Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For the love of cod

“What we are dealing with here is not just a piddling little fishery that keeps half a million people in Newfoundland alive and functioning, not just a little resource which provides a bit of food that could be replaced by a million chickens or something. It is one of the great wonders of the world, one of the great animal populations, which is part of one of the most complex ecosystems that has developed and thrives in a very hostile and difficult part of the ocean. It ought to be one of our glories to protect and preserve.”
— The late Dr. Leslie Harris, as quoted in the 1998 Michael Harris book, Lament for an Ocean, the Collapse of the Atlantic Cod Fishery: A True Crime Story.
•••
Did you happen to see the picture in Monday’s Telegram of the 70-pound cod caught off Newfoundland's south coast by the crew of the Belle Isle Banker?

The cod being landed are said to be as huge (50 to 70 pounds a piece) as the days prior to the shut down of the south coast cod fishery in 1993.

Back in our grandfathers’ days fish that size were known as “mother fish” or “gaffers.”

It’s been suggested that their return could be a sign of a healthier stock.

Maybe so — but not for long.

Not after we chase down every last one of them.

Which we have a tendency to do at the first sign of recovery.

Almost 18 years after the first of the cod fisheries was shut down in waters off Newfoundland and Labrador, and groundfish stocks such as cod are still in desperate, desperate shape — a shadow of what they once were.

There is no faith in federal management, whose track record is pathetic.

NAFO is as toothless and useless as it ever was, despite efforts to reform.

Foreign nations continue to overfish and illegally fish.

Mistrust between the fish union and plant owners is unhealthier than ever, and the province can't seem to do anything about it.

Fish prices are shot.

There’s a move afoot to organize fishermen in a new union.

The industry is so shagged that one processing company, Ocean Choice International, has asked the province for permission to ship yellowtail flounder weighing up to 450 grams (70 grams more than current regulations allow) overseas for processing.

If the province doesn't grant Ocean Choice permission, the company plans to severely cut the amount of work at its Marystown plant.

Insane.

This may be a stupid question, but if we catch all the mother fish and all the baby fish what exactly are we left with?

Meantime, on Canada’s West Coast, Wednesday (March 3rd) is the deadline for interested parties wanting to participate in the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River to submit their application.

Why did the federal Conservatives order an inquiry into the B.C. salmon fishery and not the NL groundfish fishery?

Canadian patriotism may be at an all time high following the Vancouver Olympics, but make no mistake — not all provinces are equal.

Not all fish are equal.

And that is not good enough.
•••
Michael Harris dedicated Lament for an Ocean to his grandfather William Tilley, 1894-1968, “who left Newfoundland in the Great Depression, never to return.

On his deathbed, he asked for partridge berries.

I’d probably ask for pan-fried cod and scrunchins.

If there's any left.

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