Loyola's Folly May Doom the Cod

How do you save an endangered species?

According to Canadian Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, you do so by killing large numbers of them to find out how healthy the declining population is.

In the early 1990's, despite warnings from conservationists for twenty years, the Northern commercial cod fishery collapsed due to excessive exploitation and gross governmental mismanagement and incompetence. The species has been reduced to less than 4% of its original numbers before the beginning of commercial exploitation in the 16th Century.

The species is not yet extinct but not for want of trying by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

This week Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, a Member of Parliament from Newfoundland, allocated 2300 tons of cod to commercial fishermen and authorized a food fishery of 2,500 pounds. Newfoundland residents will be allowed to catch just over a ton in total of cod without a license and are limited to 5 fish per person per day or 15 fish per boat per day. Of course, there is no way of controlling this take and it is ludicrous to believe that thousands of Newfoundlanders catching five fish a day will result in less than 2500 pounds of fish being taken.

The commercial fishery will distribute 2300 tons of fish to 2300 commercial fishermen. One ton of fish for each commercial fisherman is hardly worth the effort.

The fishermen are eager to show, however, that there are "plenty" of fish to be taken. Fisherman Cyril Martin was quoted in the National Post as saying, "it will prove to the powers that be there's more fish in the inshore fishery around Newfoundland than the scientists think."

Of course, after this summer there will be 2400 tons fewer fish than now thanks to this token fishery opening that Loyola Hearn is offering to appease his constituents in Newfoundland.

"The fish are not being given time to recover," said Captain Paul Watson. "It will take generations to undo the damage done by the greed of the commercial fishing industry and the incompetence of the Canadian government. It may not be possible to bring the cod back but these regular openings to make fishermen happy are not benefiting the species. We need to leave the cod alone for the next century and allow them to recover from the ruthless pogrom we have inflicted on them for the past few centuries."

Back in 1993, the Sea Shepherd ship Cleveland Amory intervened against overfishing by foreign draggers on the Nose and the Tail of the Grand Banks. Although the campaign resulted in losses of over $35 million to illegal Spanish and Cuban drag trawlers, Captain Paul Watson was arrested for mischief for chasing the draggers away from the Banks. He was acquitted of the charges after a long and expensive trial in Newfoundland in 1995.

In 2005, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society dropped 16 net rippers on the Tail of the Banks to discourage drag trawlers.

Sea Shepherd has called for a one hundred year moratorium on the taking of cod in the North Atlantic.

"It they have any chance for recovery," said Captain Watson, "it will take at least a century to accomplish it. These are long-lived fish and the fisheries have slaughtered 96% of them all and now are not allowing the survivors to reach sexual maturity before assaulting them again. These fish should be left in peace and all cod fishing abolished at least until 2106."