Twenty-one years ago, when the Canadian government enacted a moratorium to cease cod fishing, an entire industry and way of life was wiped out. 40,000 jobs gone, just like that. In that first ten year period of the moratorium which is still in effect eleven years later after the original cutoff date, 20% of the population left the island never to return.
The catches had been getting smaller and then were legislated into nothingness. There were several theories as to why this decline had happened: natural predation by other species, pollution, climate change, and overfishing. It’s pretty clear now what has happened, with overfishing if you will, claiming the title of winner. Government mismanagement and greed literally took the livelihood of out of the Newfoundlander‘s hands. But it is now apparent that climate change has a contributing hand in this. A paper published a couple of months ago stated that fish all over the world are becoming smaller because of the warmer waters. This precludes them from reaching full maturity and breeding normally. That is now leading to a further decline in viable fish which will lead to a larger cascading effect on the rest of the global fish population, Newfoundland included. There’s a one-two punch that would be hard for anyone from which to recover.
Now, whatever little remains of Newfoundland’s fishing stocks is under further assault. And assault is the operable word. In 2007, the southern coast of Newfoundland was seeing infestations of a new species, heretofore unknown of in that province, called the green crab. It has since grown more serious. The introduction of them is not necessarily a problem introduced by man, but it is likely to be an element of it. Even unknowingly, we are adept at mucking things up.
The green crab is a voracious predator eating anything and everything, size be damned. Lobsters? Tasty. Shrimp? Oh, yeah. Cod? What do you think? And currently there is no known remedy for them. They affect the ecological biodiversity wherever they settle. Whatever small chance there might have been for a return of the cod is threatened by this non-native species. What is next? A land to live on which is as hard as its rocks once again is getting hammered. And it appears to be a helpless situation.
One has to believe there are Newfoundlanders saying to themselves and each other, “Enough is enough.” Yes. Yes, indeed.