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A Big Fish Story We Should Take Seriously (VIDEO)

A Big Fish Story We Should Take Seriously (VIDEO)


NOTE: This is a guest post from Lee Crockett, Director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group

This post is part of Pew’s Overfishing 101 series. Previous posts can be viewed here.

Almost everyone has a friend or a relative who loves to tell the tale of the “big one” that got away. And more often than not, that fish grows larger and larger with every telling of the story. I have to admit, as an avid angler, I may have been tempted to do this a time or two. But not all fish stories are tall tales.

The accounts that older fishermen relate can be filled with valuable information for today’s anglers, scientists and managers. Indeed, these so-called “old salts” have decades of experience on the water and vivid memories of the way things used to be, and how different they are today. They are witnesses to a time when people fished without the help of GPS or fish finders, and when species that are now rare were teeming in our coastal waters.

It’s often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and the Pew Environment Group recently put together a short video featuring the wisdom of these old timers—including historian and former cod fisherman from Stonington, Maine Ted Ames (winner of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship), as well as Mike Anderson and Fred Bennett, both retired fishermen from Chatham on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Recently, nature writer and reporter John Nielsen visited several of these old salts, who made their living fishing for cod in the waters off New England. They told him stories of the heyday of cod, when docks were “madhouses” and fishermen formed the “million-pounds-a-month club.”

They also recalled the crash of the fishery in the early 1990s, when larger and more powerful fleets pushed cod populations to collapse. They share in the optimism of younger fishermen today, who are heartened by glimpses of a recovery, but remind us that though some populations of cod appear to be on the rise, they remain a shadow of their former selves.

Protecting cod’s breeding grounds, adhering to science-based catch limits, experimenting with selective fishing gear technologies and finding innovative ways for fishermen to increase the value of their catch through direct marketing are just a few ways we can act today to help restore this once abundant resource.

Previous Overfishing 101 posts:

How Science Helps Managers End Overfishing and Rebuild Depleted Fish Populations

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding U.S. Fishery Management

How Ocean Fish Populations are Managed in the U.S.

How Ocean Fish Populations are Managed in the U.S. (Part 2)

The Importance of Rebuilding Our Fish Populations Without Delay

Why Ending Overfishing Pays Off in the Long Run

Why Ending Overfishing is Good for Both Fish and Fishermen Alike

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Photo: NOAA

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7:40PM PDT on Oct 2, 2011

"WE can fix this fishery"! "WE can..."? No we can't. The FISH can. WE can stop being greedy gutses and leave them alone so they can get on with it.

4:00AM PDT on Aug 19, 2011

Will humans ever learn. How very sad.

12:49AM PDT on Aug 19, 2011


8:10PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

This is a terrible thing. I hope the Cod can increase in population and that people will allow them to do so.

11:49AM PDT on Aug 16, 2011


5:17AM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

The tragedy of the commons--not only wild game animals including fish and wild harvested herbs, but all of the commons including clean air and clean water--pure laissez faire free market economies destroy the commons--everybody grabs theirs before somebody else beats them to it--thus, the commons is all gobbled up in a short length of time.

4:22PM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

I don't believe that people are unaware when their behaviour is all about greed. When it comes to big business, most don't act ethically anyway. That's why so much deadly food is forced upon us after Americans being brain-washed from an early age.

What I can't understand is that a fair number of people are educated to question the behaviour of corporations - then why are there such a large percentage of unconsious people, with unconscious behaviour?

8:17AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

sad isnt it that man keeps making the same mistakes over and over again.

12:12AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

They should pass laws about limiting fishing NOW! Thanks Alicia

11:54PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

@Graham H.
I agree completely with the points you made; as long as big money is attached to fish - or anything else for that matter, be it coal,oil or wood - there will be little consideration given to conservation and sustainability. Profit is all that matters. But please don't forget that it is not just humans that rely on the abundance of fish. Sea mammals, birds and other fish, too, depend on them. Another unfortunate thing about industrial-scale fishing is that any other fish-eater is seen as a competitor and is killed or seen as vermin, when in fact it is only living as it has always done. I think if we returned to more natural ways of fishing like you suggest, then there would be enough to go around for human and non-human. It would also, I would hope, to give people more appreciation of fish as a wonderfully amazing lifeform, not just simply a food source or commodity.

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