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

Photo: NOAA


W. C
W. C2 months ago


William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you.

Mark S.
Mark S.6 years ago

"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.

Joy Wong
Joy Wong6 years ago

Will humans ever learn. How very sad.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R6 years ago

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

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago


Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

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.

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

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?

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

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