A few weeks ago my colleague Peter Shelley stood in front of fishermen and policymakers and spoke about the startling decline of New England's cod fishery. Did you know that, since 1982, it's estimated we have lost more than 80% of the cod in New England's ocean? That surely should be a wake up call to us all.
That day, Peter's argument was simple, and backed by sound science. We must act quickly, he argued, to prevent the Atlantic cod - New England's most iconic fish - from complete and utter collapse.
The response? Hisses and boos. Hisses and boos.
Peter is no fool - he knew what was coming. A fisheries expert who filed the first lawsuit that led to the cleanup of Boston Harbor, Peter has heard this same response too often. But still, this response is as startling as it is unhelpful.
The science is clear. Atlantic cod populations are at an all-time historic low. The cod fishery, which for generations has supported a way of life in New England's coastal communities, may be in complete collapse. Don't believe me? Watch this video of Peter explaining the science behind this critical issue.
Over the coming 14 days, NOAA - the agency in charge of setting limits on how much cod commercial fisherman can catch - is deciding how much to allow commercial fisherman to catch this year. We at CLF believe that the managers of this public resource have a responsibility to revive and rebuild cod stocks.
Instead, they are continuing a decades-long pattern of risky decision-making that has run this fishery and its communities into the ground.
We have an opportunity to urge NOAA to save the Atlantic cod from complete collapse. But we have to act now. The longer we wait, the more we risk losing this iconic fishery.
We at CLF are working to urge NOAA to do three things:
- Protect cod populations, especially the adult females that produce as many as 8 million eggs a year
- And, protect the ocean refuges that will allow cod to recover, not bow to industry pressure by opening them to more commercial fishing.
- If you believe, as we at CLF believe, that the cod fishery is worth saving, please stand with thousands of New Englanders and take action today.
Now is not the time to push the limits of the law and set dangerously high catch levels. Now is not the time to bow to industry pressure. Now is not the time to risk this species for short-term gain.
Now is the time to show strength, and real leadership. Now is the time to try to save New England's cod fishery for future generations to enjoy.