A memorial ceremony is being planned for this coming summer in Petty Harbour.