The New York Times recently posted an article on G. morhua and its current struggles in the north Atlantic. We talked specifically about this fishery (these fish, this population, this set of ecological conditions along with its human interactions) in probably three of the classes I’ve taken in the past year, mostly because it is such a clear-cut example of the way that humans are contributing to population crashes and possible future extinction of once-huge resources in our oceans.
The Atlantic cod is a big fish- a mature fish can grow to 2 meters long and 210 pounds. That’s a man-sized fish. Like a big man-sized fish. But we don’t see many of those these days- most of the monsters are either clever enough to hide from the humans’ ever-increasing technology and catch effort, or simply removed entirely from the gene pool. And that’s really the rub- cod don’t reproduce quickly, nor do they grow fast. It can take 2-8 years for cod to reach sexual maturity, and they can live longer than 13 years on their own. Since we’ve taken almost all of the big cod, most of the population’s reproductive clout is gone: older fish produce far more (and better-quality) eggs and young than the barely-mature fish that remain today. By taking out all of the tasty big fish, we’re ensuring that there won’t be any tasty big fish in the future.
Here’s the NYTimes link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/opinion/the-shocking-news-about-cod.html?ref=opinion
And here’s a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s lists of sustainable fish choices: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_alternatives.aspx
Trawl-caught cod are a big economic driver in fishing communities across the Atlantic, and provide jobs and livelihoods for a lot of people… but if the cod crash, so will the communities. Supporting other, more sustainable fisheries and paying attention to what you buy can actually make a huge difference in transitioning to long-term, stable fisheries.
Alternatively, you could eat bugs as protein. Highly efficient, fast-reproducing: what’s not to like?