Overfishing killed Newfoundland’s cod fishery

21May12

DEPLETED COD STOCKS IS WHAT’S LEFT OF A ONCE MIGHTY INDUSTRY


In July 1992, the Canadian government issued a moratorium on fishing in Newfoundland and Labrador, practically shutting down an industry that, for centuries, has yielded an annual catch of up to 200,000 tonnes of northern cod, supporting Atlantic Canada’s livelihood and way of life.
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This is a full-page graphic. To see it in detail, click here to view a PDF.

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Click here for more graphics

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The first signs of trouble came in the 1950s when huge fishing trawlers, both Canadian and foreign, began to replace traditional small boats that used hooks, lines and inshore net traps to catch cod. This was like using a bazooka in place of a small-bore pistol. The fishing industry was booming, everybody was happy. The waters off Newfoundland yielded up to 800,000 tonnes annually at its peak in the late 1950s, the bulk of the catch accounted for by foreign trawlers.

Then the ecological disaster struck in the late 1960s: cod population started to fall precipitously.

To have a harvest of 200,000 tonnes a year, and still sustain cod population for future supply, the waters should have a healthy stock of cod in their ideal spawning age — seven-years or older. Obviously in this case, cod of spawning-age cod was rapidly being depleted.

Canada responded to the crisis by extending its fishing boundary from 12 miles to 200 miles, pushing away foreign trawlers farther out in the Atlantic. But this was not enough to avert the crisis. Too little too late.

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INTERACTIVES: TURNING BACK THE ASIAN CARP / TOYOTA’S STICKY GAS PEDAL
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As of July 1992, cod stocks were less than 2 per cent of sustainable level, forcing the government to totally ban fishing in Atlantic Canada. Some 44,000 industry workers, 27,000 of them fishermen, lost their livelihood as the entire region was devastated.

Today, while some degree of recreational fishing has returned to the Maritimes, cod stocks haven’t recovered.

Graphic by Alfred Elicierto. Published in the Toronto Star in 1993.
Sources: Canada’s provincial fisheries departments; Statistics Canada

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Also in this blog
How to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes
The beginnings of the Amazon
Tectonic movements and the Haiti earthquake
Emerald ash borer threatens forests
Navigating the Seaway locks

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