Editorial: As codfish dwindle, communities need to reboot

Nearly three months into the fishing year, the amount of cod reported as caught is as low as 13% of the ACL. Photo credit: Brian Skerry/New England Ocean Odyssey.

The Boston Globe ran a strong editorial on the cod crisis, yesterday, calling for new thinking and stronger conservation in the Gulf of Maine fishing industry. For a fishing community that has repeatedly relied on federal disaster relief money, it is time fishermen and fisheries managers to alter their crisis response and take the necessary action that will address the problem at the source rather than ameliorate the economic side-effects.

“With codfish at their lowest level in history, it is hard to give credence to fishermen and political leaders who believe New England’s iconic catch would be just fine if only nosy researchers and regulators would get out of the way.”

The error is not in the science, but in the obvious avoidance of the real issue, and “the reflexive insistence on the status quo is untenable when the worst hit of all is coming, with no telling if cod will recover and when limits on the harvest can be relaxed.

“It is clearly time for a new model that shelves the insular response to new quotas and instead draws on lessons from all over the nation. The cod industry has become analogous to a wheezing factory about to be shuttered or an exhausted mining operation facing closure. The cities that have best planned around the declines of historic industries have had the most impressive rebounds.” Fisheries managers need only to look at these other examples to know they must act. “It’s true that scientists occasionally misjudge catch limits. But the overall downward trend in cod and other species is unmistakable, and coastal communities can help themselves by adapting sooner rather than later.

“For 20 years, fishermen have relied on vote-counting politicians to enable them to avoid the inevitable by begging Washington for disaster relief and congressional earmarks, which currently total $116.6 million. With one of New England’s most precious resources in critical decline, it’s time to break this cycle of denial and dependence and find new solutions for sustainability.”

Read the full editorial at The Boston Globe



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