Cod Confusion: More Fishing, More Farming, the End of Baltic Cod?

Lutfisk is threatened photoLuckily, Christmas dinner is already over in Scandinavia (celebrated most often on the 24th) so those of us required to take a portion of stinky, slimy lutefisk, a dried and soaked cod, are safely past our obligations at the buffet-like Christmas table.

The lutefisk ritual is just one of many cod-based traditions. In Sweden torsk, as cod is called, is one of the most popular white fishes, and it shows up in a multitude of traditional dishes, stews and soups (and the ever popular fish stick). It is also nearly fished to extinction in the Baltic Sea and the body of water between Denmark and Sweden known as Kattegat. So it is a bit schizophrenic that at the same time that the Danes and Swedes have been hard at work establishing a no-fishing zone for local cod to help them survive, EU ministers are pointedly ignoring international scientific advice on how much fishing is sustainable.Lutefish at the market photoFishing is one of those sacred professions to start off with - in the 1950s and 1970s huge battles erupted between different nations, especially Iceland, which was nearly solely dependent on fishing for its livelihood, and the British isles.

The Atlantic cod fishery already spectacularly collapsed, and both Baltic and Kattegat fisheries are currently drifting down to dangerously low numbers. There are more young fish than during the worst cod numbers during the late 1990s, but bycatch is killing many of them. Despite the best scientific advice from ICES, Europeans have not inclined to stop fishing enough to let stocks recover, or to buy out their fishermen and train them for different professions, a strategy that has over time worked wonders for endangered Atlantic salmon.

Historic cod agreement
Swedes and Danes did come to agreement on a no-fishing zone in Kattegat last week, which is significant in that if either side alone had attempted a no-fish zone it would have had much less impact on fish numbers. On the heels of this agreement, however, the Fisheries Minister in the EU raised the quota for cod fishing in the North Sea by about 30 percent for next year, in spite of ICES scientists recommendation that there be a complete and total no-fishing rule for cod in the North Seas area. Kattegat's quota was still lowered, which is positive. Cod stock are just a third what they should be by some scientific calculations in order for fisheries to survive. France and Great Britain are said to be the driving forces in pushing up the quotas.
Though the plight of North Sea cod may seem like a foreign affair to the rest of us, it is just one of the many indications that ocean life is fighting mightily for survival, and mostly losing the battle. 2008 was the year that humans began eating more farm-raised fish and seafood than its wild counterpart, which is not good news for wild fish and seafood stocks. Atlantic cod is one of the fish Norwegians are heavily targeting to be the next growth market for farmed fish. Via: DN and Newsdesk
Photo of a Christmas cod advertisement from 1955 by Tant C @ flickr.Lutefish at market photo by Adam d @ flickr.
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Tags: Animals | Extinction | Fish | Fishing | Iceland | Whales

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