YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel
Saving Cod Fish from Extinction
On a cruise around the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador, my husband and I feasted on fresh cod: fried for fish and chips, sautéed in butter, patted into fish cakes, marinated in lime juice for ceviche, and dried and salted into fish jerky.
With Cod Fisherman at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Visiting a Codfish processing plant, Iceland
Later, we learned, from maritime historian, Melvyn Foster, that appearances can be deceptive. In reality, codfish have come dangerously close to the brink of extinction. What lead to this near tragedy? It’s a complicated story.
As early as the 1400s, Portuguese and Basque fishermen fished the Banks. In the 1600s, fishermen from England, France, Spain and Portugal continued to fish the area without depleting the fish stock. Between the 1950s and 1970s a confrontations, known as the Cod Wars, between Iceland and Britain took place over the right to fish in Icelandic territorial waters. The Icelanders prevailed by extending the county’s fishing rights to 50 nautical miles.
Bringing in the catch, Petit Harbor, Newfoundland
Then in 1951, new super-trawlers, known as factory trawlers, began fishing, with disastrous results. In1968 the trawlers brought in 810,000 tons, approximately three times more than the maximum yearly catch of the all small boats. Predictably with this horrendous overfishing, the cod fishing industry collapsed in the early 1990s, bringing economic ruin to the communities along the Grand Banks dependent on fishing. In a desperate attempt to save the cod, in 1992 a belated moratorium banned all fishing along the Banks. No one could be certain that the fish would be saved from extinction. In 2015, Canadian scientists reported that cod were increasing in numbers in some areas, but were still not out of danger. So, for now, the ban on cod fishing has been partially lifted, limiting cod fishing only with lines and for limited periods.
Monument to the Fisherman at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
The fate of the great auk is grimmer. Here is the sad tale as related by our Icelandic guide. The last colony of great auks lived on Geirfuglasker (the "Great Auk Rock") off Iceland. This islet was a volcanic rock surrounded by cliffs. In 1830 a volcanic eruption submerged the islet, forcing the colony to move to the nearby island of Eldey, only accessible from a single side. When the colony was initially discovered in 1835, nearly fifty birds were found. Museums, desiring the skins of the auk for preservation and display, quickly began collecting birds from the colony. The last pair, found incubating an egg, was killed there on 3, July 1844. On a request from a merchant who wanted specimens, Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangled the adults, and Ketill Ketilsson smashed the egg with his boot.
Monument to the Great Auk, near Eldey Island, iceland
Unfortunately, ignorance, greed, lack of foresight, and inadequate administration has doomed, and will continue to doom other species. However, all is not lost! Through research for my Eco mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I’ve discovered conservationists who are our unsung heroes. Armed with scientific knowledge, and the backing of local agencies, these Eco warriors are saving the Earth's precious flora and fauna, one species at a time, before it is too late.
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