What Can Be Learned From a Bowl of Chowder?

Scientists, activists, and regulators have developed an extensive list of indicators that are used to measure the health and well-being of the nation’s fisheries. However, in the case of Maine’s depleted fishery, one needs to look no further than a bowl of chowder. An article in yesterday’s New York Times points to the fact that depleted fisheries in the waters surrounding Maine have created a change in traditional chowder recipes for the first time in nearly two centuries. Up until the 1980s, Maine’s waters provided a plentiful array of groundfish which were a staple of properly made chowder. However, years of river damming, pollution, and overfishing have led to a disappearance of fish from areas such as Penobscot Bay. Subsequently, lobster is left to float alone in chowder bowls that were once teaming with cod, haddock, white hake and other groundfish. Obviously the ramifications of Maine’s depleted fisheries go well beyond a change in chowder recipes, but this example provides for an interesting reminder of the many pleasures that will be lost if we continue on a path of environmental neglect. Thankfully, Maine fishermen are starting to demand better management of local fisheries. After all, its a matter of survival for those who depend on healthy fisheries for a living.

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