In the 1990’s a sweeping ban on fishing for cod off Canada’s east coast was instituted.
After 500 years of small scale usually manual fishing, the arrival of massive factory trawlers in Canada and especially abroad, practically wiped out the cod stocks, Canada first extended its control from a 12 mile to a 200 mile economic exclusion zone, but it wasn’t enough to halt the decline.
The 1992 moratorium was a desperate move to save the cod from irreversible collapse. The decline in the various stocks off the east coast was more than dramatic having declined by over 95 percent from the levels of the 1960’s. The moratorium was supposed to be in effect for two years, but it’s now been over two decades
Now the United States has halted cod fishing in large areas off its north-eastern coast in the Gulf of Maine.
Officials there say they are fearing an almost complete collapse of the cod stocks around the American northeast coast.
John Bullard is the northeast regional administrator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and responsible for the fishery in New England. He said even though fishing had been cut by 75%, a new survey this summer showed cod was continuing to decline.
He said the cod is at only three to four percent of historic levels and had further declined between 13 and 18 percent in just the past three years.
The New England emergency ban takes effect today mostly off the coast of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and will remain until May.
Since the Canadian moratorium over 20 years ago, cod stocks have been making a very slow recovery, and not in all areas.
In the meantime, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will soon decide what to do with the cod fishery on the Georges Bank — which is part of the Gulf of Maine — and in other areas. An official says they want to make their decisions in time for the beginning of the next year”.
There are still concerns about foreign overfishing just outside of the Canadian and American 200 mile economic jurisdictional limits.