During the Cold War era, when the Berlin Wall symbolically and physically separated east from west, there was a strange truce of sorts on the fishing grounds off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Eastern bloc countries had a huge fishing effort, lead by the USSR, including Latvia and Lithuania, but also with the participation of Poland, East Germany, and even Bulgaria and Rumania. Cuba was also involved. They fished near West German, British, Canadian, American, Spanish and Italian ships and generally avoided conflict.
Seen across the deck of a Polish side trawler, the modern West German stern trawler Neufundland lies at pier 30 . Built in 1967 it was renamed Hildesheim in 1970, and sold to Cape Town owners in 1976. Renamed Sacip it was sunk as a naval target off South Africa in 2001.
Halifax and St.John's, as the closest major ports to the fishing grounds, often hosted these ships for repairs, stores and just plain rest and recreation for the crews.
It was not unusual to see East and West German ships berthed close to each other. What interaction there might have been between crews was usually limited by political officers aboard the Russian ships, but these were somewhat less obvious with the Polish and East German vessels.
With Canada gradually increasing its territorial claims from 3 miles, to 12 then to 200 miles offshore, the Eastern Bloc fishing presence diminished over time, but even so the cod stock declined and eventually collapsed. By the late 1980s most of the foreign fleet had gone elsewhere or had been scrapped.
Ernst Haeckel , as with most East German trawlers, was built by Volkswerft in Stralsund, and was one of the last ones built before re-unification. It came out in 1987 and soon passed to the German flag. In 1995 it was sold to Russian interests, and renamed Mio. It was broken up at Jingjiang, China in February of 2014.
With the declaration of Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone to 200 miles offshore, and its policing of fishing effort outside of that zone on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, European nations also began to police fishing activity under the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Association Convention. Some former trawlers became research or patrol vessels, such as Ernst Haeckel.
All Easter bloc ships were suspected of spying on Canadian and American naval activity, and were often seen shadowing NATO exercises. These accusations were difficult to prove, but most of the trawlers we saw in Halifax certainly did a lot of fishing too.