Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gulf Of Maine Cod: Fuzzy Science or Fisherman Know Best?

Dayboat Hook & Line Cod, white bean puree, black trumpet mushrooms, Iberico chorizo

Word on the docks is that the Federal Regulators are considering shutting down the Atlantic Cod fishery in the Gulf Of Maine?! WHAT WAS THAT?!!!

Could the unthinkable here in New England be more of a reality than a myth? One thing is for sure, scientists are extremely concerned about the stocks in the waters from North Cape Cod all the way up through Canada. Researchers say that the last assessment in 2008 showed the Gulf Of Maine cod stock was well on its way to recovery and if the pace was kept up, the fishery would reach its goal of rebuilding the code stock by 2014. But a recent assessment says those numbers could have been wrong. And that today the stock is only at about 20% of of the original rebuilding target.

Fisherman on the other hand.......well lets just say that they are claiming there nets are full, that there are plenty of cod in our waters. Which according to some scientists can mean one of two things, plenty of fish or plenty of fisherman who are very good at catching the cod that are in the waters.

I am torn to be honest with you, some years the news is great and I am excited to put cod back on my menus , celebrating a Massachusetts fishery that has such a prominent identity in our local history. Other years the news is bad, we pull cod off the menus, scrutinize every delivery and every vendor asking whether it was at least caught with true hook & line vs. a net. Wondering when you'll get the call from the media calling you out. You just don't know who to believe these days. Not that I feel any of them are lying, its just hard to believe anyone when the "facts" from each party is so far opposite of the other.

One thing is for sure, regulations with more restrictions than ever before are eminent, if the fishery if not a total shut down, NOAA is suggesting that it is too early to make that type of decision and they have many steps before it gets to a full closure. But some of my conversations with fisherman & women from Point Judith to Portsmouth NH are telling me that regulators have started to hint at 90% reduction in quotas that could possibly be in effect this year for the Gulf Of Maine. 90%! Talk about hurting the local economy and the lively hood of those who know nothing else but cod fishing.

As a chef I find it to be our responsibility to support the efforts of both scientists and the fisherman, but I ask one favor......Align yourselves and make decisions that will help EVERYONE. I don't ever want to see our local Cod fishery go away, I also don't want to see some of my friends loose their livelihood.

This is a perfect opportunity to support other local ground fish like Pollock & hake or other species like sea robin and pan fish, black sea bass and bluefish. In order to keep our fisherman and women fishing, we have to educate our guests on these other species, reduce our need for those species in danger and increase our desire for those species that are abundant and that can help keep our captains and crews STAY out on the water.

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