Week 4 of Fish Friday and onto a fish my family grew up with – cod!
My family from Nova Scotia has a long relationship with Cod. Salt Cod (Cod preserved in large amounts of salt and often dried under the sun) was a staple of the Acadian diet. The collapse of the Atlantic Cod Fishery was one of the first signs that the oceans were changing.
There are entire communities in Maritime Canada that have never recovered from the collapse of cod. More than 40,000 people lost their jobs in 1992 when the Government essentially closed the doors on Cod. It was a drastic change from reports of early explorers (in the late 1400’s) who reported the sea to be ‘dark with cod.’ Newfoundland bared the brunt of the losses and still struggles with the impact of the loss of the fishery today.
There are many reasons people believe the fishery collapsed. Many believe that a significant contributor was how they were caught. Giant nets were dragged behind boats (often called ‘draggers’) that would catch anything in their path. If a fish was the wrong species, too small or more it would still get swallowed by the net and generally die.
Bottom Longline fishing is fairly simple – a main line is generally anchored to the ocean floor and smaller baited lines are suspended from it (the number of lines can vary and ranger from very few to hundreds or more). Longlines can be criticized for contributing to bycatch as well as to contributing to the death of seabirds, turtles and more. These negative consequences can be limited by location (i.e. hanging the line at the bottom of the ocean like it is for cod as opposed to near the surface for other fish) and by the size of hook.
Here’s how the 3 different organizations we use view the sustainability of Pacific Cod:
- Ocean Wise – recommended – Bottom longline or trapped (Alaska, British Columbia, California, Oregon, Washington)
- Sea Choice – Green (recommended) – US Wild Caught – Wild, pot/trap, hook-and-line, jigging, bottom longline. They also have: Yellow (Some Concerns) on US Trawled and Red (Avoid) for Russian/ Japanese Cod.
- Seafood Watch -Green (Best Choice) – Bottom Longline, Jig, trapped. They also have: Yellow (Good Alternative) for US Trawled and Red (Avoid) for imported Pacific Cod from overseas.
Pacific Cod can go by other names as well including:
- Alaska Cod
- Gray Cod
- True Cod
Do you eat Cod? What’s your favorite way to cook it?
This is part of a series called Fish Friday which is a follow-up to our infographic that appeared in Edible Toronto in Summer, 2012. To find out more about the infographic, click here – to find out more about Sustainable Fish stay tuned over the next 3 months as we will feature an article on the topic every Friday through October). To learn a bit more about my personal observations around failing/ failed fisheries and their impact to nature and the communities they support, you may be interested in the article that accompanied our poster in Edible Toronto called “The Fish of My Youth Are No Longer There“