COD IN TROUBLE
In 1992, the devastating collapse of the cod stocks off the east coast of Newfoundland forced the Canadian government to take drastic measures and close the fishery. Over 40,000 people lost their jobs, communities are still struggling to recover and the marine ecosystem is still in a state of collapse. The disintegration of this vital fishery sounded a warning bell to governments around the world, who were shocked that a relatively sophisticated, scientifically based fisheries management programme, not unlike their own, could have gone so wrong. Prior to this, the Canadian government had ignored warnings that its fleets were employing destructive fishing practices and had refused to significantly reduce quotas, citing the loss of jobs as too great a concern.
In the 1950s Canadian and US east coast waters provided an annual 100,000 tons in cod catches rising to 800,000 by 1970. This over-fishing led to a catch of only 300,000 tons by 1975. Canada and the US reacted by passing legislation to extend their national jurisdictions over marine living resources out to 200 nautical miles and catches naturally declined to 139,000 tons in 1980. However, the Canadians began fishing intensively once more, and catches rose again until, from 1985, the Canadians were landing more than 250,000 tons of northern cod annually. This exploitation ravaged the stocks and by 1990 the catch was so low (29,000 tons) that in 1992 (12,500 tons) Canada had to ban all fishing in east coast waters. In a fishery that had for over a century yielded quarter-million ton catches, there remained a biomass of less than 1,700 tons, and the fisheries department predicted that, even with an immediate recovery, stocks needed at least 15 years before they would be healthy enough to withstand previous levels of fishing.
This situation arose from massive investment poured into constructing huge “draggers”. Draggers haul enormous nets held open by a combination of massive steel plates and heavy chains and rollers that plough the ocean bottom. They drag up anything in the way, inflicting immense damage, destroying critical habitats and contributing to the destabilisation of the northern cod ecosystem. The draggers targeted huge aggregations of cod while they were spawning, a time when the fish population is highly vulnerable to capture. Excessive trawling on spawning stocks became highly disruptive to the spawning process and ecosystem. In addition, trawling resulted in a physical dispersion of eggs, leading to higher fertilisation failure. Physical and chemical damage to larvae caused by trawling also reduced their chances of survival. These draggers are now banned from Canadian waters.
The media in Canada often cite excessive fishing by overseas fleets as the primary cause of the fishing out of the north Atlantic cod stocks. Many nations took fish off the coast of Newfoundland, all used deep-sea trawlers, and many often exceeded established catch quotas and treaty agreements blatantly. There can be little doubt that non-North American fishing was a contributing factor in the cod stock collapse, and that the dynamics that were at work in Canada were all too similar for the foreign vessels and companies. But not all of the blame can be put there, no matter how easy it is to do, as it does not account for the management of the resources.
So, who was to blame? As the exploitation of the Newfoundland fishery was so predominantly guided by the government, it could be argued that a fishery is not a private area, as the fisher lacks management rights normally associated with property and common property. The state had appropriated the property, and made all of the management decisions. Fishermen were told who could fish, what they could fish and, essentially, what to do with the fish once they were caught. Viewed from this angle, much of the blame for the collapse of the Newfoundland fisheries can be placed on the government.
Following the 1992 ban on the fishing of northern cod and most other species, an estimated 30,000 people, who had already lost their jobs after the 1992 Northern Cod prohibition took effect, were joined by an additional 12,000 fishermen and plant workers. With more than 40,000 people out of work, Newfoundland became an economic disaster area, as processing plants shut down and vessels from the smallest dory to the monster draggers were made idle or sold overseas at bargain prices. Several hundred Newfoundland communities were devastated.
Europeans need only look across the North Atlantic to see what could be in store for their cod fishery. In Canada they were too busy making plans, setting expansive goals and then allocating fish, and lots of it, instead of making sound business plans to match fishing with the limited availability of the resource. Cod populations in European waters are now so depleted that scientists have recently warned that all fisheries that target cod in this area should be closed. The Canadian calamity demonstrates that we now have the technological capability to find and annihilate every commercial fish stock in any ocean and do irreparable damage to entire ecosystems in the process. In Canada’s case, a $2 billion recovery bill may only be part of the total long-term costs. The costs to individuals and desperate communities now deprived of meaningful and sustainable employment are staggering.
COD IN TROUBLE questions
YES if the statement agrees with the writer
NO if the statement contradicts the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
11 Disruption of cod breeding was a major factor in the Newfoundland cod disaster.
12 Foreign trawlers frequently broke the catch allowances.
13 There was often conflict between the foreign fishermen and the Canadian authorities.
14 Cod fishing in Canada is irrelevant to cod fishing in Europe.
COD IN TROUBLE ANSWERS
11. Y – Paragraph C – They drag up anything in the way, inflicting immense damage, destroying critical habitats and contributing to the destabilisation of the northern cod ecosystem. The draggers targeted huge aggregations of cod while they were spawning, a time when the fish population is highly vulnerable to capture
12. Y – Paragraph D- Many nations took fish off the coast of Newfoundland, all used deep-sea trawlers, and many often exceeded established catch quotas and treaty agreements blatantly
13. NG – Paragraph D discusses the Canadian media’s criticism of foreign fishing in Canadian waters, but it does not mention any conflict between foreign fishermen and the Canadian authorities. so NOT GIVEN is the correct answer.
14. NO – Paragraph G- Europeans need only look across the North Atlantic to see what could be in store for their cod fishery. Cod populations in European waters are now so depleted that scientists have recently warned that all fisheries that target cod in this area should be closed