Food fight

Brian Jones
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It’s easy to get greedy when you’re fishing. You haul one up, and as soon as it’s off the hook and in the cooler, you want another one, but bigger.

Hope hits the water along with the hook.

There were a lot of cod for the taking during this summer’s food fishery, with stories circulating on the wharf of 40-pounders, just like in the old days.

And it’s a good sign that all sizes are out there, especially in the small to medium range — “guppies,” as we nicknamed them.


Bobbing on the blue, waiting and hoping for added weight on your line that signals you have one, you can’t help but wonder what it must have been like before the draggers and trawlers destroyed the fishery, and whether — if wisdom rather than stupidity prevailed — every cod you reeled in would bend your rod like a bow and make it feel as if you’ve snagged a tire, until you see that beautiful white belly swirling up from the depths.

Greed on a far larger scale is what killed the fishery, of course. The cod seem to be coming back, but stupidity is still there — one sign being the government’s abandonment of the inshore fishery.

Maybe greed and stupidity are twins.


A small-scale inshore fishery is exactly what is needed. It would ensure the cod remain plentiful rather than fight for survival.

Yet official policies continue to extol technology, as if sustainable practices are somehow backward, outdated and downright embarrassing. Two decades after the moratorium was declared, trawlers still haven’t been banned. Instead, blame continues to be cast upon water temperature, seals, foreigners and little Billy casting for conners off the wharf.

Check with Premier Kathy Dunderdale. Quebecers are surely also guilty.

Everybody gets blamed but the real culprit.

New method

Down in the Boston States, some people seem to finally realize technological “efficiency” leads only to decimation.

According to a story this week in The New York Times, there is a growing movement in Massachusetts and Maine to establish a “community-supported fishery,” similar to the buy-local trend in farming.

It’s essentially the same idea: people commit to buying a certain amount of catch from local fishermen.

The benefits are multiple: independent fishermen can earn a living; the process cuts out the middlemen (goodbye fishing merchants!); it helps create a fishery that is sustainable and long-lasting, rather than destructive; people have access to tasty fresh fish.

According to The Times, the idea is even catching on in California and New York.

Not here

Newfoundland, the fabled island of fish, lags behind, as usual. Here, when fishermen aren’t being told, metaphorically or otherwise, to burn their boats, they’re advised to give up the chase for cod and go after crab and shellfish instead.

After all, who wants to climb into a small boat and be a cod fisherman? That’s so passé, so old-

fashioned, like wanting to be a buggy driver.

It may surprise ultra-modernists, but fishermen will tell you that they love fishing — for a living, not just for fun or free food.

The attitude that they should strive for something “better” is extremely arrogant and presumptuous, but again, it seems to be entrenched in official policy. (Retraining, anyone?)

The anti-sealers totally missed the boat. If cruelty and conservation really are their concerns, they should turn their attention to the industrialization of farming and food production, one of the great moral and environmental scandals of our era (see: XL Foods, beef recall).

We know where the industrialization of fishing leads. We’re there.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: New York Times, The Times, XL Foods The Telegram

Geographic location: California, Massachusetts, Maine New York.Not

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Recent comments

  • Rob Thomas
    October 05, 2012 - 07:37

    That's a nice dream but who's going to pay for it? A return to old ways would be more sustainable for the resource but not the industry. That kind of fishery would be more expensive meaning it could only be supported by higher prices or government subsidies. You put that more expensive (but more sensible) fish product on store shelves next to the cheaper (more destructive) fishery products and the consumer will vote with their dollars to support that more destructive fishery. The problems isn't just the draggers, it's also the consumers (all of us) that reward that kind of industry.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 05, 2012 - 06:51

    Well said Mr. Jones. Perhaps one day government will see beyond the unsustainable vision supported by the industrial, cash crop fishing and processing sector.