Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Requiem for the Grand Banks

Fishing off the edge of the Grand Banks in thousands of meters of water. A joke in 1982, earnest fishing business in 2007. This spells trouble for deep water fish.

My first exposure to the Grand Banks was in 1982, as a young student on a research trawler. We left from Newfoundland and fished the deep water around the Grand Banks, looking for deep sea fish that only a scientist could love...or so we thought. We fished in water so deep that it took nearly 2 hours just for our net to reach the bottom. It was hard fishing that nobody else would bother with...until all the easy fish were gone.

We'd haul up a squirming mass of
rattails & eelpouts, fish not fit for market. And then a squirming mass of scientists would descend on them with instruments in hand. We were the weirdos back then, nobody else would bother fishing like us when the world's richest cod fishery was going on nearby.

Fast forward to 2007, the cod fishery is closed and people actually
catch and sell rattails on purpose There are even worries about overfishing of rattails and other deep sea fish. In a mere generation, we've driven some rattils close to extinction. How have we sunk so low?

Somehow, we've managed to
kill the cod that once seemed infinite. We fished them out, closed the Grand Banks cod fishery in 1992, and still the cod aren't coming back. Even a "closed" fishery kills too many cod to allow recovery.

This is a
tragedy of epic proportions, and we need a tragedian of similar measure. Who will tell this story? Will we find rattails in Hollywood, or eelpouts on best-seller lists? I don't think so. It's a crisis of no significance...

Back in 1982 our scientific fishing expedition was chased off the Grand Banks by the remnants of a hurricane. But the deep sea fishing business of today is not so easy to slow down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OH MAN... The Grand Banks issue is such a problem and it makes me sick what the fisherman around the globe have done. It is definitley an example of how people can whipe almost completly wipe out and ecosystem for something like the fish that live in it! Thank you for this... Anonymous