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The End of Cod


Last weekend, I decided to check out Cape Cod in the winter. It was pretty great, even if cold. On my way to the Cape, I drove past a Wendy’s. They were offering a fish sandwich–made with North Pacific cod. That’s right, North Pacific cod on Cape Cod.

The cod fishery of the North Atlantic and the livelihoods it sustained for 300 years are basically finished. The New England Fishery Management Council has reduced the cod catch by 77% in the Gulf of Maine, 61% on Georges Bank. The reality is that the fishers probably won’t even catch that tiny quota. The fish are gone, driven to near extinction not by the family fishermen that work out of the small ports in New England but by giant industrial fishing trawlers that are taking every fish of any edible size out of the oceans at an alarming rate.

Here’s a graph off the annual catch off the Grand Bank:

Reduced quotas have not brought the fish back in the last 15 years because there just aren’t any left. The only way to bring this back at all is a total moratorium on fishing for at least 20 years and then maybe not. A lot of fishermen are angry–but what can we do? There’s just no fish left.

There actually are two things we can do. Neither will bring the fish back, but that’s a done deal. First, as the first linked article suggested, we can develop alternative economies for these fishing ports around wind energy. That’s very different work than fishing, but it’s something. Some of these cities–New Bedford for instance–have developed reasonable tourist industries and have attracted some young people to live there and build some kind of alternative economies. Many–Fall River for instance, a mere 15 miles from New Bedford–have not. This is the best and most obvious way to create at least some jobs based upon harvesting natural resources, albeit in a very different way.

The second thing we can do is to take some kind of national responsibility for workers who lose their jobs because of resource depletion. There’s actually significant precedent for this in the Pacific Northwest. The Clinton Forest Plan that provided some finality to the old growth/spotted owl logging wars in the 1980s and early 1990s provided retraining programs for loggers and mill workers who lost their jobs due to the industry’s disappearance. My own father took advantage of this program, although he later found work in another mill.

Even more interesting is the case of the Redwood Employee Protection Program. The first real battle in the Northwest over the forests, really the precursor to the spotted owl, was the successful campaign to expand Redwood National Park. When the bill was signed by President Carter in 1978, it included REPP, a program that provided significant payments to workers displaced by the mills that had to close down. They received direct payments from the federal government until 1984 to build a bridge until they could find other work. The generosity of this was controversial–Carter himself was quite skeptical. And in many ways it didn’t work that well. There were battles over who should qualify–were the mills shutting down because of a lack of timber or because of globalization and mechanization? Moreover, there were some disappearing funds and management issues. We don’t need to get into these details now. What’s notable though is that at least one time the federal government decided to expand the welfare state, however tentatively, to workers put out of work in order to save rare resources.

Of course, this is politically impossible, even unthinkable, in the modern political climate. But rather than throw the fishermen and their families on the street with few economic opportunities, wouldn’t a program to help build regional economies and stabilize communities make a lot more sense? I think it would.

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  • shah8

    Oh, let’s not get too specific about fisheries.

    The Grand Banks, why, one could be like Jesus and step from fish back to fish back from one fishing boat to the next!

    If that’s gone, hmmm…wonder how all the other fisheries are doing?

  • Davis X. Machina

    20 years on, after the effective closure of the fishery, the Maritimes are showing a little, little sign of improvement, at least on the cod front.

    • Yeah, another 50 years and it might come back quite nicely.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Well, European settlement in those parts goes back 400 years. Some times you gotta take the long view.

        • Leeds man

          “Some times you gotta take the long view.”

          When decays are exponential, not so much.

      • Murc

        I know you’re being sarcastic, but I’d be comfortable with that. Odds are good I’ll actually still be alive in sixty years. It’s an eyeblink, really.

        • I’m not being sarcastic at all.

          • Murc

            Tone can be hard to tell on the intertubes. I think I have a handle on the tones of the regulars here (in my head, Mal sounds James Marsden and DrDick sounds like Eastwood) but I still screw it up occasionally.

            • I kind of look like Gary Busey, so maybe I sound like him too.

              • Arrowroot Son of Arrowshirt


                Well that’s too bad.

                My condolences.

            • DrDick

              LOL! While I have been known to terrify students on occasion, I am certainly not Dirty Harry or the Man with No Name. When I was younger, I looked a bit like Weird Al Yankovic. No I am just a fat old man with a mustache and earrings.

              • Murc

                Actually, more like Eastwood in empty chair mode than the work he got famous for, in my head.

                No offense.

              • rea

                On the internet, no one knows I’m really a miniature doberman.

            • Halloween Jack

              I don’t look, sound, act, or dress like Bowie. Big shock, I know.

              • Vogon Pundit

                I’m proud to say that my punditry really is painfully bad.

  • lt col doolittle

    This post is a little late, but it would have been a great rebuttal to a sad side-story in the sad and desperate campaign of fmr. US Senator Scott Brown. He ran plenty of ads claiming that the MA fisherman’s plight was due to overregulation from Washington. Here is one representative example.

    • Cody

      Weird. Doesn’t mention once about how Obama regulated that all the fish in the ocean die so that they could be properly redistributed to the masses.

      Obviously the whole ad was a liberal set-up.

  • Linnaeus

    But rather than throw the fishermen and their families on the street with few economic opportunities, wouldn’t a program to help build regional economies and stabilize communities make a lot more sense? I think it would.

    It would. But we as a society would have to be willing to spend the money to do it, and we’re not. It’s easier and cheaper (well, not in the long run, but…) to just forget about the communities you mention.

  • Hogan

    Maybe we should get to work on a Jesus-heavy ad campaign around the theme of “God made fishermen.” Hell, the bible quotes are already there.

    • LosGatosCA

      I think the power of a sentimental irrelevant commercial about a profession that flat lined as far as career growth opportunities about 100 years ago cannot be overestimated.

      “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure a religious experience that justifies the conclusion that you are morally superior to everyone else.”

      Lord knows a unionized teacher handing out condoms to their students and pushing the gay agenda never did anything but act as a fifth column for Satan worshippers.

      And now you know the rest of the propaganda.

    • Njorl

      Jesus was a fisher of men. Will the Fillet-o-Man sandwich catch on at McDonald’s?

      • john (not mccain)

        The Man-o-Warwiches are doing nicely. Why not try a pork-ish product?

        • Western Dave

          It’s people! People!

          • Malaclypse

            Mmmm, Long Pig.

      • Doc Hawkeye

        Only if they’re made with Soylent Green….

  • Murc

    That CNN article is awful.

    It made me feel dumber reading it. I’ve never heard of David Ariosto before, but if he went to J-School, his professors failed both him and his future readers abjectly.

    • It is bad. I only linked to it for some reference to angry fishermen.

    • somethingblue

      He’s better in ottava rima.

  • scott g

    Now what was that line again? Oh yeah: “No Jobs On A Dead Planet”

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    My own father took advantage of this program, although he later found work in another mill.

    Son of a government-taker…this won’t help your reputation with the wingnuts.

    • Probably not with the anarchists either.

      • Uncle Ebeneezer

        Wasn’t there also a federal job-creation program involving National Parks at some point?

        On a tangent, any good breweries worth visiting when we go up to Klamath Falls/Crater Lake this Summer?

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          I meant, in addition to the Redwood example you noted, something that put unemployed workers in for maintenance, and as rangers etc. I could be misremembering…

        • Not so sure about K-Falls, been a long time since I’ve been down there. Caldera in Ashland is very much worth your while.

        • djw

          I recall sampling a pretty tasty Red Ale from Klamath Basin Brewery at a tasting once.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            Perfect. Love a good Red Ale!

      • JL

        Eh, the ones I’ve interacted with who aren’t completely batshit understand that as we still have a state and it runs our societal safety net, it’s only natural that people in economic trouble will turn to it. I mean, the whole premise behind dual power is that you don’t get your completed anarchist revolution until you gradually build up viable and popular alternative institutions to those the state provides.

        Of course, the anarchists that I’ve interacted with are largely people that I know in person and have worked with in coalitions or social justice groups. I make no claim that Internet Anarchists will react the same way.

        • Internet Anarchists are very special….

          • DrDick

            Sort of the leftwing equivalent of libertarians.

            • Linnaeus

              Unless they’re Rothbardian anarcho-capitalists.

    • blowback

      What amazed me about forestry in the Pacific north west was the lack of replanting. You would see patches of forest that had been clear cut several years previously and yet no effort seemed to have gone into regenerating the forest so that it could be cropped again fifty odd years in the future as would happen in Europe. In China, they do things very differently, with the result that China is now the world’s largest papermaker….

      China has managed to develop a genetically altered hardwood eucalyptus tree (which begins its life in the lab as a tissue sample in a petri dish) that requires only four to six years to reach full height. That’s roughly one-tenth the time it takes “natural” trees in North America (which, all will agree, are abundant) to reach maturity.

      The US government couldn’t do the same for Douglas Fir?

      • lige

        There’s a lot of replanting (it was my spring/summer job when I was younger) but it takes a long time to replace all the old timber and harvesting always was faster than the regrowth. Also The concept of genetically modified Douglas Fir sounds a little terrifying. It’s bad enough that current replanting tends to focus on a monoculture of one tree type.

        • DrDick

          Takes decades for the trees to reach maturity. That is one of the reasons most of the big timber companies moved operations into the South thirty years ago or more, since Southern pines grow faster. Today they are increasingly moving to Latin America and SE Asia, since tropical softwoods grow ten times faster than northern softwoods.

      • There might have been quite a bit of replanting, but there were (are) a lot of problems with the replanting system. First, the USFS was allowing timber to be cut on south facing slopes that were basically impossible to replant, creating long-term ecological problems in isolated areas. Second, replanting work was the lowest work in the timber industry. The labor was seasonal, transient, and increasingly done by undocumented and easily exploited immigrants. The unions couldn’t organize it because it was so unstable. The USFS contracted out with companies to do this work which meant a lot of push for low-cost and low-quality replanting, even if that meant in fact a lot of people throwing bunches of seedlings off cliffs. Replanting was just never a real priority, always a headache to be moved on to someone who couldn’t find better work.

        • DrDick

          A lot of it here is Mexicans (many undocumented).

      • Captain Bringdown

        Tree farms =/= old growth forests.

        • rea

          Yeah–Michigan was replanted 80 or so years ago, after being completely logged off in the 19th Century and the early 20th Century. That’s why all our trees are just the right height. But, it’s not the same as an old growth forest, and it’s not easy to see how it ever goes back to what it once was, except maybe in a few centuries.

          • Linnaeus

            Yeah, you can go to Hartwick Pines and see the difference between what Michigan’s forests once looked like and how they do now.

  • RepubAnon

    Yeah, people keep forgetting about giving the resources time to renew. It’s like the “infinite oil” folks that say there’ll always be oil.

    Interestingly, I’ve seen stories questioning whether the lack of fish allows some other organism to take over – like jellyfish. “The fishing industry has depleted populations of big predators such as red tuna, swordfish and sea turtles that feed on jellyfish. And when small, plankton-eating fish such as anchovies are overharvested, jellies flourish, gorging on plankton and reproducing to their hearts’ content (if they had hearts, that is).

    Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/40th-anniversary/Jellyfish-The-Next-Kings-of-the-Sea.html

  • bradP

    The second thing we can do is to take some kind of national responsibility for workers who lose their jobs because of resource depletion.

    Isn’t that a fairly perverse incentive?

    • McAllen

      Only if you think it’s the workers, rather than the companies who employ them, who are responsible for the resource depletion.

      • ajay

        Only if you think it’s the workers, rather than the companies who employ them, who are responsible for the resource depletion.

        That may not be a very easy line to draw with fishermen. A lot of them own their own boats.

        • Timb

          They own industrial trawlers with half mile nets?

          • spencer

            Right – it’s helpful to bear in mind the difference in impact caused by industrial-scale fishing versus that caused by Some Old Guy With a Boat from Gloucester.

            A big part of the problem with the Grand Banks fisheries was that they attracted vessels from all over the world as late as the 1970s, until the regulations were changed. The massive trawlers from Russia and Japan did a shit ton more damage than your average New England fisherman, but a lot of people forget that.

          • ajay

            They own industrial trawlers with half mile nets?

            Sometimes, yes. Some of these trawler skippers are 25-year-old guys with £2 million mortgages on their boats. That kind of debt load makes you want to set out nets whenever you possibly can.

    • Some resources are just going to be depleted — if you run out of oil or coal or bauxite or whatever in one area, you’re out of it. There will always be economies based on extracting nonrenewable resources.

      As far as renewable resources go, ‘depletion’ needs to be considered relative to regulatory change. There are fisheries which are unproductive and basically dead, but there are also fisheries which are currently productive but need to be scaled back to survive. Economic output will drop in the short term in exchange for continued output in the future. People will lose jobs.

      There’s also nothing saying this kind of program can’t be funded at least in part by the profits of the companies who extracted the resource.

      Ideally, we’d have not just training programs but medium-term ‘pensions’ for laid-off employees in moribund industries. If automation can eliminate 100 jobs at a factory, good. The less toil the better. But workers need to be protected from the effects of technological and market forces beyond their control.

      What I’m thinking would be weighted against age — a 25-year-old would get something like unemployment plus training for a few years, while a 55-year-old would get enough to potentially tide them over until retirement. Tossing near-retirement people into the job market is horrible.

    • bph

      This comment is hysterical.
      There are no Cod left and the worry is about “perverse incentives.”

      I know! The correct answer is to privatize the fish. The fish owners will never
      let them go extinct then.

      • RhZ

        I *think* bradP is making the point that it might be better to handle the resource depletion rather than just the consequences of the depletion.

        Or not…

      • Malaclypse

        I’m thirty years away from this, but I seem to recall that if you google “tragedy of the commons” + fishing + privatization, you will find a boatload of people, so to speak, making the argument that overfishing was indeed caused by the lack of private ownership of ocean fisheries.

        • John Protevi

          Yes, Garett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” was used as a stalking horse for privatization folks back in the day. The claim was that the only way to protect Common Pool Resources — like fisheries — was either property rights or gummit control. (The privateers — see what I did there? — would usually capitalize the initial “s” to scare the goobers by writing it State.)

          Elinor Ostrom’s Governing the Commons should have put paid to that forced choice between gummit and privateers by her demonstration of the theory and history of “third way” group self-organization, but it was mostly ignored in non-specialist discussion, AFAICT.

          I don’t think she would have objected to the claim that government regulation was needed to establish the framework within which the small fisherman could work by excluding the big boats.

          • Malaclypse

            Thanks. That was published two years after I stopped reading that field. Good addition to my wish list.

            • John Protevi

              De nada. I was amazed, on re-reading it, to see the racist worries about the fecundity of the brown folks in Hardin’s piece.

              • elm

                I used to teach grad courses using Hardin’s original piece, but the more I read it, the more I realized how offensive it could be to people from the 3rd world and from people who have children regardless of where they are. I now tend to assign Ostrom or something else that references Hardin instead of Hardin himself.

          • elm

            Ostrom’s Nobel suggests that her work had some purchase outside of non-specialized discussions.

            Also, while I don’t think she would object to the idea that government regulation could establish a framework for collective action (or even that it could be the best way to do it in this particular circumstance), I think she would object to the idea that it was necessary given how much of her work centered on non-governmental action.

            • Erich von Däniken

              You know better than I do, but my impression is that Ostrom didn’t get a lot of non-academic, i.e., policy traction, for many years, if ever. I should have said “policy” rather than “non-specialist.”

              Yes, in general, government framing isn’t necessary all the time, but in this case of industrial vs small fishing I think it would be.

              • John Protevi

                Yikes, another one of my noms de blog is revealed!

              • elm

                Yes, I agree that there wasn’t much policy impact from Ostrom, at least at the national level in the U.S. Though my understanding (and this is way outside my area of expertise, too, so I’m only reporting what colleagues have said) is that it has had an effect on local-level efforts, especially in developing countries. My guess is that there’s some development-related NGO who read Ostrom and proffers advice based on it.

                • John Protevi

                  That would be great.

        • spencer

          Those people haven’t gone away. I did my Master’s thesis on the economics of this very fishery, and that was one of the most robust lines of questioning from faculty during my defense – why not just privatize the oceans?

          I found that discouraging. Although, even though they didn’t like my answer, they still gave me my degree. Possibly just to get me the hell out of the department, I suppose.

      • bradP

        There are no Cod left and the worry is about perverse incentives.

        Well there are no cod left and it appears you are only concerned about the fishermen who harvested them.

        I am not sure that we, as a society, should go about insuring companies and workers against the depletion of natural resources, as that encourages them to not worry about maintaining sustainable stock.

        • Timb

          The profit incentive, you know the one glibertarians tell us is the only motivation in human history, is the perverse incentive here. It’s what caused each individual to give not thought to the future, because there’s ” money to be made.”

          One of the only ways to fix that, Brad, is government action.

          • bradP

            It’s what caused each individual to give not thought to the future, because there’s ” money to be made.”

            There are a ton of problems here that I don’t feel I can really comment on.

            I will say that the nature of the resource makes property rights a poor solution as well (depending on how they would be implemented, I suppose).

            But the profit incentive, by itself, could just as well drive fishermen to maintain a sustainable stock.

            • Malaclypse

              Actually, if there is one thing that the tragedy of the commons literature shows, it is that profit motive + shared semi-renewable resource = disaster. You need producer cooperatives – cartels – to make it work.

            • spencer

              But the profit incentive, by itself, could just as well drive fishermen to maintain a sustainable stock.

              No, it *can’t* do that all by itself.

              If you’ve got a thousand fishermen who are not legally bound to limit their catches, they’re not going to do so voluntarily as part of a gentlemen’s agreement. Why? Because they’re all aware of the incentive to cheat that they all face, and they all understand the advantages involved in being the one person (out of a thousand, or however many there are) who catches as many fish as possible while everyone else sticks to some gentlemen’s agreement about limits.

              Then of course, what happens is *all* the fishermen want to be that guy, so they *all* ignore their little agreement. And then, well, you know.

              The fisherman has no guarantee that there will be fish in the fishery next year, or five years from now. So it’s better to take as much profit as possible now, while he can. *That’s* what your precious profit motive does in this case.

              • spencer

                It’s basic game theory, after all.

              • DrDick

                Exactly. Profit is the perverse incentive here in the first place.

              • John Protevi

                Above I recommended Ostrom’s Governing the Commons as a key element in this discussion of sustaining CPRs.

            • daveNYC

              You might get a fisherman to maintain a sustainable stock, but with fishermen I suspect that’d not be the case.

            • Left_Wing_Fox

              Name once where that’s ever actually happened. Situations like the Dod and Passenger pigeon are much more likely. As long as some asshole is rich enough to afford the privilege of eating the last cod, someone will go out to catch the cod for them.

            • herr doktor bimler

              That argument seems to feature a lot in anti-conservation rhetoric. “The best way to conserve the resource is to give it to the fishermen — their livelihoods depend on it so they know better about looking after it than any ivory tower academic. Government should just stand back and leave them to it.”

              See also “Farmers are the best conservationists of the land” and “Whalers are the best conservationists of the whales”.

        • Malaclypse

          I think Brad has a point. If all the coal was suddenly gone, we would not even think about “rescuing” coal companies. Fishermen are sympathetic, in the same way farmers are. I genuinely don’t know if this sympathy is helpful or not. Attempts to help farmers became help to Archer Daniels Midland. Not sure what attempts to help fishermen will morph onto. But when Scott Brown is all for it, I’m wary.

          • NonyNony

            I think Brad has a point. If all the coal was suddenly gone, we would not even think about “rescuing” coal companies.

            No, but we would be worried about rescuing coal miners. Which is the analogy that Erik was using when comparing fishermen to loggers in the top post.

            People who own coal companies have money and can take care of themselves. People who work for coal companies generally don’t and need assistance to, at the very least, get retrained for a new job if their entire skillset suddenly becomes obsolete because the resource has disappeared (or the demand for the resource has disappeared due to environmental concerns).

            That’s the analogy here. If the fishermen in question were millionaires, nobody would care about helping them out.

            • DrDick

              Exactly. The miners are not responsible for the depletion of the resource.

        • rea

          I am not sure that we, as a society, should go about insuring companies and workers against the depletion of natural resources, as that encourages them to not worry about maintaining sustainable stock.

          Well, but the ideal (and of course, we are well past this with the Grand Banks) is not to deplete the resources to the point that there is no sustainable stock, but to recognize in advance that the resource is being depleted and change our behavior before it becomes unsustainable.

        • DrDick

          We as a society encouraged them to deplete those resources, so why shouldn’t we take care of them now? The proper answer to managing stocks is government regulation (as I keep reminding you, government is our societal response to collective action problems).

      • Informant

        There are specific proposals to create “privatized” fishing rights for cod and other fish species in the Atlantic. Alaska already uses a version of it: http://www.alaskajournal.com/Blog-Follow-the-Money/February-2012/Rationalized-fishing-rights-have-buoyed-Alaska-fisheries/

      • mpowell

        My understanding is that this is exactly what they did in Iceland where the cod fisheries are now thriving. I mean, you have to do it right, but fisherman will always complain about government limitations on how many fish that they can catch. And they will constantly work to undermine sustainable limits politicially. But when instead it is structured as the ownership as a certain percentage of the yield from a particular fishery, their perspective is turned around.

  • Morbo

    But rather than throw the fishermen and their families on the street with few economic opportunities

    Simpsons did it!

  • max

    The only way to bring this back at all is a total moratorium on fishing for at least 20 years and then maybe not.

    No doubt. It would be helpful if they engaged in seeding. That would be speed up rebalancing.

    The second thing we can do is to take some kind of national responsibility for workers who lose their jobs because of resource depletion.

    Or we could just build a bunch of crap in New England, which I am fine with.

    [‘Amounts to the same thing.’]

  • bad Jim

    I used to carry around a copy of the Seafood Watch, published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which lists species which you may never eat, whether because they’re on the verge of extinction or so full of mercury that it might put you on the list, those which aren’t so bad, and those which are being sustainably harvested.

    Eventually I decided the only ethical thing to do is to avoid wild seafood entirely. My city has banned fishing along its coast and planted extensive stands of kelp. Now I get to watch pelicans, terns and cormorants, dolphins and sea lions, plunging, diving and leaping, athletically sampling their sashimi buffet, and feel that I might have the best end of the bargain.

    • Ian

      We’re pretty much down to Alaska Cod and Alaska Sockeye, both of which still get the thumbs up from the aquarium.

      • Linnaeus

        I thought arctic char was all the rage these days.

        • ckc (not kc)

          …in the context of global warming, “arctic char” is truly a name to conjur with.

  • herr doktor bimler

    A lot of fishermen are angry

    I’m puzzled. People have been warning them for 3 or 4 decades that strip-mining the ocean was not sustainable. What were they expecting? Who are they angry with? (apart from the people who warned them; that is a given).

    I mean, in other extractive industries, people do know that they are extracting a limited resource. When they follow a gold rush to some newly-discovered gold field, people do not get angry when the mines are sooner or later exhausted.

    • Hanspeter

      Of course they’re angry. Their dads and their grand dads and their grand grand dads, etc have been fishing those grounds since probably the year 1383 and they never had any problems, so this must be all that government’s fault.

      I know he’s persona non-grata around these parts, but Billy Joel’s song “Downeaster Alexa” is fitting for this sort of discussion. I actually had someone try to pass it off as a protest song.

      • Informant

        Here’s an actual fishing protest song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N76h9GS0fwQ

        • Western Dave

          That’s an awesome track, that is.

        • Stan Rogers’ “Tiny Fish For Japan” covers some of the same ground, though things hadn’t gotten quite as bad yet.

          • ckc (not kc)

            …and the (Lake Erie) fishermen he was writing about were reportedly pissed off by his (what they considered condescending) reference to “…poisons with names that we can’t understand” (the Great Lake fisheries were affected by pollution as much as overfishing)

          • ckc (not kc)

            “Make and Break Harbour” is Stan’s go-to song for this situation.

    • Timb

      Their only asset is a boat. Their only skill is fishing. Their family has been doing it forever. They didn’t start the over-fishing.

      And, now they’re scared for their future and their present and their kids’ future and they’re angy, because that’s what scared people get.

      On the other hand, they probably would like less smug academics huffing “we told your dad about this. Aren’t we smart” and more smart people like Erik noting public policy solutions for the fisheries and the fishermen.

      • Informant

        The problem with this is that I remember discussions about problems with overfishing on the Grand Banks and other northeastern fisheries as a kid 30+ years ago. Anyone who entered the fishing business in the last 25 years at minimum can’t have had any illusions that they were doing anything other than getting into a declining industry.

        • witless chum

          Saying “hey fisherman, you’re stupid, you got yourself into this situation” even if true, isn’t an answer. Or particularly relevant, in my opinion.

          The situation is there. We can either choose, like Erik says, to try to do something to help, or we can choose to just say “fuck you, non-millionaires. Go figure it out yourselves” as has been the norm in this country especially since Ronald Reagan oozed his way into politics.

          If nothing else, just realize that it’s probably cheaper to invest in helping find these people and communities some other means of earning a livelihood than it will be to pay all the associated costs that accrue to society if they mostly just fall into poverty. I personally find it more pleasing to spend money on job retraining programs rather than prisons and welfare programs.

          • burritoboy

            Er, yeah, it’s more pleasing to you (and to me) to spend the money on job retraining programs rather than sticking reasonably big portions of the Gloucester or New Bedford populations in jail. (Note: whether those retraining programs actually work is often a bit dubious…..). But it wasn’t more pleasing to the fishermen, when they were riding high – when extractive industry workers have any money in their pockets they often (not always, admittedly, but quite often) turn into the stupidest kinds of economic conservatives around.

            It’s not especially surprising that, when extractive workers fall on hard times, that the economic liberals whom they often strongly opposed earlier are less than eager to hear about their new plights. I don’t think it’s too much for the economic liberals to be initially dubious of those communities’ new found economic philosophies, at least until more mutual trust is built up.

            • Linnaeus

              when extractive industry workers have any money in their pockets they often (not always, admittedly, but quite often) turn into the stupidest kinds of economic conservatives around.

              True to a degree, but I think there’s also the implicit understanding among said workers that there’s not much there for them if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity while it’s still there. What appears to be economic conservatism might actually be more of a survival strategy.

            • lunenburg

              You must mean economic progressives. Actual liberals are more concerned with alleviating poverty and creating a more just society then reminding the newly dislocated about the error of their ways.

              From the graph it does not appear many cod fisherman have been riding high since 1972.

              • timb

                This. I ain’t no Calvinist.

      • Cody

        Wouldn’t the private fishermen blame the companies? I would assume (maybe I’m wrong here), that the small boats were hardly the problem. The giant trawlers got the majority of the fish, and the gov’t should have cracked down on those a long time ago.

        Though good luck regulating an industry, I’m sure Republicans are 100% behind them.

        • rea

          No, the natural tendancy is to blame the people tellingem they can’t fish, rather than those who created the situation in which they have to be told not to fish.

      • herr doktor bimler

        On the other hand, they probably would like less smug academics huffing “we told your dad about this. Aren’t we smart” and more smart people like Erik noting public policy solutions for the fisheries and the fishermen.

        Why would they care about the opinions of smug academics now?

  • Informant

    I’m late to the party, but this is relevant to the thread: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N76h9GS0fwQ

    • Informant

      Sorry, should have been in response to Hanspeter above.

  • MosesZD

    The biggest problem is the the people who can provide the solutions refuse to grasp the nettle across the board. Those of us who’ve preached ‘eco-system’ solutions have known cod were doomed for a long time. Overfishing is pretty bad, but couple it with destroying many of the feed-stocks with over-fishing is a double-whammy leading to this collapse.

    So, lowering the cod harvest. Sure, that’ll help a bit. But until the feed-stocks recover, cod are going to suffer.

  • spencer

    New Bedford has a tourist industry?

    How times change. When I lived there 15 years ago, that would have been completely inconceivable.

    • Oh yeah. On the way back to Providence, I stopped at a bar with outstanding taps. Then went to the hipster burrito place across the street for dinner. All kinds of places like that. I mean, you can still see the roughness of the place, but it’s clearly changed a lot.

      • spencer

        That’s actually great to read. In the mid-1990s it seemed like a place without a future.

        • One of the really big old factory buildings on the highway that goes into downtown has also been renovated into apartments that are actually filled with people. There were tons of lights on when I drove by. It clearly had a pretty high occupancy rate.

          • medrawt

            I only go back to visit family once every couple years, and for a few days at most, since I left in ’96, but I get the sense that it’s also become a bedroom community for Boston (the drive to Boston has also almost doubled in length since when it was my dad’s daily commute). I still tend to tell people that the only worthwhile thing for an outsider is the whaling museum (unless you want to sample authentic immigrant interpretations of Azorean cuisine, which I do). But the last time I was there I heard all kinds of optimism about a boardwalk-type development. Still looked like a pretty rough place to me.

  • Simple mInd

    Curse you, Red Lobster, you gluttony cheerleader and your gluttonous clientele! The Bonefish chain has been scraping the bottom of the barrel with fish species from Australia I never heard of. I weep for the fish.

  • Woodrowfan

    why is there a bit of a short recovery in the 1980s on the chart?

    • rea

      At some point in there, Canada asserts soveriegnty out to 200 miles and bans foreign boats. Except in the very short run, that doesn’t help, though–it just means that the overfishing is done by Canadians. Catches go up temporarily because new technology is deployed to catch the fewer remaining fish . . .

      • Ian

        The Wikipedia article on the “Turbot War” has some good information on all this.

  • Friedrich Meitzsche

    Cod is dead.

  • Western Dave

    So I guess McEvoy in The Fisherman’s Problem was kinda wrong, huh? The introduction of environmental lingo into the policy debate did not improve the fisherman’s problem?

  • Pingback: [BRIEF NOTE] On the end of the North American cod fisheries « A Bit More Detail()

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  • as an outsider looking in, can’t you just farm the fish in nurseries until they take over the sea?

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