The AMO, Codfish, Seals and Fishermen

Only remotely related to climate change, but perhaps related to politics polluting universities, this essay floats ideas concerning our nations fisheries, and fishes for feedback from WUWT readers.

Guest essay by Caleb Shaw

When I was just a small child in the 1950’s the United States stubbornly clung to having a mere three-mile-limit, and Russian fishermen could come quite close to our shores with boats loaded with spying equipment.  They also overfished the Grand Banks and our other offshore waters with deep, bottom-churning dragnets to such a degree the codfish population crashed.  Even when the three-mile-limit was pushed far off shore, the codfish never came back.

The fishermen have taken a lot of heat for the failure of the codfish to return, and university biologists have worked hand in hand with paper-shuffling bureaucrats in Washington, far from the briny swells and crying gulls, and these lubbers tell sea-going men, men who know the sea like the back of their hands, what to do about the sea.
The fishermen have no choice but obey the bosses in high places, and their fishing has been cut back more and more.  It has not made a lick of difference.  In fact, if you wanted to use absurd logic, you could say the situation proves that the less you fish the less fish there are.  Either that or you could say that whenever Washington gets involved, things get screwed up.
In actual fact there are three main reasons the codfish population hasn’t come back, despite the fact a single mother codfish lays over a million eggs.

The first reason is that the Atlantic goes through a cycle, roughly sixty years long, called the AMO,  (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation,) and in a simplistic way this suggests that the best breeding conditions for a codfish only comes around every sixty years.  Right now we are back to the conditions of 1953, the year I was born.

In actual fact the shifting positions of warm water and cold water created by the AMO mean that there are different places in the North Atlantic, which, every year, may be having their peak year for breeding codfish.

You will please notice that fishermen have no control over the AMO. Even if there was a population explosion of cod, there is another harvester of cod besides fishermen:  Seals.

Seals happen to be very cute, and they started being protected when their soulful eyes touched people back in the 1970’s.  Recently their population explosion has gotten out of hand. For example, in 1994 on Muskeget Island there were 19 grey seals, and by 2011 it was difficult to count them all; there were between 3500 and 3800. The population of Grey Seals in Massachusetts alone has passed 15,000, and the population of Harbor Seals in New England has passed 100,000.  (Read More:  http://www.talkingfish.org/newengland-fisheries/booming-new-england-seal-population-creates-a-management-challenge

Even if there were only 100,000 seals in New England, if they each ate five codfish a day, that would a million codfish every two days.  That adds up pretty quickly. We are talking a sizable catch of 182.5 million codfish per year.

The seals will not obey the environmentalists who tell the fishermen to fish less, even though they owe their lives to environmentalists, for rather than fish less, the seals fish more and more.  What is especially annoying to fishermen, who are not allowed to shoot seals, is that the seals like to follow boats and steal fish right out of the nets.
Is this a return to natural conditions?  Not really, because for thousands of years, long before the “white man” came, the natural predator of seals was Native Americans.  Native Americans had really neat sea-going canoes; dugouts made of the trunks of huge white pines, and hunted for not only seals, but also whales (though likely the baby whales were preferred.)

Even the most ancient of known mound-building Native American people, the Red Paint People, who lived north of New England, had swordfish bills in their graves, and, because swordfish lack swim-bladders and sink to the bottom rather than floating to the shore, this is taken as indirect evidence that, even as long ago a ten thousand years ago, (before Stonehenge in England,) seagoing humans hunted our shores.  In other words, this may be the first time in ten thousand years seals are not hunted.

What other natural predator may have existed, ten thousand years ago, which hunted seals?  Evidence is scant, however a subspecies of polar bear may have roamed this far south, as the seas rose after the last ice age, and covered the ancient shorelines.

The only predator we are sure of is the Great White Shark.  And now that seal populations are booming, such scary sharks are becoming more common off Cape Cod.  For the first time since 1936 a swimmer was attacked, last summer.

That single attack made people think more about culling the population of seals than the suffering of hundreds of fishermen. Likely this occurred because people are greedy, and tourism brings in money, and news of swimmers being eaten by Great White Sharks is bad for business. Unfortunately, besides the tourists brought in by whale watching, there are tourists brought in by seal watching, and, because seals are cute while sharks are downright ugly, some think the Great White Sharks are the ones who ought be culled.
Perhaps we ought bring in a population of polar bears.  They are cute, and eat seals, and people feel all warm and cozy when the polar bear population goes up, and, if a few swimming tourists got eaten, well; you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

You’ll notice nobody talks much about 182.5 million codfish getting devoured.  Why not? The answer is obvious.  Ever look a codfish in the face?  They are most definitely not cute. (Nor are most of the fishermen, whose livelihoods depend on codfish.)

I hate to sound cynical, but it seems to me a lot of the university biologists, rather than basing their conclusions on science, are basing conclusions, (which usually conclude fishermen should make less money by fishing less,) on a sort of political correctness founded upon money, votes, and, damn it all,  cuteness.
If university biologists were true scientists they would ignore all the nonsense of the non-scientific idiots ruling Washington, and study a third and likely most significant reason for the decline in codfish populations. This involves the fact that, when a mother codfish lays a million eggs, they are very tiny eggs.  In fact, for the first few weeks of a codfish’s life, codfish are basically plankton.  It is only after three or four weeks that they stop swirling about the surface, and sink to deeper depths and start behaving like a more ordinary minnow.
During the time they are plankton they are constantly growing. Many of the species of plankton about them do not grow. A tiny critter that devours countless codfish may need to turn tail a week later, because the cod it missed might turn around and eat it.

Consider the interesting computer modeling this might involve, for a geek at a university.  How often in nature does the predator become the prey?  Does a baby deer grow up to eat a mountain lion, or a baby rabbit grow up to eat foxes?  However, in the world of codfish, such is the case. What an interesting “K,” (The equilibrium constant,.) to play around with!
It just might be that the reason the Codfish population isn’t recovering is because a certain species of plankton is eating them all.  However, if only those million babies could be sheltered for only three weeks, and released, they would devour the very foe that has been depressing the codfish population, whereupon, without that foe devouring the smallest codfish, those smaller ones would also mature and eat the foe, until the foe became few and far between, and codfish populations would explode.

It should be noted that “white men” first came over here from Europe, perhaps as long ago as the 1300’s, for one risky but lucrative reason, and that reason was to fish for codfish.  There is much argument about when the fishing first started, but European fishermen certainly were sailing here before there were any “official” colonies. They had no desire to take over or start colonies, and only briefly landed here to build fires and dry their fish, before sailing back east to Europe. Why did they go to all that trouble? Because it was lucrative.  Why? Because, according to histories I’ve read, the codfish were so thick on the Grand Banks they didn’t need to use nets.  They used over-sized baskets, to dip the fish from the swarming sea.

Considering such a population boom is within the realm of possibility, and considering the good such a vast source of high-protein nourishment would be to a hungry humanity, I can only wonder over the fact not a single university smarty-pants has (as far as I know,) ever proposed a codfish hatchery.

We spend millions on hatcheries for trout and salmon, but not a penny on codfish hatcheries. We spend billions on stupid wind turbines that are counter-productive, but not a penny on a single boat for the reestablishment codfish populations.

What sort of boat?  It would be a boat designed to strip mother codfish of their million-plus eggs, milk father codfish of their sperm, keep the fertilized eggs and hatchling in a safe, predator-free environment until they were two, three or four weeks old, and then release them to the wild.  In other words: a hatchery.

I’m sure creating such a tub would involve all sorts of problems.  However isn’t that what universities are for?  To use our brilliant, young minds to solve problems?
I’m sure it would cost money, however considering the trillions spent on welfare, on unproductive losers, (on thin air,) a “mere” half billion spent building three or four small, sea-going hatcheries, and staffing them, (and many students would actually like wallowing about the Grand Banks and getting sea-sick, and do it for free,) might be an acceptable risk, as an investment.  Especially when there is at least a small chance that having actual hatcheries for codfish might restore populations to their former amazing levels.

I know young and naïve students would leap at the chance of supplying the hungry world with a huge stock of codfish, even if the scheme seemed a bit hare-brained to their pragmatic elders.

I also know these same students are sick to death of having to affix “Global Warming” to the final paragraph of each and every report, whether it be about the mating habits of nematodes, or about when dogs howl at the moon, simply to get a parking place at the college cafeteria.

Kids are not as stupid as we old geezers sometimes think, you know.

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186 thoughts on “The AMO, Codfish, Seals and Fishermen

  1. Fascinating info for this Louisiana fisherman! Here we must struggle with the Federales in order to fish for red snapper, whose populations are booming at the same time the government is trying to shut down recreational fishing.

  2. Well managed cynicism, keep up the good work!

    Could people simply farm codfish? Given the density they seem able to manage, you could get a lot in one pen.

  3. There’s way more bucks in fake-environmentalism than there is in real environmentalism.

    Expect it to continue until something can be done about gullible people with a vote.

  4. A very interesting essay. Thanks.
    Maybe Bill & Melinda Gates would fund a “cod tub” or two. It could be an adjunct of the slowing hurricane technology they have invested in (something to do in the non-hurricane season). Barges and pumps are already part of that scheme so this would just be a financial rounding error. Well, that and it might also do some good.

  5. Initially, the following might seem OT for this apparently OT but fascinating piece but the logical link is strong:

    The AGW crowd ritualistically claim that mankind doesn’t have it in its power to rapidly increase the rate of global CO2 sequestration should we figure out over the next few decades or more that yes, there is too much warming developing. Their ‘ logic’ tells us that on the one hand the thing mankind does best is pour too much CO2 into the atmosphere, but on the other hand the ONLY thing we can do in response (in between incessant hand wringing) is to, in effect, all make a rapid goose step backwards in civilization and, in addition, offer no hope for the current billions of malnourished and/or starving children of this planet – those kids are just fortunate to be our future role models!

    On the contrary, I assert the Pliocene and the planet’s ‘natural recovery’ from it tells us exactly what we would need to do. As an Aussie I can confidently assert that it is quite easy to both dig up and transport across the oceans massive tonnages of finely divided iron ore. Yet we already have plenty of scrap iron to recycle. We need little more. So what we could do, if need be, is divert a significant amount of that ore directly into the surfaces of the oceans. This would vastly stimulate the ocean’s ‘standing crop’ crop of cyanobacteria (algae; approx. 47% of the planets living biomass), sequester vast amounts of CO2, and sequester a significant fraction of that in the oceans’ depths via the dead cell settling flux, and reverse acidification.

    Now here is the real kicker. It would also by definition synchronously massively stimulate the world’s fisheries, thereby feeding the currently starving and malnourished children with a diet rich in brain-saving polyunsaturated fatty acids. At the same time, the increased flux of biotic cloud nuclei would enhance the planetary albedo (reflectivity) and hence its rate of cooling.

    Now why is that sort of geoengineering anathema the AGW lobby? Is it a ‘religion thang’? I believe so. Global warming alarmism and the vast bureaucratic spinoff from it has become the narrow and nasty new orthodoxy of our times. It is spawning all sorts of crazy and irrational anomalies such as those eloquently described above by Caleb.

  6. More codfish would just feed more people and make for more unsustainability.
    Great reading though, just goes to show the snobbery and elitism of our knowitall (knownothings) betters in the seats of power. Sooner or later they are going to piss off enough people…….

  7. The author should contact either Murray or Cantwell of WA state, former is known by the nickname patty pork and the latter is miss green jobs of the US Senate. I think there is a good chance they both could be milked for some grant money – God knows the salmon have gotten way more than their share.

  8. That is brilliant, Caleb. Beautifully written and very much to the point. That is exactly what should happen – and I hope it does. You’re right, there must be many students sick of all this CAGW nonsense. Not only are they smart, but it doesn’t actually take much to see through this scam anymore.

    I think there’ll be some very interesting times ahead.

    Cheers! :)

  9. Fisheries is serious stuff, you need to keep your facts straight. Codfish are born and grow in about 200meters of water to start with followed by heading to the seabed where they stay. Hatcheries have been tried and are largely unsuccessful. The amount of fish the fleet can pull in obviously exceeded the carrying capacity of the species. This is not unusual and is a common theme among a great number of fish stocks.
    Your points about seals are probably not far offbase though i am sure that they eat more than cod. Some Atlantic Cod get up in the 100-200 lb range, some how i dont think a lot of those are getting eaten by seals. Grey seals eat about 4-6% of thier own body weight per day so your number of cod eaten every other day does not sound right.
    I know there are some studies ongoing about seals but after we massacred them, they became protected which makes it hard to start another massacre. We might want to learn a little about their effect on the environment first, besides being cute. /sarc
    As for scientists telling the fisherman what to do that is not the entire story. The governing body for a fisheries management plan is a council. In the case of Cod its these people listed at this link.

    http://www.nefmc.org/staff/index.html

    These people are fishermen, scientists and some government folks. Peer reviewed science is used to make decisions about gear and catch limits. The goal is sustainable fisheries. Please review the website and read some fo the papers concerning COD. They are part of the NorthEast Multispecies (groundfish) Management Plan

    http://www.nefmc.org/nemulti/index.html

    The current management plan came about in the early 80’s after overfishing in the 65000 metric ton range (143,300,482lb). In 2011 fishermen convinced the council to allow more fishing which resulted in a seriously depleted stock which has severely reduced current catch limits.

  10. In the 1970s Coevolution Quarterly (The successor to the Whole Earth Catalog) Carried a debunking article about cute seals (they were being clubbed), calling them “wild dogs of the sea.”

  11. I have written a great deal about the failure of the cod fisheries on the east coast of North America. Here is one article with reference to what happened.

    http://drtimball.com/2011/83-percent-of-all-statistics-are-made-up-on-the-spot/

    With the late Roger Pocklington, oceanographer, whose research showed declining water temperatures in a a transect from Newfoundland to Bermuda, we were trying to tell Ottawa of a potential decline in the cod fisheries, but nobody listened.

  12. For me, this hit a big nerve.

    The subject of seals and sand eels are classic cases of establishment ‘environmentalists’ not having a clue about how to protect the environment.

    If you want to see how fisheries should be protected then go to Iceland, where seals are rightly considered vermin for the amount of damage they do. Iceland has imposed a 200 mile fishing limit around its shores and woe betide you if you try commercial fishing there without a license, which you will not be able to get. The Icelanders closely monitor their fish stocks, routinely shoot seals, keep foreigners out of their waters and guess what? Their fisheries are thriving.

    Now if you go to Canada: “The Northwest Atlantic harp seal population is healthy and abundant with an estimated population of 7.3 million animals, over three times what it was in the 1970s. The grey herd seal population is currently estimated to be about 350,000 animals.” – official government statement. Three times!!

    So taking the seal consumption of codfish given estimate here, 7,300,000 x 5 x 365 = 13.3 billion fish. At 4 pounds per fish, that is equal to 24.2 million tonnes of codfish eaten by harp seals every year. No wonder the codfish population cannot recover on the North American east coast.

    The decline in the codfish population is almost solely down to goofy environmentalists campaigning against seal culling on the basis of: “Isn’t he cute and you are so cruel!”

    Go across the pond to the North Sea, where the codfish population has dramatically recovered over the past few years. Why and what was the problem? Note: Environmentalist groups totally ignored this and I often felt I was fighting a lone battle against the EU bureaucracy on this, but finally common sense prevailed.

    Back in the 1990s, the North Sea’s codfish population was falling fast, partly in response to overfishing, but mainly due to the Danish trawling fleets annually harvesting almost a million tonnes of sand eels, mostly from British waters. Initially, these were burned in power stations and when this was banned, the catch was turned into fish meal until fishing for sand eels was almost completely banned.

    Sand eels are at the bottom of the food chain in the North Sea and everything in the sea eats them. Most important however is when you trawl for sand eels you catch a similar amount of juvenile fish of other species, such as codfish and haddock. So, the Danes were ruthlessly culling the juvenile populations of other fish (which were thrown over the side dead) while simultaneously plundering the base of the food chain. A million tonnes of dead juvenile fish would have grown up to be 10-20 million tonnes of adult fish.

    The problem of depleted fisheries in North America and Europe was not caused by ‘climate change’ as the goofy greenies, will claim, but caused by so called environmentalists not understanding the environment – just like in ‘global warming’, or whatever it is trendy to call this non-problem these days.

    If you want codfish again off the east coast of North America, cull the seals back to sustainable levels and you will be amazed at just how quickly fish stocks will recover. The greenie establishment will hate you for doing this, as in just about everything, they will be shown to be so wrong in their beliefs.

  13. Re, my link on cod farming. I know someone who is involved in a very similar scheme to produce high value vegetables in Singapore.

    More and more of our food with come from these factory type operations. Despite growing opposition to factory farming of mammals.

    The only limit to them is the price of energy, because they are energy intensive.

  14. Caleb Shaw has on his side the whole first-hand experience of my life.
    David Riser has on his side… peer review, “some government folks” and words, words, words…
    Caleb Shaw wins.

  15. maybe the water temperature at the Grand Banks is no longer
    codfish so they’ve migrated to other climes. They wouldn’t be
    the first fish species in history to migrate because of changing
    climate.

  16. In EUrope the fishermen are not allowed to land more than their quota of the fish they are allowed to catch, they get quotas for fish that are not there or are only in small numbers and are banned from landing the fish they do catch so there are large numbers of “discards” fish thrown back into the sea dead or that will soon die as their swim bladder has burst due to being pulled from deep water. The bureaucrats see this as fish conservation. It makes me angry that our UK fishing fleet once the envy of many has been so ill served by those in control of the rules.

    James Bull

  17. Fish farming is a HUGE industry where I live in Japan. Eels, salmon, trout, red-snapper, tuna, bonito, etc. are all farmed extensively and profitably here in Japan.

    I’m surprised that cod aren’t already farmed in the US and that there doesn’t seem to be even a major New England cod hatchery is flabbergasting. With something so unexplainable, the only logical explanation are some EPA rules and regulations, which prevent such economic activity; it smells fishy.

    I live on the beach in an area called Shonan, where the Sugami Bay has basically become an ocean desert resulting from a popular food called “shirasu”, which are simply dried baby sardines. There is shirasu bread, shirasu rice, shirasu Pizza, shirasu dumplings, shirasu sushi, shirasu crackers, etc… You get the idea.

    For about the past 15 years, fishermen in this area have gone bonkers catching shirasu using very large and very fine sieve nets to catch almost every baby sardine (and other living thing in the net’s path) in Sugami Bay. The effects of this insanity have been predictable… The sardine population has crashed, as have all the other fish species that feed on sardines and the price for shirasu has skyrocketed.

    I’ve called various Japanese EPA officials and complained about this contemptible fishing practice, and they just blow me off. What does some crazy American know… One Japanese EPA official tried to blame Global Warming for the crash of sardines and other fish species in the area; “the water has become too warm”…. Yeah, right…

    Tourist, Restaurant, and Fishing Associations carry a lot of political weight in Japan, so this practice goes on unabated.

    And so it goes…..until it doesn’t….

  18. Do we know that cod follows temperature? Maybee cod follows what it feeds on and what it feeds on follows temperature?

  19. @Peter Miller (and others)
    I am not challenging you main points, but the story is more complicated. The seals do obviously not only eat cod. If they did, their populations would have plummeted TOGETHER with (more correctly, immediately after) the cod demise. In fact, their varied diet which consists of a number of other prey species, is at part of the “problem”.
    To my knowledge, the harp seal’s main prey species is polar cod (Boreogadus saida). This means that the seals have a sustenance food source regardless of the cod stock size. Having such a plentiful (and not much commercially harvested) resource, allows for a continued high seal stock, and enables the seals to prevent a cod stock rebound. Living on their main staple polar cod, they will eat the few young cod appearing (as an alternative prey).

    Cassanders
    In Cod we trust

  20. David Riser says:
    June 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Fisheries is serious stuff, you need to keep your facts straight. Codfish are born and grow in about 200meters of water to start with followed by heading to the seabed where they stay. Hatcheries have been tried and are largely unsuccessful. The amount of fish the fleet can pull in obviously exceeded the carrying capacity of the species. This is not unusual and is a common theme among a great number of fish stocks.
    Your points about seals are probably not far offbase though i am sure that they eat more than cod. Some Atlantic Cod get up in the 100-200 lb range, some how i dont think a lot of those are getting eaten by seals. Grey seals eat about 4-6% of thier own body weight per day so your number of cod eaten every other day does not sound right.

    Thanks for the information and the links, David. Your cautions about ascribing cause and effect in the ocean are well taken.

    Me, I’m a visual guy, I find it hard to think about this stuff without graphics. The FAO has good statistics on cod catches. Here’s the sad tale:

    Caleb’s estimate of cod eaten (a million every two days) does seem high, but not by much. If there are 100,000 seals (as Caleb says), and they average 150 kg in weight, and they eat 6% of their weight daily, that’s just under a million kg. of fish every day … if it’s mostly cod, then they’re eating about 350,000 tonnes of cod per year.

    Note from the graph above that the estimated amount the seals currently take is about ten times the amount of the current human catch. It is about half the amount of the catch from the 1970s through the 1980s … unlikely that it’s that high, certainly not of cod, but that kind of fish consumption would certainly be putting huge pressure on any remaining cod stocks.

    So IF human overfishing at 600,000 tonnes of cod per year led to the collapse of the fishery in the 1990s, I’d have to say the seals eating 350,000 tonnes of various fish per year are definitely a factor in keeping it down. However, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life as a commercial fisherman, and considering what I know about the complexity of the ocean, that’s a big IF.

    Whatever the cause of the collapse, however, it is a cautionary tale about the possible changes that oceanic populations can undergo in a very short period. As far as I know, neither fishermen nor scientists can explain why the population fell off a cliff. I would be somewhat surprised if the AMO were heavily involved, although it’s possible. The AMO reversed in about 1962, and cod production peaked in 1968, which is kind of weak. And when the AMO reversed again in 1996, cod production didn’t recover in the slightest.

    The moral of the story for me is the infinite complexity of the ocean, and how little information we have about even the common species.

    The non-fish-related moral of this story is, before you chide someone for inaccurate numbers, you should do more than say it “does not sound right”. If you are going to object to someone’s numbers, you should first run the numbers yourself, to verify your gut feeling … otherwise, I or someone else will, and it might not be pretty.

    w.

  21. I likely should have studied attempts to “farm” codfish more deeply before I whipped this essay off, but I figured the readership of WUWT would do my work for me, and they have. (It is a lazy attitude, I know, but I run a Childcare that is open twelve hours a day and also have a big garden and some goats, so I am not altogether lazy.)

    I am going to stick updates onto my essay. Among other things I’ve learned outside of WUWT is that Canada has actually proposed culling their population of seals. They were talking several hundred thousand seals in a year. I’m not sure how much opposition the proposal has run into.

    Most attempts to breed codfish do not attempt to return the fish to the sea, but rather to “farm” codfish in the way salmon are farmed. An attempt in England just shut down.

  22. This simple thought applies to many species and problems. Take for example the rare and endangered KlamathSsuckerfish. Saving it has destroyed many farms and dams. Just breed it and spread it around the area.

    And a reverse thought, Silver Carp, illegal immigrants are now a huge problem. So how about breeding the native carnivores and setting them loose. They are much better to eat as well.

  23. Many thanks for that common sense report. Predator species must be controlled if the natural balance of an area has been destroyed. In UK we have started a cull of badgers because of the steep rise of Bovine TB carried by badgers who then infect cattle and they are then destroyed at great cost to the taxpayer. Badger numbers are unnaturally high since from 1997 badgers were protected. We have now nearly lost the hedgehog, a prey specie of the badger, because of the protection imposed by government on the badger which ensured its rocketing numbers.

  24. If you think US fisheries are dysfunctional you should take a look at the EU common fisheries policy.
    James Bull says:
    June 13, 2013 at 12:46 am
    James is a little behind events as some progress has been, mostly as a result of a campaign headed by tv presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall called fish-fight. See below.

    http://www.fishfight.net/

  25. Caleb, thanks for a nice work in fish biology taking me nostalgically back to my university days. I spent a fortnight in a converted French trawler (“research vessel”) criss-crossing the Celtic Sea /Bay of Biscay, sampling the water column around the continental shelf edge to assess precisely what you are talking about here, the density of food items in the immediate vicinity of fish larvae, in this case those of Scomber scomber, the Atlantic mackerel.

    To a zooplankton organism less than 1mm long, water is a viscous syrup and moving through it is expensive energetically. A larva hatches from the egg with limited reserves of yolk food energy. Thus early survival is determined largely by how many suitable food items are close enough to be eaten by it – and also of course by proximity of predators. As you say, predators can later become prey, e.g. large copepods, medusa and other fish larvae, and don’t forget that cod fish larvae are cannibalistic, readily eating little bro/sis.

    In our study the main determinant was actually ocean circulation and upwelling, as you also suggest, since more vertical mixing resulted in lower food particle density and lower first feeding success and survival. However it is a complex two-way street since upwelling is beneficial in bringing nutrients to the surface to fuel phytoplankton blooms which prop up the whole food chain, that is the reason why the spawning takes place at the continental shelf edge. What is optimal is a suitable alternation of mixing for nutrient upwelling with periods of stability and stratification for increased density of food particles.

    Thus it is likely that oceanographic changes linked to the AMO will affect cod populations. Of course biological factors cant be excluded, such as species shifts changing the food item or predator density in the mm size range.

  26. The Pacific Salmon runs improved dramatically and almost immediately when the PDO flipped, (almost but not quite universally – the King runs on some of the Alaskan rivers are way down). Cod fish in the Atlantic have a history of mysteriously crashing. Current thinking is it was the Codfish disappearing that extinguished the Viking colonies in the New World in the thirteenth century. Why did the Codfish disappear – probably AMO-type shift (just my guess) Another thing in your Atlantic experience that mirrors the Pacific experience – the return of the Sea Lions to Puget Sound. When the Sea Lion population surged in the seventies and eighties (coupled with the PDO shift to warm) The Salmon fishing was more than decimated. People understandably blamed the Sea Lions because they could do the math, Sea Lions eat a lot of Salmon. But the Salmon fishing in Puget Sound has been really good the last few years, despite the Sea Lion population. Speculating, I think the cold PDO shift positively effects the food chain for Salmon. The runs immediately got so much better and have remained strong since 2007. It seems the best explanation for why there are so many more Salmon now than there were for the last thirty years. i don’t think men or seals fishing have near as big an impact as these multi-decadal temperature shifts do – but again its largely my speculative opinion, not science.

  27. Good to see someone taking on the seals. Baby harp seals were the poster child of environmentalism in the 1970s, just as poley bears are now. Commercial fishermen hate seals, with good reason. Indeed, even recreational fishers have discovered that a population explosion of seals means that you can spend a day in what used to be a good fishing spot and come back with few or no fish.

    The “cuteness” factor has a lot to answer for. In real life, neither seals nor poley bears are particularly cute – they are opportunistic predators whose population is largely governed by the availability of food and lack of predation on themselves.

    Management of ocean fisheries seems to be pretty primitive, and highlights the fact that we still have an awful lot to learn about the sea.

  28. David Riser says:
    June 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Fisheries is serious stuff, you need to keep your facts straight. Codfish are born and grow in about 200meters of water to start with followed by heading to the seabed where they stay. Hatcheries have been tried and are largely unsuccessful. The amount of fish the fleet can pull in obviously exceeded the carrying capacity of the species. This is not unusual and is a common theme among a great number of fish stocks. …

    ==============================

    Nice short essay David. I recently, I can’t recall why, had occasion to read up on the US West Coast sardine fishery. There was once a very large sardine fishery on the West Coast. The cannery row at Monterrey, CA that Steinbeck wrote about canned sardines. The fishery declined after WWII, collapsed in the 1950s and was gone completely by the early 1970s. It’s back today although (heavily regulated) landings are miniscule compared to the fishery’s heyday in the mid 20th century.

    There’s little doubt that the sardines were overfished. But there also seems to be a pretty well supported, and not completely understood, cyclic alternation in small bait fish in the region between anchovies and sardines with a period of about 60 years.

    My point? This stuff is complicated. There may well be simple answers, but just because an answer is simple, doesn’t mean that it’s the right simple answer.

  29. This article plus comments explains exactly why this blog is so successful.
    So much to learn and read. So many expert commentators.

  30. The only predator we are sure of is the Great White Shark. And now that seal populations are booming, such scary sharks are becoming more common off Cape Cod. For the first time since 1936 a swimmer was attacked, last summer.

    Same thing in Western Australia … not just seals but more importantly whale populations which are recovering above 10% pa since protection in 1978, with few predators/scavengers except great whites. These protected sharks are also recovering since protection in 1999 and they’re following the whale pods close to a 2,000km WA shoreline where the beaches are dotted with large numbers of small mammalian snacks called humans.

    Seven shark fatalities in WA from 1896 to 1994. Two fatalities from 1925 to 1994. Twelve fatalities since 1995, five in the year to July 2012, and almost all great white shark attacks.

    Attacks are during the mid-year months of whale migration … now. I think it’s great that whale numbers are booming but the evidence suggests there’s a price to pay and West Australians in particular should sink their teeth into the modern hazards of winter swimming … http://www.washarkattacks.net

  31. Caleb, you have a great writing style. You keep your reader entertained. And yes, leave it to the readership to fill in any blanks!

    The lesson of the seals is appropriate. Only if we consider man to be a invasive species can we conclude that our footprint must be zero. And that is exactly what the eco terrorists promote.

  32. I’m stealing a moment from work, but have to rush back because I’m taking a group of kids (irony) fishing.

    I just wanted to say that the fishermen I’ve known are pretty interested in what biologists have to say. I got steamed, back in the 1970’s, when a visiting biologist wasn’t the slightest bit interested in what fishermen in Maine had to say, however now that biologists have seen their efforts fail there seem to be more biologists that listen to fishermen. Fishermen are willing to try nearly anything to get the cod population back to what it once was. It’s not like people aren’t trying.

    The comment above about sand eels in Europe gets me steamed. It makes no sense to throw fish back that are already dead, or that have exploded bladders and must die. The people writing the laws need to go out on a boat. Surely common sense ought to kick in at some point.

    Thanks to all who have commented.

  33. Hey, I’m all for sustainability. Let’s turn the seals into biodiesel. Ya, that’s the ticket. Who could argue with that? We get seal oil and more fish at the same time. We can replace grain with blubber derived fuel. The greens have never had such an opportunity. Protect your cods and “whack a seal today” can be the rally cry!

  34. Married a very lovely lady from Nfld, and with her many brother telling me that while growing up they rarely saw seals or either did their parents who fished the Grand Banks. Now, they tell me they are everywhere….gave this ‘west coast’ person a whole new perspective on what really is going on at the East coast.

  35. You missed one serious fact: Seals were far more numerous when the colonists landed than they are today. Coincidentally, the cod were so plentiful they drove the economics of the colonies. I highly recommend a book called, “COD” by Mark Kurlansky if you want to understand more about this fishery. I believe you have many of your facts wrong. http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0140275010

  36. Excellent article.

    As a historian of fisheries science I am on soundest ground on the period prior to 1945, but the importance of what has occurred in the past 70 years has forced me to engage with more recent science and policy. I would argue that fisheries science shares the honours with meteorology of being the most heavily politicized science, because it is difficult to draw a line between science, management and policy. If anyone here is interested in exploring this topic further, I would strongly recommend Carmel Finley’s All the Fish in the Sea which explores the origin of US fisheries policy and covers the reason the US opposed extension of 3 mile limits for as long as it did. American fisheries scientists provided the scientific justification to assist in the policies.

    Briefly, the opposition to extension lay in three major policy goals: 1) American Pacific fishermen wanted access to South American fisheries in the wake of the sardine stock collapses off California; 2) American reconstruction goals for Japan, which is heavily dependent on fish, meant safeguarding Japanese access to major fisheries that fell within coastal zones off Canada on both coasts; and 3) American military interests required access to nearshore zones around the world. (The US was supported in the latter by the Foreign Office in GB). To justify these fisheries policies, American (and other) fisheries scientists promoted the ‘regulation’ of the fisheries harvest at Maximum Sustained Yield – which argued that there was a maximum level of fishing harvest that was sustainable and that should be the goal of the industry. This theory, unfortunately, was untestable because of the impossibility of actually accurately measuring and analyzing the population size and demographics in the catch vs. the fish left in the sea. The result, off California and on the Grand Banks, Iceland, and in the North Sea, was a free-for-all, with international interests (notably the USSR and Japan) competing to see who could take most. I have no doubt that technological intensification and the ghost of T.H. Huxley’s dictum that the fisheries were inexhaustible, contributed substantially to the fisheries collapses.

    As for seals, Canada has been vilified by the EU for its seal hunt, which ended with this traditional harvest being stopped despite its important, centuries-old role in helping to sustain Newfoundland fishermen. Indigenous populations who are not ‘first nations’ but instead of European origin don’t get a lot of respect, even the friendly and not over-wealthy Newfoundlanders. Seals, meanwhile, have pretty obviously replaced humans as the main harvesters of cod. Fisheries biologists I know are universally in favour of reinstating the seal hunt.

    Scientists at the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick, which has pioneered marine aquaculture on Canada’s east coast, are focusing efforts on developing cod farming. Fish hatcheries have been the quintessential solution to overfishing in the US: they were HUGE under Spencer Fullerton Baird in the 19th century. Unfortunately, fish eggs are prone to fungal and bacterial infection in hatcheries, and produce weakened fry that are vulnerable once put in the wold. Rigorous Canadian studies of the efficacy of fish hatcheries in the 1920s and 1930s concluded that they were purely a waste of money and the fish populations did not rise commensurate with the number of hatchlings released (if in fact they even showed any change from what would be seen with the fish that hatched in the wild). Recent efforts, assisted by greater scientific understanding, are more successful, but I believe that such fish are considered ‘tainted’ by environmentalists, and can now only be used (in Canada at least) to feed the fish farming industry (I am referring, here, to the salmon hatcheries). I would appreciate any clarification on this.

    Of course, the problem with farming fish is that baitfish fisheries still have to be continued to make the feed on which fish farms defend, which may extend the vicious cycle of capturing small and underage fish. One factor that exacerbated the collapse of the Canadian Atlantic codfish fisheries was the fact that Canadian scientists were treating the Western stocks as being analogous to the eastern codfish stocks in the North Atlantic. It turns out that, due to colder water conditions, western cod mature at a later age than the eastern Atlantic cod, which means that the fishery was harvesting a majority of cod in the 1980s that had not reached reproductive age.

    Fisheries science is devilishly difficult, and the mysteries of changing climate are only one complication in trying to understand how and why fish populations fluctuate.

  37. Willis, does “production” mean number caught? If it does then you must consider the ban on cod fishing by theCanadiam government.

  38. Dave says:
    June 13, 2013 at 6:47 am

    You missed one serious fact: Seals were far more numerous when the colonists landed than they are today. Coincidentally, the cod were so plentiful they drove the economics of the colonies. I highly recommend a book called, “COD” by Mark Kurlansky if you want to understand more about this fishery. I believe you have many of your facts wrong.

    ————

    I equally strongly recommend 1491 by Charles Mann, which describes what the Americas were like before Columbus made first contact and a series of epidemics of European origin wiped out up to 95% of the indigenous population of North and South America. Population ecologists now suspect that those massive herds of buffalo and other ungulates, and the huge populations of pigeon and other game birds, was the result of the removal of their main predators – ie human beings. I have little doubt that seals were harvested quite intensively by the indigenous populations wherever seal and man came into contact. I’ve read Kurlansky, and appreciate his arguments, but I suspect he is dealing with outdated scientific tropes here, as are many environmentalists.

  39. vigilantfish, I have admired your posts for years, and now you have explained your moniker!

    As you say, “fisheries science is devilishly difficult.” I suspect that one reason so much of it is, frankly, crap, is that we tend to extrapolate the thinking that is applied to land-based conservation to the ocean. For example, in resurrecting the buffalo population in the US, it was pretty easy to ban hunting and make land available for them to graze and breed. We could quite easily see them, count them and so on.

    It is obvious that the ocean environment is much more complicated and harder to measure and monitor. In a crude sense, taking too many fish out of a population will affect breeding, but the rise and fall of fish populations seems to be driven by other factors as well. For example, here in Australia there was a lot of concern about a sharp decline in southern bluefin tuna populations a few years ago, so strict fishing quotas were put in place. Yet, within a timeframe much shorter than the conventional view of breeding would suggest, the population rebounded dramatically. It may be that both the decline and the rebound were influenced by factors that we do not understand.

    Grappling with the mysteries of the oceans is a great cure for homo sapiens hubris.

  40. People, especially ones with an emotional reaction to the subject, don’t consider the knock-on effects of what they are doing. A number of years ago they put a ban on fishing Rockfish (Striped Bass) in the Chesapeake Bay due to overfishing. They came back with a bang, but the crab fishing crashed at the same time. Turns out crab is one of the favorite foods of Rockfish.

  41. Re: Russian fishing/spy boats…

    Back in the late 70’s I worked for Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans department developing a database to track foreign fishing vessels licensed to fish in Canadian waters — specifically the Eastern fisheries since they were acknowledged by the experts to be in deep trouble. The database maintained an inventory of all the electronic equipment on board the vessel and it was verified when our inspectors boarded the ships. The Russian boats were my “boundary condition”…when printed out the list of sonars, radars, radios, and other gear was an inch thick. I was surprised they had room for all the fish they took.

    Of course our government of the day (Pierre Trudeau’s) did nothing about the over fishing or spying. Although in fairness to the Russians the Spanish were the worst offenders for the former.

  42. Hi Joanna,

    Thanks! I did think of changing my moniker to Vigilant Sea Kitten, in honour of PETA’s attempts to make fish more cuddly for the sake of their animal rights activism (I thought it might sound more fetching). My attempt failed as I am a technological incompetent.

  43. Another reason cod are having difficulty re-establishing is that there are not enough larger cod to keep the smaller fish that eat very young cod at bay. The obvious solution is to farm cod until it is sufficiently large to prey on these other predators.

  44. Speaking of fish conservation, here in California, a major water pumping station was shut down by a judge (at the behest of eco-activists) because a fish called the delta smelt was getting mushed in the pump impellors.

    I thought that a fish hatchery would solve this problem: build a smelt farm upstream of the pumps and replenish the population as the fishies get squished.

    Job creation, water continues to flow – win/win.

    Problem is, the eco-extremists don’t really want solutions, they just want to throw monkeywrenches into the machinery of society.

  45. @ BarryW says: June 13, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for the info. Fish are fish, but Crabs are the food of gods! So catch more Striped Bass! save the Crabs!

  46. Caleb…you seen to be advocating a fishery that not sustainable

    …and Willis your chart reflects bans and limits placed on the fishery

  47. Couple things hit me reading this article first is be careful what you ask for. Why? Because environmentalist have determined hatchery salmon and wild salmon are two distinct species. This means out west we’ve had years with record or near record return of salmon but counters have determined they are hatchery and not native so catch is reduced. Also they like to start counting at the start of a run when fewer natives are in the river. If they counted at peak there would be plenty of natives too.

    Second is your seal caution is accurate. Back in the late ’80’s a single seal swam into one of our harbors and started eating/playing with salmon. Watchers counted that single seal killing and maiming 30 salmon a day on average with most the maimed salmon not being able to survive their wounds. Fast forward to today with our harbors choking on seals and them swimming all the way up to dams to feed on easy catches at fish ladders. Scientist have recognized that yes indeed seals eat a heck of a lot of salmon every day. They’ve finally started capturing and killing seals at dams (only) but not without having to fight environmentalist tooth and nail to do it. The fight has been vicious enough only a few seals so far have been killed.

    The other question is, are seals really an endangered species? I’ve read reports that say there are more seals alive on the west coast now then were here when it was settled by Europeans.

  48. Mike,

    Just read your comment. Were you working in the DFO, or were you working for or as an independent contractor? I know the 1970s was the era of ‘make or mend’ in Trudeau’s government (mirroring policies elsewhere). I would be interested in learning more about your experiences.

    On a note related to spying Russians, I attended an ICHO (International Congress for the History of Oceanography) conference in La Jolla back in 1993, which was the first such conference held after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russian oceanographers revealed the history of their international surveillance efforts. They produced a map with dots representing every location for submarine surveillance around the globe since around 1950, and I got an enormous shock. Growing up in the Maritimes I had assumed I was in the backwoods of the Cold War, but the only place on the map where no white showed between all the dots were entire mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, the entire coastal region around Nova Scotia, and most of the Bay of Fundy. Although they did not explain this, I figure this region was used as a proxy for the Chesapeake Bay and Norfolk.

    Incidentally, a female oceanographer from Vladavostok or some such place looked like a starving refugee- she could not afford to feed both herself and her son on the income she was making since USSR fell apart, and so had been depriving herself for the sake of her young son (evidently a single mother). She lucked into attending the conference, and was in shock at the abundance of food in the student residence food hall where we were staying (a one price, all-you-can eat affair).

  49. @Darrin

    Maybe it’s time to “import” a few trained killer whales. Not only would they be a tourist draw, but I think the seals would find it time to move on.

  50. Well i think the difference between climate scientists, and biologists investigating fisheries issues, is the willingness to follow the science as apposed to just taking a postion and holding on to it reguardless of the facts. I think it is better to study things scientifically and do your best than opposite.
    Willis, as for doing the math, not going to speculate on a groundfish being eaten in total or in part by a mamal. Also you should check your numbers. The statistics your using are not New England catch statistics. Lets keep it apples to apples.

  51. vigilantfish,

    I was actually a co-op student working as a contractor to DFO…just a programmer who listened to the chatter from the DFO personnel so I am not a good source for the back story. I just saw the raw data…e.g. the decline in the chart posted by Willis was well known at the time.

    To give you an idea as to the importance, or lack thereof, DFO put on tracking foreign fishing I was the only person working on the system. My main job was trying to solve the problem of given a ships coordinates (provided by aerial surveillance) was it fishing inside Canadian waters or outside its license area. I like to think that a number of years later my code was used to red flag that illegally fishing Spanish ship we ended up chasing across the Atlantic.

  52. Mike,

    Your information is interesting indeed. I’m going to use it in a future paper re lack of DFO interest in foreign fishing. Of course, the Lord only knows what other international policies were being pursued during that time by Canada at the expense of the fisheries. During what years were you doing this work?

  53. Thinking back to my days at DFO (and a bit more OT)…one of the projects was a system for tracking seal quotas vs the harvest. I remember the guys on that team commenting that it was a bit pointless as the sealers never came close to their quotas because seal hunting was so difficult and their quotas were so large (proportional to the seal population).

    IMHO: seals did damage to the Cod fishery but it was over fishing by Canadians and foreign fishing fleets that was facilitated by the Canadian government in combination with rogue fishing in the International waters of the Grand Banks that destroyed this valuable resource.

  54. I’m back from fishing. The kids caught lots of sunfish, which seems to keep them happy, and I had a big bass get away, which keeps me happy. (If I’d caught it I’d have to clean it.) A six year old also had a smaller bass get away, but it jumped three times before escaping, which thrilled all. Now the cold rain from a storm brewing up on the mid-Atlantic coast is starting up, so I’ve a moment to comment on comments.

    Regarding history before the Pilgrims: I love reading books about the subject, but mutter the entire time I’m reading. Because up to 95% of the Indians died, and because so many of their possessions were biodegradable, we know next to nothing. When historians look at the few scattered facts it is like a person looking at stars and seeing a constellation. You need to read more than one book, and the more you read the more variety you see. It is largely speculation.

    In reply to Latitude: I would never use the word “sustainable.” (Too much nonsense surrounds it.) And also I wasn’t talking about remaining at current populations; I was throwing out an idea of how to get back to former levels. Look at Willis’s graph, and think what it once was like.

    One thing I’ve already noticed, briefly reading about fish-farming, is that penned fish have problems, including many with bad eyesight. That would be a problem, if we tried to reintroduce big cod. (It also explains why wild salmon taste so much better.)

    While fishing this morning I was wondering what a truly big hurricane would do to seal populations. Some hurricane like the 1938 or 1944 monsters. (They made Irene and Sandy look piddly.)
    Anyone know what seals do in a hurricane?

  55. vigilantfish, I’d have to look up the exact dates but to place it for you I was there when Joe Clark got elected and John Crosbie was first appointed minister. As you know they weren’t in power long enough for any policy changes — not that I am sure they would have had the guts to close the fishery at that time.

  56. David Riser says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Well i think the difference between climate scientists, and biologists investigating fisheries issues, is the willingness to follow the science as apposed to just taking a position and holding on to it reguardless of the facts.
    ——————-

    David, sadly, historically, fisheries scientists in positions of authority have behaved no differently from climate scientists high up on the totem pole of climatism. Prior to the cod stock collapse, the body in charge of assessing the state of the fisheries was the Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Scientific Advisory. This body was headed by scientists who would come to a consensus (yes – that is the word I was told by a scientist in this organization who forebade me ever to cite or quote him) as to the state of the fish stocks and would brook no opposition and refused to hear contradictory evidence that came from the wrong sources – i.e. independent university-based researchers and inshore fishermen. They then set the annual quotas based on their accepted evidence.

    The problem was that the DFO was being underfunded and could not perform full-scale independent stock assessment – so CAFSAC was relying on the catch data of commercial boats equipped with sonar, which were busily scooping up the last remaining concentrations of groundfish, and thereby maintaining reasonable catch rates until this was no longer possible: hence the sudden and (by the DFO) unanticipated total closure of the Grand Banks fishery in 1992. There is some evidence that a changing water regime of colder waters exacerbated the fish shortage: my response to the argument that the fish might have migrated elsewhere (a argument put forward by the DFO at the time) or had experienced unexpectedly high mortality rates due to excessive cold is that the extensive fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic never turned up either concentrations of cod elsewhere, nor witnessed the corpses of thousands of fish killed by thermal extremes – an event that did occur at the beginning of the 20th century and was witnessed by Norwegian fisheries biologist Johan Hjort during his North Atlantic Expedition with Sir John Murray in 1910, when they surveyed the West Atlantic (experiences related in their co-authored The Depths of the Ocean.

  57. Tim Ball says:
    June 13, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Willis, does “production” mean number caught? If it does then you must consider the ban on cod fishing by theCanadiam government.

    Thanks, Tim. Yes, “production” in FAO terms is total landings. And as you point out, the Canadian TAC (total allowable catch) was set progressively lower and lower, leading to a total ban on fishing Northern Cod in 1992.

    However, by that time the annual catch of Northern Cod had already fallen through the floor, and was only a small fraction of its peak value. So I’d say that the ban was the result of the drop in fish landings, not the cause. In the event it didn’t do a lot to the total catch, because landings of Northern Cod were already so depressed.

    Best regards, and thanks as always for the good work that you do,

    w.

  58. Willis….your chart shows total catch…as a result of bans and limits
    …it will not show when stocks recover

    “The commercial cod catch has decreated greatly since the 1990’s due to strict regulations on cod fishing. This has led to an increase in cod populations. According to NMFS, cod stocks on Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine are rebuilding to target levels, and the Gulf of Maine stock is no longer considered overfished. “

  59. Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:41 am

    …and Willis your chart reflects bans and limits placed on the fishery

    Thanks, Latitude, but sadly, you haven’t done your homework. The fishery is almost entirely within Canadian waters. The “limits” you refer to without understanding them are called the “TAC”, or total allowable catch. Here’s a bit of history:

    The DFO formulated a mathematical model of the cod fish population which they used to calculate the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The U.S. government had a similar concept which was called optimal yield. These models were single species models that did not take into account the complexity of the fish eco-system. They were, in a word, defective.

    In 1989 the DFO advised that the total allowable catch (TAC) of codfish should be 125,000 tons. The Canadian Minister of Fisheries thought this figure was too low and arbitrarily increased it to 235,00 tons. In the course of DFO management the TAC was often set by negotiation between the DFO, the fishing industry and politicians. The DFO, using their defective model, was setting setting the TAC too high. The politicians responding to pressure from the industry increased the TAC from the already too high figures. The net result was that in the last years of codfishing on the Grand Banks the catch was about 60 percent of the population instead of 16 percent. The collapse was catastrophic. In January of 1992 the DFO was advising that the TAC should be 185,000 tons. By June of 1992 the DFO was advising that the cod fishing should be stopped.

    Note that the problem was not that the landings were restricted by the TAC, quite the opposite. The problem was that the TAC was set too high, which allowed the catching of almost two-thirds of the population, rather than a sustainable 16% …

    And while the landings are indeed affected by the ban on Northern Cod fishing, by the time of the ban the catch of Northern Cod had already dropped to a fraction of its earlier size.

    w.

  60. Vigilantfish,
    Thanks for the perspective, you are likely correct that every group has its underfunded and over the top folks. I have known a few us scientists in a variety of councils throughout the US. For the most part they are reasonable people. Usually the science seems to be well funded in the US. My experience being over the last 20 years or so and mostly in the south and west regions of the US. Not particularly fond of the winters in New England.

  61. Thanks, Latitude, but sadly, you haven’t done your homework.
    ===
    Willis, I’m not the student…I’m the teacher
    …you don’t know what my profession is

    Your chart does not reflect when populations increase or recover………period

  62. Well after climate science was declared “settled”, the PDO was discovered by a Pacific NW fisheries researcher in 1997.

  63. As a long-time commercial fisherman and environmentalist, let me offer my explanation of what happened to the cod fishery.

    For centuries, cod were fished by hook-and-line. This is an excellent method for a couple of reasons. It is not damaging to the environment, and there is little “by-catch”, the polite term for other unwanted fish killed and thrown away by the fishermen.

    However, in the last fifty years that has all changed. First gill nets were introduced. These nets, unfortunately, are often lost at sea … but they continue to catch and kill cod.

    But that was nothing compared to the next change, which was to “trawl” nets.

    Trawl nets are giant nets that are dragged by large, powerful boats along the ocean floor. They basically sweep up and kill everything in their path. In addition, as a they are dragged along the bottom they stir up, muddy, damage, and destroy the ocean bottom habitat and its inhabitants. This got even worse with the invention of “rock-hopper” dredges, which don’t hang up on rocks. They allowed the trawls to scrape the bottom in many areas previously unfishable.

    It’s hard to express the damage this causes, but an analogy might help. Imagine that you were fishing for deer by dragging a giant net through the forest. Imagine that in addition to deer, the net sweeps up and kills foxes, rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, lizards, and all the other forest animals. In addition, of course, in the process it knocks down and destroys the trees, smashes the bushes, and fills the air with thick, choking dust …

    How long do you imagine that your whiz-bang deer fishery would be sustainable?

    That’s my explanation of the cod collapse. We trashed the ocean bottom, killed millions of tons of other species, effectively removed the cod, and of course the ocean responded by shifting gears and moving to a new ecosystem that neither contains nor encourages cod. In particular, the change has been favorable to capelin, a small sardine-like fish. They used to be a major food fish for the cod.

    Now, cod are a major food fish for the capelin …

    I think trawling should be outlawed world-wide … but that’s just me talking. … And the bottom fish. And the crabs. And all of the oceanic bottom dwellers.

    w.

  64. Willis,
    For a bit of history on the subject as well as some graphs of biomass etc. Here is the Case Study done on Atlantic Cod written for a student audience. Its pretty good read. I love the picture of the Cod bigger than the two little girls used for reference.

  65. They’re called “furbags”. Just think how many starving people you could feed on furbag steaks, and improve the health of the fisheries too.

    In Monterey Bay, the main furbag is the sea lion, and they are a whole lot bigger and meaner than harbor seals. No longer do sea lions simply strip the salmon off your line if you are a recreational fisher (or commercial). No they will simply jump into your boat and take the salmon you managed to boat, and if you shout at them, you will get arrested.

    • @George C. Smith – :lol: I know you are serious, and I know in California there is such insanity. But can you picture the court case? Judge: What is the charge? Prosecutor: Harassing a sea lion by telling him his mother wears army boots!

  66. David, thanks for the further info, good stuff. You say:

    David Riser says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Well i think the difference between climate scientists, and biologists investigating fisheries issues, is the willingness to follow the science as apposed to just taking a postion and holding on to it reguardless of the facts. I think it is better to study things scientifically and do your best than opposite.

    Agreed.

    Willis, as for doing the math, not going to speculate on a groundfish being eaten in total or in part by a mamal.

    Say what? The problem I had was that you DID speculate on it, saying that “Grey seals eat about 4-6% of thier own body weight per day so your number of cod eaten every other day does not sound right.” But then you didn’t run the numbers to see if your speculations were correct.

    Also you should check your numbers. The statistics your using are not New England catch statistics. Lets keep it apples to apples.

    The data I showed in the graph are clearly labeled “Northwestern Atlantic Cod”, so my statistics are obviously not just about New England. I was looking at the collapse of the cod fishery, which happened many more places than New England.

    So I’m unclear why you object to a graph clearly labelled for what it is, and shown to provide an overview of the collapse of the cod fishery …

    w.

  67. Willis, I was originally under the impression we were discussing New England. No worries. Yes you are right in your post concerning trawling. Most likely that has a lot to do with it. That is one of the points brought out in the Case Study.

  68. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the info: that would be the late 1970s, then (Joe Clark was elected in 1979) as Canada was preparing for the ratification of the 200-mile EEZ (which occurred in 1982) and when ostensibly Canada had an interest in regulating and limiting foreign fishing within its extended EEZ. Very interesting….

  69. vigilantfish, it was the summer of 1979. I think the 200 mile limit came in in 1976 — it was being enforced in 1979 ergo why I was figuring out a way to determine (quickly given the computers DFO used) whether a lat/lon was inside our limit and which license area it applied to.

  70. David Riser says:
    June 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Willis, I was originally under the impression we were discussing New England. No worries. Yes you are right in your post concerning trawling. Most likely that has a lot to do with it. That is one of the points brought out in the Case Study.

    Thanks, David, and your are right about trawling being one of the points covered in the Case Study.

    w.

  71. Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    That’s my explanation of the cod collapse.
    ==========
    There’s a lot more to it than just that Willis…
    You’re heart seems to be in the right place…..

    back up and first ask…why were there so many cod in the first place

    ….temps had more to do with it

    http://www.fishlarvae.com/e/BigBang/Jordaan.pdf

    IF temperature increases were the cause of the collapse, then surely we’d have seen previous collapses or at least serious drops as the temperature has varied over the centuries, and greater collapses in the southern fisheries as opposed to the northern. I don’t know of any record of those happening, although of course earlier data is more sparse.

    The study is an interesting one. However, all it shows is that there are optimal thermal conditions for cod across their range, and less than optimal conditions. As the study says,

    Sundby (2000) observed that recruitment tends to be better in warmer years in the cold part of the geographic range of cod and in cooler years in the warmer part of the geographic range. It appears, therefore, that although populations can exist over a fairly broad range of temperatures, highest cumulative survival occurs over a smaller range of temperatures somewhere in the middle of the species thermal range.

    However, we didn’t see that pattern in the collapse. In fact, the Northern Cod, who presumably would be benefitted by a slight warming, suffered a greater drop than more southerly groups …

    So while the study does show that (as with almost all oceanic creatures) there are optimum temperatures for their growth, it doesn’t say that that a temperature change was responsible for the collapse of the fishery. Instead, it says:

    Changes in temperature in the wild are not usually enough to cause mortality through disruption of development (direct mortality) since sea-surface temperature anomalies typically are on the order of 4 °C (Pepin 1991).

    All the best, and thanks for a most interesting study,

    w.

  72. Don’t assume that your starting point was “normal”….
    …”back up and first ask…why were there so many cod in the first place”

  73. Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Don’t assume that your starting point was “normal”….
    …”back up and first ask…why were there so many cod in the first place”

    Scrap the socratic method and answer your own question, I’m not interested in playing guessing games.

    w.

  74. Seal was served at the first Thanksgiving. Just like all animal populations, they should be regulated by hunting.

  75. Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 11:23 am (Edit)

    Thanks, Latitude, but sadly, you haven’t done your homework.

    ===
    Willis, I’m not the student…I’m the teacher
    …you don’t know what my profession is

    Nor do I care what your profession is. If you are a teacher, you haven’t done your teacher’s homework.

    Your chart does not reflect when populations increase or recover………period

    You are correct that it doesn’t reflect populations directly. That’s why it’s called a graph of fish landings. These reflect fish populations, but only indirectly.

    However, the precipitous drop in landings post 1968 is indisputable evidence of a drop in the population.

    The big drop post 1992 is the result of the moratorium on cod fishing in parts of their range.

    However, since cod fishing has remained legal in parts of their range, landings have not gone to zero. People are still out there fishing, so if there were a recovery, we would definitely expect to see it in my chart.

    So yes, my chart does reflect when populations increase or recover. The problem is … they haven’t recovered. And in fact, NOAA is talking about closing the cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine. If the cod were recovering, then catches there should have recovered … but they haven’t.

    And we can see that in my chart, which would show if stocks were recovering where they are still fished, but which clearly shows that that stocks have not recovered.

    Period. Even if you are a teacher.

    w.

  76. Lat said: “Your chart does not reflect when populations increase or recover………period”

    Willis said: “You are correct that it doesn’t reflect populations directly.”

    ..and you have your butt up on you shoulders right now…..why?
    ===========
    Willis said:”However, the precipitous drop in landings post 1968 is indisputable evidence of a drop in the population.”
    “The big drop post 1992 is the result of the moratorium on cod fishing in parts of their range.”

    “And in fact, NOAA is talking about closing the cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine. If the cod were recovering, then catches there should have recovered … but they haven’t.”

    “GULF OF MAINE COD

    The Fishery

    Total commercial landings in 2005 were 3,909 mt, slightly below those from 2001-2003 but approximately 139% greater than in 1999 ”

    http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/sos/spsyn/pg/cod/

  77. You write

    It should be noted that “white men” first came over here from Europe, perhaps as long ago as the 1300’s, for one risky but lucrative reason, and that reason was to fish for codfish.

    I think this statement is incorrect: Europeans came to North America (a) well before 1300 and (b) mostly in search of ivory, in the form of walrus tusks, as these were valuable trade items. Cod, which was quite plentiful then, was simply used for food on the voyage.

    See Farley Mowat’s >a href=”http://www.amazon.com/The-Farfarers-History-North-America/dp/1616082372/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1371160608&sr=8-11&keywords=farley+mowat”>The Farfarer’s for more detail.

  78. Caleb, an enthralling essay with much food for thought as the comments show.
    You might want to read Kurlansky’s recent book Cod, which is not only a history of the fishery but an exploration of the recovery efforts. One of the issues is that ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’. So the ecological niche occupied by cod is now predominated by other species, including but not limited to lobsters. Eating more lobster would help bring back cod.
    Cod are an example of a complex system as rich as climate.

  79. Rud Istvan says:
    June 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm
    Caleb, an enthralling essay with much food for thought as the comments show.
    You might want to read Kurlansky’s recent book Cod, which is not only a history of the fishery but an exploration of the recovery efforts. One of the issues is that ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’. So the ecological niche occupied by cod is now predominated by other species, including but not limited to lobsters. Eating more lobster would help bring back cod.
    Cod are an example of a complex system as rich as climate.

    Jellyfish are also occupying niches stripped of fish world-wide. They can also be cooked and eaten – apparently.

  80. Wow! I leave for a few hours to finish the Childcare day and get the goats, rabbits and chickens fed and out of the rain, (and also decide to heck with weeding the muddy garden,) and when I return Willis and Latitude are duking it out.

    I break up fights between children under ten all day long, so I’m pretty good at it. However I don’t want to step in the middle of this one, as the fists are made of all sorts of interesting information. Go at it, men!

    I would like to say that the magnitude of the decline of cod populations is clearly shown by Willis’s graph. The fact the catch could near 2 million tonnes is inconceivable to young fishermen, who live in in a time when 50,000 tonnes seems like a lot.

    I see what Latitude is driving at, when he says “catch” is not the same as the “uncaught stock.” However “catch” is a solid figure, a reality, while “stock” is a theory, hidden under the surface. Perhaps sonar and other fish detectors are a lot better than I know, and “stocvk” is no longer hidden, in which case I don’t mind learning about it. However “stock” is also susceptible to the mystery of politics, and the tendency of the more greedy sort of businessmen to fudge figures. Therefore “catch” seems realer to me. I know a caught fish matters more to a hungry person than “stock,” (unless it is a fish stock in a kitchen pot, with onions, potatoes, milk, bits of salt pork, and lots of pepper.)

    (Getting near dinner time, here on the east coast; can you tell?)

    I really appreciate the historical insights I’m getting about how the fisheries management people could have blundered so badly.

    I think returning to line-fishing would be interesting, and much better for the ecology of the sea-bottom, but fear the fishermen would go broke.

    Dinner’s ready. I’ll comment more later.

  81. and when I return Willis and Latitude are duking it out.
    ====
    Don’t include me in on that……..
    There was a major change in the way “catch” was recorded…they increased the size of the holes in the nets….that let smaller fish that were counted before as catch escape…and were not counted as catch after that
    But you’re right…catch is not a solid figure.. and stock is only a theory
    This is was include in the link I provided….that no one seems to have read

    http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/sos/spsyn/pg/cod/

    “Gulf of Maine cod landings have generally been dominated by age 3 and 4 fish in numbers (Figure 1.3 [Fig 1.3 Data]). Representation of age 2 cod was relatively high in the early 1980s but, in response to a series of minimum mesh size increases during the 1990s, age 2 fish have gradually all but disappeared from the landings. Cod from the strong 1987 year class predominated from 1990 through 1992 but, by 1993, fish from the 1990 year class accounted for the greatest proportion of the total number landed. From 1994 through 1996, landings were dominated by age 4 cod and in 1997 age 5 fish were dominant, reflecting the higher abundance of the 1992 year class. Although traditionally low in terms of their contribution to the total landings, age 10 and 11+ fish were absent for several years during the 1990s, and numbers of age 8 and 9 fish have also been unusually low. More recently, the 1998 year class has dominated the landings at ages 3 through 6 in 2001 through 2004, respectively. As well, the proportion of cod older than age 7 has begun to increase.

  82. Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    53rd Report

    http://nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/crd1203/crd1203.pdf

    Thanks for that report, Latitude. Here’s the current one:

    55th Report

    http://www.nefmc.org/tech/cte_mtg_docs/130123/b_55th%20NE%20Regl%20SAW%20Assessment%20Summary%20Report.pdf

    Willis: “And in fact, NOAA is talking about closing the cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine. If the cod were recovering, then catches there should have recovered … but they haven’t.”

    “GULF OF MAINE COD

    The Fishery

    Total commercial landings in 2005 were 3,909 mt, slightly below those from 2001-2003 but approximately 139% greater than in 1999 ”

    http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/sos/spsyn/pg/cod/

    Since I was referring to now, as in 2103, for the closure proposed by NOAA, I’m not clear what 2005 data have to do with it …

    According to the 55th SAW I linked to above, dated Jan 2013, the most recent data they have is for 2011. The numbers for total removals (commercial landings + commercial discards + recreational landings + recreational discards) in the most recent three years of record looks like this:

    2009: 8,400 tonnes
    2010: 7,100 tonnes
    2011: 6,800 tonnes

    Apparently things have not improved since then given that in 2013 NOAA is talking about closing the commercial fishery.

    The 55th SAW has an interesting chart.

    It is, of course, subject to the usual caveat. It is what it says, total removals (catch + discards) by fleet. It is not spawning biomass, or any other measure of the cod stock.

    w.

  83. Willis, do two things…
    Read the paragraph I posted….while at the same time look at that chart you posted for “total fisheries removal”…..that’s the weight of the catch
    When the mesh size increased…the size of the catch “total fisheries removal”….crashed
    Since then…..it’s leveled out….with the exception of the heat wave in ~1999…and again ~2006

    Keep in mind the previous post I made about development of larvae….how temp dependent they are…and how long it takes to get age 2/3/4/5 fish…and if the breeders move out there’s no breeding

    BTW the NOAA is always talking about closing fisheries…..that’s their job…the more they manage the bigger they are

  84. BTW one last thing…..which won’t do one bit of good if you don’t read it ;)

    There’s more to fisheries than just removing fish….

    http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1030&context=jcwre

    …oh and BTW again….the shrimp industry has been thriving since the cod population went down…well, except for when warm water blows in there again
    Isn’t that a hoot, if the shrimp business had been thriving first…..they would be complaining about the cod…LOL

  85. RE: Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks for the link. It was last updated in 2006. Does NOAA have a more recent update?

    I’ve learned a lot today, but obviously still have a ton to learn. After dinner I was reading up on Capelin, because I was intrigued by Willis’s comment that Capelin was a food for Cod but now Cod are a food for Capelin. It seemed a perfect example of the difficulty at arriving at any sort of “K,” (The equilibrium constant,) though when I discussed that in my essay I was imagining a species of plankton eating the embryonic cod, and not a small fish eating them.

    In speeding through stuff about Capelin I learned Herring eat a lot of Capelin when Capelin themselves are just swimming embryos, and many times (but not always) a boom in the population of Herring will coincide with a crash in the population of Capelin. So now you have a third factor, as you try to figure out your “K.”

    If you keep adding in variables I think you might find you wind up with one of those chaotic systems that has a sort of chaotic order. (After all, the beautiful spirals of a big storm or hurricane seen from space is a chaotic system.) I recall that, back in the 1980’s when the ideas about chaos theory first played around with the concept of Strange Attractors, seeing a chaotic system that switched between two different states. It was attracted to one or the other, and got stuck in one orbit or another, but occationally made a radical switch.

    I don’t claim to have the slightest understanding of this chaos-theory-stuff, however, as an interested layman it was one of those bits of trivia that parks in your mind in 1986, and now it pops back in 2013, as I wonder why Codfish populations, which were “stuck” at such high levels, now seem “stuck” at such low levels. Perhaps we spun out of one attractor to another attractor. The question is, can human efforts jolt us back to the first attractor?

    (Around about now the fellows who actually study chaos might be rolling their eyes.)

    I think one energy that fueled the above essay was simply old-fashioned frustration. I’m frustrated because it has been twenty years since Codfish populations ( or at least “catches”) hit bottom, and we still are sitting at the bottom, despite many good and not-so-good minds working on the problem. It is a problem that would do the world a world of good to solve, because a return to the Grand Banks of yore would not double or triple our current catch of fish, but multiply it by ten or twenty. (That prospect alone might justify a return to line-fishing.)

    Two posts before mine WUWT had a post about seeding the ocean with iron to capture carbon: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/12/national-laboratory-pans-ocean-carbon-sequestration-scheme/ In that post I commented (June 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm) on some population explosions I’ve seen the sea amaze me with. However the one I’d like to see most of all is a population explosion of Codfish.

    Someday it will happen. All that is needed is the right combination of events. Whether these events will occur due to mankind’s efforts, or despite mankind’s efforts, is something I currently cannot foresee.

  86. Thanks for the link. It was last updated in 2006. Does NOAA have a more recent update?
    ====
    Why? you don’t need one….it describes what happened to the fishery and why there was a decline. Since 2006 “catch” has increased.
    ===========
    as I wonder why Codfish populations, which were “stuck” at such high levels, now seem “stuck” at such low levels.
    =========
    head wall…head wall….head wall
    Read the links I posted……try “historic decline” in the last one

    temperature dependent….pollution….dams…..lack of food….bigger net mesh…shrimp fisheries improves

  87. Caleb,
    You said ‘I think returning to line-fishing would be interesting, and much better for the ecology of the sea-bottom, but fear the fishermen would go broke’.

    Somehow they survived in earlier times with this less efficient technology. It’s interesting that fish became more of a delicacy in the North American diet after the collapse of the East Coast fisheries – and of course, scarcity drove up prices. Another issue is that the cost of modern technology makes the large efficient fishing vessels unaffordable to the common fishermen – they become employees of large, integrated fish processing companies. I wish it were possible for entire nations to embrace, for the sake of some level of conservation to safeguard the food supply, a lower level of technology in the fisheries. Given the apparent surveillance capabilities of Big Brother-esque governments, it might even be possible now to ensure nobody is cheating. I don’t want to sound like a Luddite, and am certainly no tree-hugger, but the combination of powerful engines, otter trawls and similar gear, and sonar, has stacked the deck against healthy-sized commercial fish populations. As far as I can tell, no one is willing to give this aspect of the problem any consideration, because efficiency is the god of modern, scientific-technological society.

    Re Willis and Latitude:

    I agree with Willis about what is being measured in the catch data.

    The change in mesh size, afaik, was mostly effected under the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries – ICNAF – (which included all fisheries above Cape Cod within its purview), in the 1960s. That did not, of course, stop certain Iberian nations from putting fine mesh liners within their nets – as occurred during the turbot war between Canada and Spain and Portugal off Canadian waters in 1995.

    Catch data also was seldom accurately reported, as vessel captains would hide their irregular practices or under-report by-catch when possible, so as to be able to bag or exceed their quotas. It’s very hard to estimate fish populations and dynamics in the circumstances.

    Finally, as I learned long ago in fisheries biology, the escapement of undersized fish through large-size meshes was not possible once the larger fish being caught had been pushed together against the mesh or caught in the holes. (As fish became progressively smaller over time due to overfishing, this was less of an issue).

    This is why mesh size was not further increased in the 1970s, as effectiveness had limitations, and international bodies like ICES, ICNAF, and later NAFO switched to Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for nations and Individual Transferrable Quotas (ITQs) for licensed fishermen (or fishers, as the PC Canadian government calls them). The latter are highly controversial among academics, as they may create private property rights to licensees, which leads to all sorts of strange situations, but does also seem to militate against overfishing in some cases.

  88. vigilantfish
    It does me no good to post links that answer all of these questions…and no one read them

    Cod are like guppies and goldfish…they reproduce in the millions…their ability to reproduce is limited by food….they lost their source of food because of pollution, dams, etc

    If codfish were so thick you could walk on them….they were wrecking havoc on the environment themselves..

    It’s a lot easier to blame fishermen…than fix the real source of the problem….that’s the way the NOAA always fixes it….

    Cod stock will rebound in minutes when they fix the real problems…….

  89. My take.
    Government all excited about the 200 mile limit decides to encourage super trawl fishing and creates a tax incentive to get boats built. Syndicates are formed and there is a building boom in the 1970’s. Many Super trawlers are built and the technology evolves to fish areas not previously accessible. The super trawlers are too successful soon the catches plummet. There are many unhappy investors and big mortgages. Being innovative they started to look at mid water and under utilized species. Pollock, Mackerel , Herring, Menhaden. The Eastern European countries had factory ships that moved into Maine to buy the bait fish and render it into protein. These were our bait fish!!!!!!!!. The herring and menhaden consumed the plankton that ate the larval fish and cod eggs. None of these species have recovered.Sonar and the trawls evolved so not a fish escaped. Soon the fish landings couldn’t justify the cost of the factory ships and they left. We were pretty much cleaned out. Yay to using Tax incentives to manipulate poor economic decisions! Ring a bell?
    It is an old saw but it plays well every where you look.

    My impression is that the spiny dog fish moved into the niche the cod left. The lobsters have thrived without he pressure of being eaten by the cod. (From my porch I watch the growing rafts of eider ducks consume amazing numbers of small lobsters so there is a balance) Dog fish are a scourge unless you eat fish and chips. They are now targeted but they now dominate the places where we caught summer cod. It will be a tough up hill battle for cod to regain it’s place in the ecosystem.

    The Federal Government is now demanding recreational salt water fishing licenses. We should actually be demanding competency testing to weed out federal employees who might be inclined to proposing more really bad policies…..How does it go?… “After creating the problem we will campaign against it.” And a Fifty bucks reward for the name of the person who dreamed up putting alcohol in gasoline for boats.

    A couple of years ago I was in Homer, Alaska and I caught a glimpse of the same fisheries mental disease there. I only hope that some one has the inclination to look at the New England and Maritime fisheries mess and take away a lesson. Not hopeful though.

    sigh!

  90. RE: vigilantfish says:
    June 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I agree with much you say so well.

    Considering some in Washington are proposing banning fishing altogether, perhaps a compromise could be reached, where only line-fishing is allowed.

    I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite either. However you can’t help it, in this situation. That is why Willis’s analogy of cutting down a whole forest to “harvest” deer (as being like gouging up the sea-bottom to “harvest” cod,) is so excellent.

    Modern boats have power fishermen couldn’t even dream of, fifty years ago. No man could pull in the giant nets they now drag with.

    When we wonder if dragging might be bad we sound like Luddite left-wing-loonies, against power created by fossil fuels. However there is nothing wrong with power. The more we have the better off we are, unless we misuse that power.

  91. RE: Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm:

    Sorry I am causing you to head wall.

    This may crack the plaster, but try to stay calm.

    I agree with you when you say, “Cod stock will rebound in minutes when they fix the real problems.” But who are “they?” And what exactly is “the real problem?”

    Is “they” NOAA, or fishermen, or the codfish themselves?

    At this point, after reading all the comments, I am not sure what “the real problem” is, but if I had to vote I’d vote that dragging huge nets that utterly disturb the undersea ecology is a large part of “the real problem.”

    I could be wrong. I’d love to hear from a fisherman who drags a huge net.

    I’d also like to hear from people who know about the microscopic world codfish live in, during their first few weeks, and who can share insights about the ecology of that world.

    However now it is time for bed. Thanks again to all who have commented. This has been exactly the sort of lively discussion I hoped my essay would stir up. I’ll probably fall asleep purring.

  92. Caleb,

    I’ve really enjoyed your insights and this thread. It’s my bedtime, too, but I just had to respond to you comment that “I’d also like to hear from people who know about the microscopic world codfish live in, during their first few weeks, and who can share insights about the ecology of that world.” This has been one of the central mysteries of fisheries science since 1914, when Johan Hjort published his seminal paper on “The Fluctuations in the Great Fisheries of Northern Europe”, which introduced the information that one of the most important causes of fish population fluctuations is the success in reproduction in a given year. Some years are lousy, and some are super-excellent, and to this day scientists still cannot explain nor predict how and why this occurs. Sadly, research into this question got sidelined by the postwar focus on fishing theory and modelling the effects of fishing on populations, resulting in a mess analogous to climate ‘science’ Only in the wake of numerous stock collapses has more focus been given to the ecology and evolutionary genetics of fish stocks; unfortunately, as the fisheries have become less economically important funding has fallen, typical of short-sighted governments.

    And I agree fully with half tide rock: government interference lies at the bottom of the collapses: tax subsidies and policy biased toward big industry and industrialization wiped out the fish and common sense.

  93. Latitude says:
    June 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    BTW one last thing…..which won’t do one bit of good if you don’t read it ;)

    There’s more to fisheries than just removing fish….

    http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1030&context=jcwre

    Thanks, latitude. I truly don’t understand your attitude. You send me something about the migratory fishes (salmon and sturgeon) in the rivers of Maine.

    What is your point? That salmon and sturgeon don’t do well when their inshore habitat is trashed?

    I’ve been a commercial salmon fisherman in the Bering Sea, as well as up and down the west coast of the US. There’s not a whole lot I don’t know about the lifestyle of the salmon, both on and offshore.

    What you cited is the type of stuff I read decades ago, it’s grade school level. Yes, it’s true … but it is also trivial, unless there is some point in there I’m not seeing.

    But since you have pointedly neglected to say either WHY you cited that study, or WHAT your point might be, or HOW I could find the mystery message …

    … then I was just a fool to follow your citation. I have learned nothing, except that as a teacher you’re useless. You don’t say what the lesson is. The advice that the cited study gives is that if you want more migratory fish in your rivers and streams, you’ll need to remove the dams …

    This is your great insight? This is supposed to be news?

    If you have a point, first MAKE YOUR POINT. Then indicate your citation, and exactly what it is that you are citing it for.

    Randomly tossing out citations … interesting teaching style, but it doesn’t work worth a damn with me.

    Now, I’ve done a reasonable bit of teaching myself. I’ve written training manuals based on my teaching. There’s a Sufi saying that goes something like “Some say a teacher need this, and others say a teacher needs that. But what a teacher really needs is whatever the student needs.”

    I’m willing to be your student if you have something to teach and can teach it. Truly I am. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people … but you have to have a clear message, it has to be the right message, and you have to be able to get it across.

    To date you’ve shown no sign of any of that … random studies on salmon and sturgeon?

    When I was 21, I was making my living commercial fishing. I was both catching sturgeon in commercial fishing nets in Monterrey Bay, and studying their lifestyle when I wasn’t fishing so I could understand why they look like living fossils, and carefully untangling each one and returning it alive to the ocean, they were illegal to catch.

    And I’ve trolled for salmon commercially from a sailboat, and skippered a 60′ steel salmon troller out of San Francisco, and gill netted for salmon in Bristol Bay, and worked on restoring their inshore habitat, and studied the complete lifestyle of the salmon in great detail when I attended the Kenai River Guide Academy, which I was required to do before I could become a sport salmon fishing guide on the Kenai in Alaska …

    And of course, as a self-educated man who has never stopped learning, I’ve studied and studied and studied as I’ve fished and fished and fished. For most of my life, I packed my Encyclopedia Britannica with me wherever I moved, including the South Pacific. I’m an education addict, always willing to learn.

    So spare me the grade school treatises on salmon and sturgeon, there’s a good fellow. I’m happy to learn from you … but you’ll have to tell me something I don’t know …

    The good news is, there’s much more that I don’t know than there is that I do know—so telling me something I don’t know shouldn’t be too hard …

    Regards,

    w.

  94. New “green energy” idea to save the planet: Catch the seals and press out the oil for vehicles and fishing boats! Bio-Die-Seal!

  95. Caleb: Great stuff on your part, and some absolutely terrific comments. Having been involved in Trout Unlimited, hearing fishery biologists, sportsmen and commercial fishermen talking and complaining about lake trout in particular, I conclude there is probably only weather that attracts more passioned commentary than fish. I would like to see the codfish return; they make a great chowder, but today the price is exorbitant. And I think they are a lot cuter than seals!

  96. Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm
    Thanks, latitude. I truly don’t understand your attitude. You send me something about the migratory fishes (salmon and sturgeon) in the rivers of Maine.
    What is your point? That salmon and sturgeon don’t do well when their inshore habitat is trashed?
    ======
    Good grief Willis, you’re the one with the attitude. You’d throw a royal hissy fit if someone told you that you didn’t do your homework or criticized your posts and accused you of attitude….stop reading my posts as attitude….I’m not giving you any

    Start at the header “Historic Decline” and read that. Cod are considered migratory fish. Here’s one short paragraph….Cod feed on salmon, shad, and herring……….

    “From 1600 to 1900, New England’s seemingly
    inexhaustible supply of migratory fishes steadily
    declined from west to east. The size of Maine’s
    rivers and their distance from major urban centers
    shielded the enormous runs of fish they naturally
    sustained until widespread damming and clogging
    of rivers and overfishing led to the demise of most
    commercial salmon, shad and river herring fisheries
    by 1870. The loss of prey upon which cod stocks
    had foraged inshore each summer seems to have
    caused their disappearance from the Gulf of Maine’s
    estuarine and coastal waters from west to east after
    impassable dams were constructed in the main stem
    of large rivers running to the Gulf (Trefts 2006). “

  97. Caleb says:
    June 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm
    I agree with you when you say, “Cod stock will rebound in minutes when they fix the real problems.” But who are “they?” And what exactly is “the real problem?
    =======
    I assumed that you guys were not reading the links I posted….now, I realize you did read them, you just didn’t get it….

    Cod have to have food…they are limited by food….obviously, one female cod can lay several million eggs in one season….
    Pollution, dams, silting, etc limited their food supply….no food, cod stocks crash

    Cod feed on salmon, shrimp, shad, herring, etc….dams stopped the herring, salmon, shad migrations…
    No herring, salmon, shad, etc…….no cod

    Notice, the age of cod caught is gradually increasing. Age 2 fish dropped to zero after the mesh size increase….but the age of fish caught has gradually increased…that tells you that they are not being replaced…if they were replaced you should have a fairly stable population of age 2-3 fish….they are not being replaced……they do not have enough food

    That makes the population unsustainable…..that is why the NOAA is considering a moratorium
    The NOAA can not ban dams and pollution….all they can do is ban fisherman….even though the kneejerk reaction is “overfishing”….the fishermen had nothing to do with it

  98. first…I apologize for this long post…..it might be better instead of links….that I post the relevant material

    What do cod eat????……….

    “From 1600 to 1900, New England’s seemingly
    inexhaustible supply of migratory fishes steadily
    declined from west to east. The size of Maine’s
    rivers and their distance from major urban centers
    shielded the enormous runs of fish they naturally
    sustained until widespread damming and clogging
    of rivers and overfishing led to the demise of most
    commercial salmon, shad and river herring fisheries
    by 1870. The loss of prey upon which cod stocks
    had foraged inshore each summer seems to have
    caused their disappearance from the Gulf of Maine’s
    estuarine and coastal waters from west to east after
    impassable dams were constructed in the main stem
    of large rivers running to the Gulf (Trefts 2006).
    Today, historic populations of migratory fish in the
    Gulf of Maine are at a fraction of their historic levels.
    Atlantic sturgeon numbers have plummeted, while
    shortnose sturgeon populations are down 98 percent
    and listed as endangered under the Endangered Species
    Act (Smith 1997). Due largely to dams, Atlantic
    salmon have lost more than 90 percent of their historic
    spawning habitat in the Gulf of Maine. Sea-run brook
    trout, which are still common in all the Canadian
    maritime provinces, are now found in only a few small
    Gulf streams that have been untouched by dams and
    industrial use. Eel landings declined from 1.8 million
    pounds in 1985 to 649,000 pounds in 2002 (Atlantic
    States Marine Fisheries Commission 2000). In 2004,
    the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council petitioned
    the federal government to conduct a status review of
    American eel populations due to their precipitous
    decline. Eels are a relatively long lived species that may
    live in freshwater up to 30 years and grow to five feet
    in length before heading out into the Gulf of Maine on
    their way to the Sargasso Sea. Due to their size, turbines
    exact a heavy mortality on the downstream migration
    of sexually mature eels. In a 1998 study, the U.S. Fish
    and Wildlife Service determined that eels may have
    been eliminated from 81 percent of their historic habitat
    from Connecticut to Maine (Atlantic States Marine
    Fisheries Commission 2000). The once abundant river
    herrings have continued to decline remarkably as well.
    Alewife landings in Maine declined from 3.4 million
    pounds in 1970 to less than 1 million today (Maine
    Department of Marine Resources 2005). “

  99. Caleb, I have a solution to the problem of low codfish numbers and a high number of seals that should get no flack from the touchy feely environmentalists (TFE). It is really quite simple.

    1. Polar bears eat seals.

    2. Polar bears are becoming a problem in Alaska/Canada because they raid town dumps (and houses.) link

    3. The TFE will not allow culling of bears ( or seals) but do allow live trapping and relocation of nuisance bears. link

    4. Relocate the polar bears to CAPE COD! Ted Kennedy is now dead so he is not around to lead the NIMBYS (But you might have to worry about Mitt Romney.)

    5. The method to use is the one used in North Carolina.

    We have had Red Wolves released, Coyotes (A friend trapped one with a University ear tag and was paid $250 for the tag and told to forget he saw it) link Jaguars (Someone saw a pair in a pickup just before their release in NC, hubby saw one jump the entire width of the road and several neighbors have also reported sightings.) link and mountain lions (cougars) link

    The key is to DENY, DENY DENY “No Ma’am, you are mistaken a polar bear did not eat your toddler. It was a big white dog.”

    (Now if we could only train the Poley Bears to eat politicians)

  100. lattitude,

    1. What is your claim?

    Are you claiming that fish populations have declined because of dams and industry located near northeastern rivers?

    Because if dams and industry caused the population declines, then why are you now claiming that Maine and other locations have now seen some huge surge in population of cod? Did the dams and industry suddenly shut down?

    Are you refusing to state your claim(s) because you don’t want to be pinned down making a claim that can be disproven?

    2. If this is your claim, then how do you support this claim? You can’t simply assert something and expect scientific minds to accept it whole-cloth simply because you attribute the claim to some group that believes this. You haven’t provided any analyses or data that support your claim.

    Many of us on here are just like Willis, we are willing to be convinced if we presented with convincing data and analyses. You haven’t provided either.

  101. Back before the steam engine started using coal to power things, and the first railways were built, just about every trickle of water off a cow’s back was dammed in New Hampshire. Water power ruled, and the ruins of old dams and mills are scattered all over the place. Pollution was also far worse, due to the mills, and the Charles River in Boston used to change color due to paint factories on the Somerville side.

    An amazing amount of hard work has been done cleaning up that mess, in the last 40 years, and a lot of work has been done removing unused dams and putting in fish ladders. While more could be done, I think if rivers were the main problem the crash in cod stocks would have occurred earlier, and would be reversed. Instead I am leaning towards thinking Willis is right, and trawl netting might be the chief culprit. Let me repeat what he stated:

    “…It’s hard to express the damage (trawl netting) causes, but an analogy might help. Imagine that you were fishing for deer by dragging a giant net through the forest. Imagine that in addition to deer, the net sweeps up and kills foxes, rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, lizards, and all the other forest animals. In addition, of course, in the process it knocks down and destroys the trees, smashes the bushes, and fills the air with thick, choking dust …“

    There seems too great a connection between the plunge in stocks and trawl netting to be a mere coincidence.

    Considering we have spent 20 years trying all sorts of things to restore codfish populations, and nothing has worked, perhaps it is time to consider banning trawl nets. I am aware some big money is involved in big boats with big trawl nets, and big money talks in Washington DC, however if trawl nets were the problem, the rebound in the codfish population would increase the catch by a multiple of ten to twenty. Even selfish and greedy people who don’t give a hoot about the environment ought drool a bit, over a prospect like that.

  102. wobble….what are you talking about?
    Cod populations decined because they don’t have enough to eat.
    Where did you see I posted a “huge surge in cod populations”?
    ….oh, the drama

    I stated my “claim” as you call it…..
    I supported it in links…that provide data

    This is like trying to convince someone that believes in global warming that it’s not.
    You guys want to believe it’s due to overfishing….then there’s nothing anyone can say to show you differently………

  103. “While more could be done, I think if rivers were the main problem the crash in cod stocks would have occurred earlier, and would be reversed.”
    ====
    Why Caleb?….the problems caused by the dams has not been reversed…the dams are still there causing the same problems
    ======
    “There seems too great a connection between the plunge in stocks and trawl netting to be a mere coincidence.”
    =======
    Change “trawl netting” to harvesting and you have a winner….
    Any harvesting when stocks are in this shape is going to have the same effect….

    Say you put some goldfish in a pond..and you feed them heavily
    Soon you have tons of goldfish and you can harvest a certain amount.

    …stop feeding them and you can not harvest that same amount
    If you did, you would soon end up with no goldfish

    again, from the links…..

    Dams
    In the past three decades, meaningful steps have been
    taken to make rivers in the Gulf of Maine more capable
    of supporting fish populations. Due to the Clean Water
    Act, poor water quality is not the limiting factor to fish
    populations it once was. No longer do we see industrial
    or municipal pollution creating anoxic barriers to fish
    migration that was the norm in the Gulf’s larger rivers
    only four decades ago. Today, both commercial and
    recreational fisheries are better managed and habitat-
    altering log drives are now just a part of folklore.
    Amendments to the Federal Power Act have required
    regulators to consider a broader range of public uses of
    our rivers beyond just energy production when dams are
    re-licensed. This has often resulted in better fish passage,
    increased minimum flows and in rare cases, orders for
    a dam to be removed. Despite these improvements,
    virtually all native migratory fish populations in the
    Gulf of Maine have continued to decline. A reliance on
    unproven engineering schemes to mitigate the impacts
    of dams continues to block the meaningful (self-
    sustaining) restoration of migratory fish. In particular,
    the cumulative impacts of dams continues to exact a
    severe toll on migratory fish as regulators have largely
    chosen to look at each dam independently, rather than
    taking into consideration the whole configuration of
    dams on a river. Since major rivers in the Gulf of Maine
    average five or more main stem dams, the cumulative
    impact issue is the major reason for the failure of most
    migratory fish restoration efforts.

  104. RE: Latitude:

    Your NOAA source seems to be tooting it’s own horn a bit. All I can say is that we have salmon returning to rivers in New Hampshire where they haven’t been seen in a hundred years. The work is on-going. I’m quite certain numerous fish-ladders have been put in since the NOAA report you cite was written.

    I’m not sure how old you are, but if you are over fifty you can remember how filthy rivers used to be. It had to be seen to be believed. If you saw it, you should know things are better for fish than they were.

    Think about this sentence in your report: “Despite these improvements, virtually all native migratory fish populations in the Gulf of Maine have continued to decline. ”

    Forgive me for being a cynic, but are they not saying, “Our focus on rivers hasn’t done a damn thing, but we are going to keep on focusing on rivers and not trawl nets, because the sawmill lobby has gotten small enough to ignore, while the trawl net lobby hasn’t quite shrunk small enough to ignore. In a few years, however, when they go out of business due to shrunken stocks, we will talk about banning all fishing including line-fishing, but will not ban party-boats, of course, because the tourist-trade lobby is huge.”

    Bleeping Washington DC. In the end it will not be the Cod that go extinct; it will be the entire culture of New England fishermen.

  105. uh Caleb, cod are migratory….that’s why the Scandinavians and Basque ended up going from Iceland, to Greenland, to Labrador, to Martha’s Vineyard…the cod moved
    ====
    Caleb said: Think about this sentence in your report: “Despite these improvements, virtually all native migratory fish populations in the Gulf of Maine have continued to decline. ”
    =====
    oh stop it…LOL you read what was said after that
    ====
    Caleb said: I’m quite certain numerous fish-ladders have been put in since the NOAA report you cite was written.
    ====
    Jesus man, read the link…I only posted one paragraph…it says and explains all of that

    You can’t continue to harvest when you don’t feed them………..

  106. I’m not sure how old you are, but if you are over fifty you can remember how filthy rivers used to be. It had to be seen to be believed. If you saw it, you should know things are better for fish than they were.
    ======
    Yes, that’s in the links I posted too….

  107. Latitude, you argue:

    Notice, the age of cod caught is gradually increasing. Age 2 fish dropped to zero after the mesh size increase….but the age of fish caught has gradually increased…that tells you that they are not being replaced…if they were replaced you should have a fairly stable population of age 2-3 fish….they are not being replaced……they do not have enough food.

    ——————–

    It’s good news if the age of fish is increasing, as cod should live to 20 or more years, and become more fecund with age. There is no such thing as a stable population of a given age of fish in a fish population. You can have a hugely successful spawning one year, due to newly hatched fry obtaining lots of food, the right climate conditions, and lack of predation, perhaps (we don’t know for sure, as such conditions cannot be predicted or effectively monitored). That same year class, once it starts reproducing at age 5, might produce very few fish. The age profile of long-lived fish populations vary over time. I believe Johan Hjort found that the 1903 year-class of herring dominated the catch of the North Sea fishery from about 1907-1913; subsequent years provided a much smaller portion of the catch. Eventually another big year-class came along

    Also, somewhere above, you argued that the cod would come back if they could just get food, or pollution were cleaned up, citing the sheer abundance of their eggs. Oscar Sette, the American fisheries scientist, in the 1920s and early 1930s did a seminal study of New England mackerel populations and also mackerel embryology studies that provided the first clue as to how low is the survival rate of fertilized eggs. This has been confirmed by decades of subsequent studies. For cod, in a normal year, 1 adult is produced per million eggs spawned. Among the predators of the eggs are other planktonic organisms, the fry are eaten by smaller fish species that form in turn the food of adult cod – and adult cod themselves eat their own young indiscriminately.

    +++++++

    I agree with Caleb that other fisheries using trawl nets, even if they are not targetting cod, are probably preventing a recovery. Bleeping Washington DC and Ottawa, Ont.!

  108. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks, latitude. I truly don’t understand your attitude. You send me something about the migratory fishes (salmon and sturgeon) in the rivers of Maine.
    What is your point? That salmon and sturgeon don’t do well when their inshore habitat is trashed?

    ======
    Good grief Willis, you’re the one with the attitude. You’d throw a royal hissy fit if someone told you that you didn’t do your homework or criticized your posts and accused you of attitude….stop reading my posts as attitude….I’m not giving you any

    Start at the header “Historic Decline” and read that. Cod are considered migratory fish. Here’s one short paragraph….Cod feed on salmon, shad, and herring……….

    “From 1600 to 1900, New England’s seemingly
    inexhaustible supply of migratory fishes steadily
    declined from west to east. The size of Maine’s
    rivers and their distance from major urban centers
    shielded the enormous runs of fish they naturally
    sustained until widespread damming and clogging
    of rivers and overfishing led to the demise of most
    commercial salmon, shad and river herring fisheries
    by 1870. The loss of prey upon which cod stocks
    had foraged inshore each summer seems to have
    caused their disappearance from the Gulf of Maine’s
    estuarine and coastal waters from west to east after
    impassable dams were constructed in the main stem
    of large rivers running to the Gulf (Trefts 2006). “

    I asked what your point is … you sent me the previous link, which I’d ALREADY READ at your request and found totally boring, banal, and without a new finding or original thought from cover to cover.

    I told you, if you want to teach me or anyone something, you have to find something they DON’T KNOW.

    Since I’ve known what is in your grade-school-level citation for decades, and I already told you that …

    Then why on earth are you quoting it to me again? I just read that bumf, last time you recommended it.

    Perhaps you need to read things twice to discover that you have known them for decades.

    For me, once is enough … except in this case, where once was too many.

    w.

  109. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 4:56 am

    first…I apologize for this long post…..it might be better instead of links….that I post the relevant material

    What do cod eat????……….

    “From 1600 to 1900, New England’s seemingly
    inexhaustible supply of migratory fishes steadily
    declined from west to east. The size of Maine’s
    rivers and their distance from major urban centers
    shielded the enormous runs of fish they naturally
    sustained until widespread damming and clogging
    of rivers and overfishing led to the demise of most
    commercial salmon, shad and river herring fisheries
    by 1870.

    Gosh … you mean that dams and overfishing lead to the demise of migratory fish? I’d never realized that. I can’t thank you enough, Latitude, for finding that missing piece of the puzzle and bringing it to light. You’re a freakin’ genius for noticing that dams reduce the numbers of migratory fish …

    Y’know, this is the third time you’ve posted this historic news, Latitude.

    At some point, you’re gonna realize that most folks here actually knew that dams reduce the number of migratory fish before the news arrived at your doorstep.

    If they didn’t, they realized it the first time you posted your elementary-school-level treatise on the subject.

    i suppose, however, some folks might have needed another dose of your stunning simplicity. So perhaps it was good that you posted the same thing a second time.

    Now, on the third time, I think I finally got it. Let me see if I understand what you are saying.

    DAMS … REDUCE … MIGRATORY … FISH … NUMBERS

    Like I said, that’s a real surprise … can’t thank you enough for highlighting that shocking news.

    Can you join us in the 21st century now? Because most of us learned all of that fifty years ago, for me I think it was in the sixth grade where we covered dams and fish ladders and salmon and other migratory fish. We went on a field trip in the yellow school bus to the Coleman Fish Hatchery that year and they explained it all to us … and did a better job of it than your citation, if I recall correctly, or perhaps that was just because we could see the salmon.

    w.

  110. Willis said: Since I’ve known what is in your grade-school-level citation for decades, and I already told you that
    =======
    You did??….then why did you reply that it was about salmon and sturgeon? and not about cod? If you knew it was about cod not having enough to eat, why didn’t you say so?
    =====================
    Willis reply: You send me something about the migratory fishes (salmon and sturgeon) in the rivers of Maine.
    What is your point? That salmon and sturgeon don’t do well when their inshore habitat is trashed?
    ======

    BTW….that grade-school-level citation, that you’ve known about the decades, was reviewed and published….

    “The loss of prey upon which COD stocks
    had foraged inshore each summer seems to have
    caused their disappearance from the Gulf of Maine’s
    estuarine and coastal waters from west to east after
    impassable dams were constructed in the main stem
    of large rivers running to the Gulf (Trefts 2006).”

  111. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 8:20 am

    uh Caleb, cod are migratory….that’s why the Scandinavians and Basque ended up going from Iceland, to Greenland, to Labrador, to Martha’s Vineyard…the cod moved

    Ah, yes, the fishermen following the famous migrating cod on their centuries-long migration from Basque country to Martha’s Vineyard …

    Here are the travels and travails of the codfish. Cod eggs and cod larvae drift from the spawning grounds to the nursery grounds. Juvenile cod migrate from the nursery grounds to the feeding grounds. And mature cod migrate back to the spawning grounds.

    NONE of them migrate from Iceland to Greenland to Labrador and thence to Martha’s Vineyard … that’s just another Latitude fantasy. The cod didn’t move from Basque country to Martha’s Vineyard, they’ve been in Martha’s Vineyard for millennia … nor did the fishermen “follow” them there.

    Instead, as is common with many fisheries, the nearby fisheries were fished first, and then people went looking further and further afield as local stocks dropped.

    I do like the idea of migratory cod going from Iceland to America, early immigrants … maybe they were inspired by the Statue of Liberty. If they try it today, though, they’ll need a green card.

    Teach on, my friend, teach on … your idea of teaching is great spectator sport.

    Oh, by the way … after coyly bringing the subject up, you never did tell us what you do for a living. I’m guessing it’s not commercial fisherman …

    w.

    PS—Not only do cod not migrate once they are on their feeding grounds, except back to the spawning grounds, but they don’t wander all over the Atlantic followed by fishermen as you claim. The separate stocks don’t mix much, likely in part because they don’t migrate. As a result of them not migrating, we recognize separate, relatively independent stocks of cod.

    The recognized stocks are:

    Eastern Baltic Sea cod
    Western Baltic Sea cod
    Kattegat cod
    North Sea and Skagerrak cod
    Celtic Sea cod
    Irish Sea cod
    West Scotland cod
    Rockall cod
    Faroe Bank cod
    Faroe Plateau cod
    Icelandic cod
    Arctic cod
    Norwegian coastal cod
    East Greenland cod
    West Greenland cod
    Labrador cod
    Flemish Cap cod
    Grand Bank cod
    St. Pierre Bank cod
    West Newfoundland cod
    Gulf of St Laurence cod
    Banquereau cod
    Browns and Lahave Bank cod
    Georges Bank cod

  112. Willis said: Gosh … you mean that dams and overfishing lead to the demise of migratory fish? I’d never realized that. I can’t thank you enough, Latitude, for finding that missing piece of the puzzle and bringing it to light. You’re a freakin’ genius for noticing that dams reduce the numbers of migratory fish …
    DAMS … REDUCE … MIGRATORY … FISH … NUMBERS
    Like I said, that’s a real surprise … can’t thank you enough for highlighting that shocking news.
    ===========
    Willis you seem to be extremely confused….
    There are no dams stopping the migration of cod….we are talking about cod.
    No one built a dam between the Gulf of Maine and the ocean…

    The dams are stopping the migration of the fish that the cod feed on. The cod move into the bay in the summer to feed on salmon, shad, herring, eels etc. It’s the cod’s food, that’s the migratory fish the dams are stopping from spawning and reproducing. The cod do not migrate up the rivers.
    Without the numbers of food….no one is chumming the cod into the gulf in the summer.

  113. Willis, there are no distinct populations of same species cod….cod move out of the Gulf of Maine in the winter…and move back in in the summer…they move

  114. Latitude;

    The sun has popped out and I need to catch up on work that rain cancelled, but I am trying to follow your mind, and am having a bit of trouble.

    I think you need to brush up the art of succinctly summarizing what you are referring to, before moving on to your next point. I’m pretty confused by what you are saying about the migrations of cod.

    Anyway, work demands my attention. I’ll catch up with you later.

  115. This is an interesting topic and (having never lived near nor worked on an ocean) I am learning a lot from the rest of you folks. Thanks for staying civil. The reading is much easier.
    ========================

    When I got to this . . .

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    “I’m happy to learn from you … but you’ll have to tell me something I don’t know …

    The good news is, there’s much more that I don’t know than there is that I do know—so telling me something I don’t know shouldn’t be too hard …

    . . . the phraseology hit personally. I was supposed to be teaching first year college students about topographic maps. The map series was the US 7 ½ minute ‘quads’. Each student had a map covering the area “they were most familiar with” – usually that would be where they went to high school or where their home was.

    There were a number of things each person was to do with the map to learn what was on it and how to “read” it. I can look at such a map and tell much about the area so they were also supposed to “tell me something I don’t know …”

    For some reason that phraseology rankled a few of the students – although I thought, and still do, that it was a reasonable request.

    The last time I taught that class the WWW (or internet) had morphed into the commercial space we now have. I student thought he knew an animal I should know about. The Javelina. He found a site and copied 4 pages to insert into his report. The first page had a photo and a short description of the animal. The next 3 pages contained photos and descriptions of hiking shoes and boots, called (- -wait for it – -) Javelina Hikers. The animal wasn’t news, but the boots were. Knowledge is where you find it. Unintentional on his part – he hadn’t read past the first page.

  116. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Willis said: Since I’ve known what is in your grade-school-level citation for decades, and I already told you that
    =======
    You did??….then why did you reply that it was about salmon and sturgeon? and not about cod? If you knew it was about cod not having enough to eat, why didn’t you say so?

    Um … because inter alia, the study is about salmon and sturgeon, and how they are impacted by dams?

    But you’re right, I didn’t describe the whole plotline of the study … didn’t think I needed to, I was under the impression you’d read it.

    =====================
    Willis reply:

    You send me something about the migratory fishes (salmon and sturgeon) in the rivers of Maine.
    What is your point? That salmon and sturgeon don’t do well when their inshore habitat is trashed?

    ======

    BTW….that grade-school-level citation, that you’ve known about the decades, was reviewed and published….

    Ooooh, why didn’t you say that? If I had known that it had undergone peer review, I would never have questioned it …

    Perhaps you haven’t noticed, Latitude, but there’s plenty of meaningless papers peer reviewed and published every day. You can start with Mann’s Hockey Stick and go on from there, but if by now you haven’t realized that peer-review means nothing, well … well … well, I guess in that case I’m not in the least surprised.

    “The loss of prey upon which COD stocks
    had foraged inshore each summer seems to have
    caused their disappearance from the Gulf of Maine’s
    estuarine and coastal waters from west to east after
    impassable dams were constructed in the main stem
    of large rivers running to the Gulf (Trefts 2006).”

    I noted that about COD the first time I read your citation. As I said before, perhaps you need to read this stuff twice. I don’t.

    It was not news to me then, and is not news to me now, that offshore fish are affected by what happens inshore. You’re lecturing a commercial fisherman about fish … perhaps this is all fascinating novel stuff to you, but to me and other fishermen, we’ve known about the relationship between inland and ocean fisheries for decades.

    Seriously, Latitude. The idea that cod and other oceanic fish are impacted by dams on the rivers is Fish Science 101, or even less. You keep presenting and re-presenting the same idea, which is true but elementary and old, as if that will make your pabulum new and interesting.

    It is neither. It’s old news, boring the first time, and twice as boring when you re-quote it.

    w.

  117. . I’m pretty confused by what you are saying about the migrations of cod.
    =====
    Caleb, the dams are stopping the migration of the cod’s food. It’s their food (salmon, shad, herring, eels, baby sturgeon, etc) that need to migrate up the rivers to spawn. Their food collapsed.

    Cod move into the gulf to feed in the summer….no food….no chumming…no cod
    The cod move back out to communal spawning/holding grounds in the late fall, back to the ocean, populations mix, spawn late winter early spring, then move back inshore where there’s food.
    ..if they don’t find food…they keep moving and looking until they do…or die

    No one would expect them to hang around in a gulf/bay where there’s not enough food…….

  118. Ooooh, why didn’t you say that? If I had known that it had undergone peer review, I would never have questioned it …
    ===
    Willis, you are a piece of work…..LOL
    As many times as I said “FOOD”….now you want to act like you caught it all along

    …You didn’t have a clue

    You even thought the dams were stopping the cods migration….

  119. David Riser says:
    June 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm
    Peer reviewed science is used to make decisions about gear and catch limits. }

    Peer reviewed? Reviews of the the number of fish and catch limits???
    To wit:
    “adopted a broad suite of management measures in order to achieve fishing mortality targets and meet other requirements of the M-S Act.”

    You missed the point.

    Caleb is suggesting they think Outside The BOX for ways to increase supply, rather than attempt to keep a static volume of production. But rocking the boat and novel ideas, in my lengthy experience in civil service, is NOT done. Witness the 97%.

    Pointing to a group of people charged with enforcing a congressional mandate as being able to solve this problem is a red herring. (pun intended).

  120. Hal Dall says:
    June 13, 2013 at 9:20 pm
    New “green energy” idea to save the planet: Catch the seals and press out the oil for vehicles and fishing boats! Bio-Die-Seal!

    Good One!

  121. Re: latitude
    This was in the summation of one of your links:

    This dictates a need for a precautionary principle that favors fisheries
    management for ecological benefits first rather than solely for economic benefits.

    I’m not a fan of that principle.

  122. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Willis, there are no distinct populations of same species cod….cod move out of the Gulf of Maine in the winter…and move back in in the summer…they move

    Thanks, Latitude. You are right that there are no distinct populations, they are all the same species.

    However, there are different “stocks”, which is what I said above, and they don’t seem to intermix much. One stock can decline, while another nearby stock may be flourishing. In my own mental universe I think of those kinds of groups as “tribes”. They are no different than their neighbors, but they don’t intermarry much.

    And it is also true that most fish move some with the winter/summer swing.

    But your claim was that the cod had migrated from Iceland to Martha’s vineyard, and that the fishermen had followed them in that migration, viz:

    that’s why the Scandinavians and Basque ended up going from Iceland, to Greenland, to Labrador, to Martha’s Vineyard…the cod moved

    Tuna are migratory fish. They wander all over the Pacific, an annual migration of thousands and thousands of miles. And they are chased by fishermen that follow them in that migration.

    Cod, on the other hand, have been in Martha’s Vineyard since time immemorial. They didn’t move from Iceland to Greenland to Labrador to Martha’s Vineyard as you claim.

    The fishermen moved—outwards from Europe to new, and in some cases more productive, fishing grounds in Greenland, Canada, and the Grand Banks.

    w.

    PS—There is a staggeringly good description of the dory-and-handline cod fishery on the Banks in Kipling’s “Captains Courageous”, which by pure chance I happened to re-read last month. Boats of oak and men of steel … as a long-time commercial fisherman, I could only bow my head.

  123. Willis,

    Based on your recommendation I just downloaded “Captains Courageous” to my e-reader. [95¢. I could have got it on-line for free, but my Nook is a very handy reader].

    I’ve always liked Kipling. Despite his critics, he was a great writer and poet.

  124. Good heavens! I’ve seen conversations devolve at WUWT before, but, this rates up there as one of the most/best/worst!

    Let me see if I get this right. Caleb writes a nice post about our Cod situation. And, while it mentions many things to consider, it seems that Latitude picked up on a major factor regarding our cod that wasn’t mentioned in the post. Nor did I see it highlighted in the comments. This isn’t a criticism of Caleb, it’s just an observation.

    While some, who may be unfamiliar with Lat may think his observations attach some sort of advocacy, those of us familiar with Lat, know that it is not. I’m mystified as to why there’s so much resistance to the thought that if an animal’s food source is gone, that said animal will be scarce where the food source once was.

    While most here recognize the one side of the predator/prey coin, we know predators are not the only limiting factor of populations, indeed, they can be good for the populations. In fact, given the history, we can be fairly certain it isn’t the largest one. It isn’t “banal” to point out what wasn’t stated in a conversation with over 125 comments.

    It seems to me, pointing out underlying causes to population reduction, rather than simply pointing to a predator, which, had achieved population equilibrium in prior times, is adding to the conversation. Or, was it a given to all commenters here that the most limiting factor of an animal population is food source, and they just didn’t mention it and looked towards less important causes for the cod plight?

    Again, Caleb, this isn’t a criticism. You seem to be rather open to alternate ideas and perspectives, as opposed to some others, here. But, towards others, I find it bit disingenuous to ask for simplification and clarification and then when it is offered to say the contribution was banal. I guess Lat failed because he simplified too much when others didn’t understand what he was saying. Because, God knows expecting people to catch an inference, when they appear knowledgeable on the subject is just too much to ask. tsk.

  125. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 9:34 am (

    … You even thought the dams were stopping the cods migration….

    Latitude, if you believe that about me, you’ll believe anything … I’ve spent a lifetime fishing rivers, streams, and the ocean. I know which fish go upriver to spawn, and which fish stay in the ocean to spawn. You misunderstood my words. I may be in my dotage as some say, but I haven’t forgotten which are which. Cod migrating upriver? Give me a break, nobody’s that dumb.

    This is why I ask folks to quote my words if they object to them. Then we can all understand what you might be objecting to. I can defend what I’ve written and am happy to do so.

    I can’t defend your egregious twisting of my words, when you neglect to mention what you’re bitching about.

    Speaking of currents, one thing I learned in this discussion is how dependent the cod are on the currents. I hadn’t realized that each separate “stock” travels up-current, sometimes a few hundred miles, to its own separate spawning grounds.

    After the eggs hatch, the larvae are carried by the current towards their nursery grounds. There they mature into juveniles, and then swim to their feeding grounds. That’s why each separate cod stock has its own spawning site—it’s the site where the currents take the larvae to the right place so they can complete the cycle.

    However, that also means that if the currents should shift for some period of time, say from the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or just from the generally changeable nature of ocean currents, the larvae would not end up in the place where the conditions are the best for their development (too cold/too hot/too salty/too fresh, etc.)

    One thing that has always amazed me is the wildly mutable nature of oceanic ecosystems. On land, a deer has one or two fawns. If the population is knocked back, it takes years to recover.

    In the ocean, on the other hand, if there is a favorable year for some oceanic creature, it can go from being a minor bit player in the ecosystem to completely dominating it, in a single year. So while deer numbers might increase from 100 to 150 in a good year, in the ocean a species’ numbers might go from 100 to 100,000 in one year.

    This “boom and bust” nature of oceanic populations has good and bad aspects. The good is that given years with favorable conditions, populations can rebuild quickly. The downside is that the whole ecological network of a given part of the ocean can change quickly, and sometimes not in a favorable way for a given species.

    Around 1970, the third year I fished commercially I got a job on an anchovy boat out of Moss Landing, in Monterrey Bay. John Steinbeck wrote of “Cannery Row” in Monterrey, where they processed sardines for decades until the population had crashed, a couple of decades before that time, in the early fifties.

    The old Italian guys in the crew had fished for sardines back in the day, and watched them disappear. I remember one night, we had caught maybe ten tonnes of anchovies, and brailed them into the forty-foot open steel whaleboat we towed behind to load with anchovies. We were in mid-ocean, with the whaleboat tied next to our fishing boat, moving fish from the net into the whaleboat.

    Suddenly, one of the old guys, a hard-working and very savvy fisherman seventy years old that was a total inspiration to me as a young man of twenty and some, shocked all of us by jumping from the gunwale of the fishing boat straight into the interior of the whaleboat.

    He landed on ten tonnes of anchovies, of course, and sank into the living mass up to his thighs. He looked around and grabbed one of the hundreds of thousands of identical anchovies. “Sardine!”, he yelled, “It’s’a sardine!” and he held up a fish that from ten feet away looked just like an anchovy to my untutored eye.

    But indeed it was a sardine, and the crew was electrified, and wondered if finally the sardines might come back. The old guy looked all around him in the mass of anchovies, but even he couldn’t find even one more sardine.

    Of course, now we understand much more about the alteration between sardines and anchovies as the Pacifiic Decadal Oscillation ebbs and fills. And indeed, six years or so after the old man spotted that solitary sardine, the PDO shifted, and the sardines did indeed return … although the recent PDO shift in the other direction means they’ll likely have to cede the turf again. I always did wonder, though … what was one single sardine doing in a school of hundreds and hundreds of tonnes of anchovies?

    I bring this up as another instance of the profound effect that subtle shifts of currents and winds can have on entire oceanic ecosystems.

    w.

  126. Willis, the conversation was about dams reducing the cods food….
    no matter how many times I said “food” you didn’t have a clue what cod eat
    …and even less clue what the dams did to their food
    Yes cod are migratory fish, but no one built dams between the gulf and the ocean…
    …the dams didn’t block the cod

    BTW, that study was about salmon, sturgeon, eels, shad, herring, all of them….
    and it specifically mentioned the effect it had on cod

    “This is why I ask folks to quote my words”
    “Um … because inter alia, the study is about salmon and sturgeon, and how they are impacted by dams?”
    “Thanks, latitude. I truly don’t understand your attitude. You send me something about the migratory fishes (salmon and sturgeon) in the rivers of Maine.”
    “What is your point? That salmon and sturgeon don’t do well when their inshore habitat is trashed?”

    not one word about the food that cod eat..and the effect the dams are having on their food
    …you didn’t have a clue

    “”Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Gosh … you mean that dams and overfishing lead to the demise of migratory fish? I’d never realized that. I can’t thank you enough, Latitude, for finding that missing piece of the puzzle and bringing it to light. You’re a freakin’ genius for noticing that dams reduce the numbers of migratory fish …

    Y’know, this is the third time you’ve posted this historic news, Latitude.

    At some point, you’re gonna realize that most folks here actually knew that dams reduce the number of migratory fish before the news arrived at your doorstep.

    If they didn’t, they realized it the first time you posted your elementary-school-level treatise on the subject.

    i suppose, however, some folks might have needed another dose of your stunning simplicity. So perhaps it was good that you posted the same thing a second time.

    Now, on the third time, I think I finally got it. Let me see if I understand what you are saying.

    DAMS … REDUCE … MIGRATORY … FISH … NUMBERS

    Like I said, that’s a real surprise … can’t thank you enough for highlighting that shocking news.

    Can you join us in the 21st century now? Because most of us learned all of that fifty years ago, for me I think it was in the sixth grade where we covered dams and fish ladders and salmon and other migratory fish. We went on a field trip in the yellow school bus to the Coleman Fish Hatchery that year and they explained it all to us … and did a better job of it than your citation, if I recall correctly, or perhaps that was just because we could see the salmon.”””

  127. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Willis, the conversation was about dams reducing the cods food….
    no matter how many times I said “food” you didn’t have a clue what cod eat
    …and even less clue what the dams did to their food……

    quote, quote, quote, quote……..
    =========================================
    QED

    Winds and currents are probably not important to what Lat was saying.

    J.

  128. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Where did you see I posted a “huge surge in cod populations”?

    You pasted this:

    This has led to an increase in cod populations. According to NMFS, cod stocks on Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine are rebuilding to target levels, and the Gulf of Maine stock is no longer considered overfished.

    An increase to target levels seems significant.

    Cod populations decined because they don’t have enough to eat.

    But yet you pasted something that indicates that stocks are rebuilding to target levels. Why do they now have enough to eat?

    You guys want to believe it’s due to overfishing….then there’s nothing anyone can say to show you differently………

    WHAT????

    Many are arguing that the decline isn’t due to overfishing. How on earth could you now realize this?

  129. Latitude:

    I ask that you not be rude to people who are being very patient, in my humble opinion, with your somewhat bewildering use of the English language. You may think you are making yourself perfectly clear, but if you reread your words I think you will spot or place or two where a bit of self-editing might have been helpful.

    OK. If I’ve caught your drift, you now are focused on the fact dams on rivers can effect the ecosystem of cod, even though cod do not migrate up rivers. Yes. This is true. I don’t think anyone has said it isn’t true.

    What I would like to stress is that the rivers have been improved, salt marshes have been protected, and numerous other steps been taken, all aimed at improving the general health of the ecology. however cod stocks don’t bounce back. As you point out, populations of other sea-creatures such as eels also keep falling.

    What you seem to be saying is that even more drastic measures need to be taken, on the land, to help the sea. More dams need to be taken down, and so forth. Am I correct?

    What I would like to suggest is that we have done a half decent job, on land, but are continuing to dredge-net the sea bottom, which utterly deranges the ecology off shore. I think we ought consider letting stuff grow back on the bottom for a bit, and see what happens.

    Are you saying removing dams ought to come first? Are you saying dredge-nets scouring the bottom isn’t an important factor? Just curious.

  130. wobble, no where did I say “huge surge in cod populations”

    Yes, I pasted that….it was a direct quote from the link in the preceeding post….that no one read.
    It was not my words, “it was a quote”….

  131. Caleb says:
    June 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm
    Latitude:
    I ask that you not be rude to people who are being very patient, in my humble opinion,
    =====
    Please point out where I have been rude….
    …or is it that you’re so used to Willis being rude you don’t notice him any more?

    Caleb, all I’m saying is that cod go where the food is. No food, no cod…
    …The dams did away with their food

    I assumed I was having a conversation with people that are knowledgeable on the subject…You can’t have it both ways….

    Willis says I’m talking down to him…too simplistic too slow

    “Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 14, 2013 at 8:35 am
    Since I’ve known what is in your grade-school-level citation for decades, and I already told you that”

    and you are saying I’m talking over your head….too involved and too fast

    ” Caleb says:
    June 14, 2013 at 9:16 am
    I’m pretty confused by what you are saying about the migrations of cod. ”

    Anyone knowledgeable on the subject would be able to make the connection between low temp tolerance, food, dams, LIA, etc
    …and it’s obvious if either one of you read the links I provided….it went way over your heads

  132. Latitude says:
    June 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Yes, I pasted that….it was a direct quote from the link in the preceeding post….that no one read.
    It was not my words, “it was a quote”….

    Good grief. What was the point of the pasting the quote? You didn’t write anything under the quote, and you didn’t address the quote prior to your paste.

    You haven’t been clear at all in this thread.

    We now know that you’re claiming cod populations are low and remaining low because of dams (and pollution?) on/in New England rivers. That the dams (and pollution) diminished the cod’s food supply and continues to greatly constrain the cod’s food supply. Is this correct? Is this your claim?

  133. Caleb says:
    June 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Latitude:

    I ask that you not be rude to people who are being very patient, in my humble opinion, with your somewhat bewildering use of the English language. You may think you are making yourself perfectly clear, but if you reread your words I think you will spot or place or two where a bit of self-editing might have been helpful.

    OK. If I’ve caught your drift, you now are focused on the fact dams on rivers can effect the ecosystem of cod, even though cod do not migrate up rivers. Yes. This is true. I don’t think anyone has said it isn’t true. ……….
    =========================================================
    Caleb, as far as the rudeness goes, it’s a give and take. I certainly would have been much less patient than Latitude.

    It isn’t that anyone said it was or wasn’t true. No one did. But, they did take an antagonistic attitude to the messenger. Which, is bizarre and illogical. It’s not the seals, it’s not humans, it’s the fact that there isn’t a good food source for the cod. I don’t believe Lat is advocating tearing up dams. He’s simply stating what is.

    As far as the food sources returning. …. maybe. But, that never guarantees the animals will return. Consider the polar bear. They were Grizzleys which got separated by an ice age. Today, there are no physical limitations for the polar bears. They can go back to being Grizzes at their leisure. But, they don’t. They don’t generally prey upon the moose or other critters like Grizzes do. They went and found other places to be. So did the cod.

  134. wobble says:
    June 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm
    You haven’t been clear at all in this thread.
    ===
    wobble, I apologize….I assume if I know how to do something, everyone else does too
    copy and paste the first line into goggle

    Not New England Rivers, where did you get that one?….we were talking specifically about the Gulf of Maine
    Food is the limiting factor for the Gulf of Maine

    …if this tread gets back to cod and fisheries, I’ll check back in

  135. wobble says:
    June 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Good grief. What was the point of the pasting the quote? You didn’t write anything under the quote, and you didn’t address the quote prior to your paste.
    ======================================================
    In days long ago, in a different time at WUWT, things didn’t have to be written to be understood. It was assumed the thread was followed. You have to go up to what Lat stated, and reference above to what was stated in response and then back up to what caused the response. Cntrl “F” is your friend. No worries, it’s just a different time and style.

  136. Latitude:

    How have you been rude? Well, to be so instantaneously and vocally certain your views are correct and others are incorrect, when dealing with a subject of any sort of complexity, is rude. It is even rude when the person you are speaking with is very likely misinformed. Even if the fellow goes “Duh,” or exclaims “Gwarsh!” like Goofy, it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt, if only because it sure is embarrassing to be wrong in a debate with a moron, even if it only happens once in your life.

    When you are debating with Willis Eschenbach you are debating someone few here would call a moron. He might call himself that, about a few of the misadventures in his life, however he is a person who can make most any misadventure into a learning experience. Perhaps you didn’t know who you were debating with, but if you are at all interested I suggest going to the very top of the right hand side bar, plugging in “Willis Eschenbach” into the “search” box, and spending a while reading stuff he has written. Before too long I think you’d start to see he has an amazing and tremendous set of qualifications, when it comes to discussing the sea.

    Now let us look at your resume.

    As far as can see your qualifications to talk about this subject are that you have read a pamphlet NOAA put out, and also went on a field trip, some years ago. Have I missed something? Feel free to toot your own horn.

    In any case, no one here should have to say, as if it was a sort of veiled threat, “Do you know who I am?” Willis gets respect not because his name is “Willis,” but because of the insights he brings to discussions. As best we can, we try to put our vanity and our fat egos aside, and focus on the details of an issue or topic. Admittedly it can be hard, when politics get involved, but even then we try to stick to the issues and not get sidetracked by ego-stuff that is off the point.

    It is merely good manners, and proper civil procedure.

    You may now ask me what sidetrack you got off on. I will say it is a sidetrack to focus on whether Willis did or did not say codfish migrate up rivers. In fact it is one of the most ludicrous and absurd sidetracks ever. Not that I minded it. For some reason the absurdity of the suggestion tickled me, and I needed a good laugh.

  137. RE: James Sexton says:
    June 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Regarding whether or not the food source can return, I think polar bears are a bad analogy for Cod. They are a single species, switching from moose to seals as a food source. When we are talking about Cod I think we are not talking about a single species moving to a new food source, but rather an entire ecosystem, the Grand Banks and Not-so-grand Banks, under duress. A better analogy would be the deep forests of Carolina pines northwest of Charleston right after Hurricane Hugo snapped all the trunks like match sticks, and turned a shaded, mossy, cool, damp forest floor to a baking hot desert, exposed to the blistering Carolina sunshine. It is the entire ecosystem, and not a single species, that goes into shock.

    A bad forest fire, one that involves the tree tops, does the same thing. Right afterwards you would swear the place could never recover. A whole bunch of plants and critters becomes locally extinct, as a whole new bunch of plants and critters invade. Then there is a whole succession of ecosystem changes, until at long last you are back to that forest of pine. Nature has an amazing ability to heal itself, and to recover from shocks as devastating as the explosion of Mount Saint Helen.

    Now, as Willis described the effect of drag-netting, it is sort of the same effect as a forest fire, however on the Banks nature never has time to recover before the next fire comes along. Before the seaweed, crabs and deep-water clams can regrow the next drag net comes plowing by, over and over again.

    As we have talked about the food sources for Cod on the Banks, we have drifted rather far afield, I fear, because we have headed up to the headwaters of rivers in Maine, and have forgotten a lot of the food sources are home-grown, on the Banks themselves. The water out there is not blue; it is green, the plankton is so rich.

    To look too far afield, and not look at the Banks themselves, is a bit like ignoring the charred tree-trunks all around you after a forest fire, and pointing at a distant mountain as the cause of local extinctions.

    At the very least they ought to have an experimental area where no drag-netting is allowed, and a before-and-after study of how that area changes once the bottom isn’t constantly churned and re-churned by plowing nets. My hypothesis would be that the ecosystem would recover, and pictures of the seabottom in the area of the experiment would be radically different than pictures outside the area, even after a year, and the differences would only grow as year followed year.

    It seems so logical to me that I wonder if such an experiment has already been done. Didn’t they stop fishing altogether in Canada, for a while? Did they take before and after pictures of the sea bottom?

  138. It is a bit frightening because it seems like yesterday to be personally able to look back over fifty years ago and remember shoals of bait fish and the gulls, terns mackerel and pollack just going wild on the surface. Pogies so thick that when they ran into coves they would deplete the oxygen and make an ungodly rotten mess and smell that would gag a maggot. WIllis, a pogy kill makes Russian river on the Kenai smell like a sweet tea rose.

    I do believe that there is something to the observation that the bait fish are gone and this was the easy food for the cod. We fished with clams or jigged a foot and a half off the bottom. Like halibut which you would think were one sided stick to the bottom fish, they would follow the bait even up to the surface. When you opened them up to see what they were eating it was clear that when the bait fish were in they were full of them. They were also opportunistic feeders. No bait fish and they have had to make due. The depletion of the bait fish by over fishing has to have effected the success and speed of the recovery.

    Like three men each grabbing a part of the elephant, each can argue all they want about the significance of the part that they hold dear but relax it is still an elephant. We need to stand back and put all of the information together to understand how we find ourselves in a place we would have preferred to have avoided. We need to make good decisions and consider the humans that are suffering from the tragedy as well as the fishes. There is a balance here too.

    There is hope, on June 6th there was a wildly successful sturgeon tagging operation on the Saco River. It was reported in the Portland Press Herald. One was 7 feet long. There was a good number of short nose too. These rivers can recover. The damage we have done in 350+ years will not reverse itself over night or even in several life times. Sometimes wisdom is gained by making or observing a mistake.

    There is occasional good news but my days will run out before the recovery is robust. I think we should be a wiser species at that time.
    Cheers!

  139. Is it safe to come back?

    Caleb,
    Your question made me do a little research I should have done long ago on the shrimp fishery that replaced the cod fishery on the Grand Banks. Sadly, it turns out that shrimp are being fished using demersal otter trawls. I think that the pictures of the bottoms, if taken, would be comparing ‘after’ with ‘even more after’. I also discovered that there is minimal regulation of this fishery. It seems the DFO does not learn from experience – and of course the shrimp are now in decline.

    I now understand why there are repeated calls for marine protected areas. At the very least there should be large areas protected from dragging, if not from other forms of fishing.

  140. It seems, although it’s hard to tell, that Latitude is claiming that the damming of rivers in New England is the cause of the codfish decline.

    This seems wildly far-fetched to me, for several reasons. As a result, I have left Latitude to present his case.

    However, it seems some people might actually believe him … so let me point out a few things that make his claim highly unlikely.

    1. While inshore nurseries, including things like mangrove swamps, wetlands, and rivers are an important source of food for nearshore fish, for offshore fish like many of the cod stocks, the coast and the rivers are too far away to do much of anything.

    2. The decrease in cod started with the Northern stocks, up in Canada, in regions where there are very few inshore dams or human construction. So we can be very sure that Latitudes hypotheticals don’t apply there.

    3. There have been a host of improvements in the inshore habitat in New England, including the removal of some dams. Despite this, the cod have not recovered.

    4. As far as I’ve seen, Latitude has not shown that all, part, or little of the cod’s diet is food that comes from inland as he claims. As an experienced fisherman who has likely worn out more seabags than Latitude has worn out socks, I doubt it greatly. The ocean is a huge place, where even the biggest river has little weight. I would bet big money that a stock of Cod on the Grand Banks are mostly locavores … hang on, let me take a look, I’ve never researched this question.

    OK, here’s the information Latitude forgot to include. See Table 2 here for the major food items on the codfishes’ plates, and Table 3 for the minor food items. The major food items for cod depend on location, but the main contestants for adult cod are herring, capelin, lance, mackerel, crabs, mollusks, invertebrates, starfish, and shrimp… curiously, the salmon and sturgeon, which I couldn’t figure why Latitude was discussing, do not occur at all on the list of food items in Table 2, or even in Table 3, the minor food items.

    Please notice that as far as I can see, not one of the food items in that exhaustive list of cod foods major and minor comes from the rivers. Perhaps there’s one on the list I didn’t see, but by and large, the cod are NOT eating salmon, shad, sturgeon, or alewives, the major fish that live in the New England or other rivers and return to the oceans.

    So I call BS on the idea that the inshore habitat is what caused the decline in cod. I couldn’t believe that Latitude was making that curious claim, so it’s taken me a while to respond. But if I do finally understand what Latitude is saying, his claim is not supported by the evidence of what cod actually eat.

    Finally, the idea that a huge school of cod a hundred miles from the coast is critically dependent on food from inshore is a very dubious claim to any commercial fisherman. The ocean is far too big for that to happen, and there’s no UPS to deliver the tons of shad that would be required. That’s why it took so long for me to understand what Latitude’s claim actually was, because it seemed so unlikely that he could believe that the cod were limited by the bounty of the rivers.

    w.

    PS—I notice that after boasting about his employment giving him deep insight into these matters, saying

    Willis, I’m not the student…I’m the teacher
    …you don’t know what my profession is

    … despite that claim, Latitude still hasn’t revealed his profession.

    You gonna put your money where your mouth is, Latitude, and explain to us how your profession qualifies you to teach these matters? Or is this just more of your bait-and-switch style?

  141. Wow that is a first for Me here that I wasn’t waiting in moderation???? What’s up with that?

  142. RE: Willis:
    Interesting point about the Cod stocks dropping first up north, where the rivers weren’t polluted and there were far fewer dams. Also great use of the word “locavore.” (I am going to steal it.)

    I suppose a final pettifogging detail would be to look at that the chart which shows what the codfish eat, and see whether those species are also are locavores. Also double-check how close to shore codfish move when they breed.

    RE: Vigilantfish.

    Sad to hear the shrimp stocks are dropping. I wonder if they can be fished without dragging along the bottom. It would be hard to line-fish shrimp. (:

    I knew some guys who switched from cod to shrimp. Also some who switched to bringing tourists out to fish. They were not people who wanted to work on land. I think if they knew dragging might force them all to work ashore, they might demand all dragging stop.

    RE: Me

    Ouch! However, if we were the 97% crowd, and this was Real Climate, Latitude (and you) would be snipped, and I’d still be going on about building floating hatcheries. Instead we have all grown at least a little, I think. Thanks a third time to all who contributed their thoughts.

  143. WRT the impact of seals: I have visited Cape Cod every summer of my (not short) life. Seals were simply killed by fishermen in the past, and now that is a felony. The beaches where seals haul out by the thousands are stinking cesspits…. yet walking your dog on the beach is prohibited many places; too much chance the dog might relieve itself! Seals eat most any species of fish they can. They follow boats that are fishing hook and line, and take whatever is caught before it can be boated. People often give up and go home after losing several fish (plus gear) in a row to seals. They are very cute, but don’t pay much attention to maximum take limits or minimum fish sizes…

    Seals are a serious problem that political correctness prohibits from being addressed. The only practical solution is a deep cull and limiting numbers to a reasonable level (10-20% of today?) thereafter, but it seems the chance of this ever happening is near zero, no matter how many people end up being maimed or killed by Great Whites, and no matter how much ecological, commercial, and recreational damage the seals do. It is Alice-in-Wonderland on Cape Cod.

  144. Me says:
    June 15, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Willis, you are starting to sound like the 97% crowd, Just saying!

    And you, on the other hand, sound like a nasty anonymous internet popop, someone only interested in slimy personal attacks without any foundation or evidence to back them up. If you were serious about your objection, you would QUOTE MY WORDS that you think make me sound like the 97% crowd.

    Instead, all you present is a handwaving attack, throwing mud in random directions in the hope that it will stick to me, and in the process ending up only muddying yourself …

    Go away. Don’t go away mad. Just go away. Jerkwagons like you are all too common around here already. I’m bored to tears with brain-dead folks like you attacking me without saying why or providing anything but your big mouth and even bigger ego to back it up . You don’t seem to know how to play well with others, so my advice?

    You should go back to playing with yourself.

    w.

  145. I want to open a new restaurant specializing in seal sandwiches and charbroiled seal burgers. Will offer deep fried potatoes cooked in seal oil. Baby seal steaks will be seared to seal in the seal flavors. You will get a picture of a baby seal to show what you have eaten with every order.

    For only $19.95 per month you can help support baby seals that have been abandoned by their mothers at less than one year of age as is common in the seal community. You will get a picture of this young orphan and the opportunity to eat it the next time you dine. Show your compassion and relieve a seal from being forced to live in extremely cold and icy climates and avoid being mauled by polar bears and great white sharks. Please be humane and dine on a seal. It is entirely sustainable. You will be given one carbon credit for your own personal contribution to sustainability.

    You will be offered the pleasure to dine in our plush banquet room with sealskin chairs and have an opportunity to purchase a sealskin purse, wallet, gloves, coat, or underware. Soon we will offer travel luggage as well. Novelties will include stuffed baby seals with antelope horns mounted on its head and will be called sealalopes.

  146. “They also overfished the Grand Banks and our other offshore waters with deep, bottom-churning dragnets to such a degree the codfish population crashed. Even when the three-mile-limit was pushed far off shore, the codfish never came back.”

    Where did you get this information??? The cod fishery off Newfoundland was very lucrative until the late 1980’s.

  147. Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Me says:
    June 15, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Willis, you are starting to sound like the 97% crowd, Just saying!

    And you, on the other hand, sound like a nasty anonymous internet popop……..
    ======================================
    :D Gavin, is that you?
    Well played. You showed him by…… well, presenting a demeanor exactly as he was implying.

    It’s been fun reading the backs and forths, but, when it comes to attempting to compare sizes, and appeals to authority, and obsessing on the minutia, we know the conversation is probably no longer fruitful. And, when it degenerates into that same such mean-spirited condescension we’ve seen all too often at other places, we really know it’s ended.

    My best to all.

    James

  148. David Riser says:
    June 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm
    Fisheries is serious stuff, you need to keep your facts straight. Codfish are born and grow in about 200meters of water to start with followed by heading to the seabed where they stay.

    ??? Get your facts right! The depth at whch Atlantic cod spawn varies according to the stock (110m – 180m). The resultant eggs are buoyant … they float towards the surface and hatch to become part of the plankton!

  149. James Sexton says:
    June 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Me says:
    June 15, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Willis, you are starting to sound like the 97% crowd, Just saying!

    And you, on the other hand, sound like a nasty anonymous internet popop……..

    ======================================
    :D Gavin, is that you?
    Well played. You showed him by…… well, presenting a demeanor exactly as he was implying.

    James, the problem is that neither you nor I know what demeanor the anonymous poster was implying, because he didn’t quote, reference, or in any way indicate what he thought I was doing wrong.

    You are correct, I have grown weary and intolerant of people who do that, just toss out a random accusation without anything to indicate what they are talking about, or anything to back it up, or anything at all.

    I’m willing to learn from any man. And if the anonymous poster with the cutesy screen name “Me” thinks I’ve done wrong, well, perhaps I have. It’s happened more than I care to admit.

    But for him to accuse me of being like the 97% without a word of explanation?

    That’s just plain nastiness in my book.

    Now I see that you don’t like my response, claiming that somehow it’s like Gavin. Nothing of the sort. Gavin is much more politically correct, and much less direct and straightforward, than I am, and meanwhile he ruthlessly and invisibly censors everything that displeases him. If you can’t tell the difference, I feel sorry for you.

    But I have no problem when you quote exactly what I said, and then accuse me of being like Gavin. I can defend myself against that. You’ve made your objection clear. I have something to respond to.

    But when the anonymous poster “Me” or another of his ilk starts slinging mud without any details, I cannot defend against it. And as a result, I simply won’t tolerate it.

    I see that my method of not tolerating it upsets you, and I don’t like that, but despite some years of experimentation with how to handle folks like “Me”, I don’t happen to have a better plan. I’d like to be able to push the magic button that would educate them that their behavior is not acceptable in some way that was guaranteed to be effective … but I fear I don’t have such a magic button.

    So in lieu of that, I quote what they say and try to make evident my displeasure at those types of underhanded, mud-slinging attacks.

    And no, I don’t mince words when I do it. And if that truly upsets you, then I cordially invite you to go read Gavin’s blog, where this kind of thing never happens, and everything is calm and serene …

    Or if not, James, then let me cordially invite you to just ignore the skirmishing on the sidelines and enjoy the thread. I’m going to continue in my useless attempt to stamp out unreferenced handwaving attacks, and I’m sorry that upsets you, but so what? Skip over what bugs you, these random anonymous popups are attacking me, not you, and there’s plenty of good value in the comments whether or not you read what I write.

    All the best,

    w.

  150. Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    James Sexton says:
    June 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Me says:
    June 15, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Willis, you are starting to sound like the 97% crowd, Just saying!

    And you, on the other hand, sound like a nasty anonymous internet popop……..

    ======================================
    :D Gavin, is that you?
    Well played. You showed him by…… well, presenting a demeanor exactly as he was implying.

    James, the problem is that neither you nor I know what demeanor the anonymous poster was implying, because he didn’t quote, reference, or in any way indicate what he thought I was doing wrong……
    ===================================
    Willis, you’re hilarious. The problem is you’re oblivious to the commenters. Sure, you pay special attention to the ones who critique, but, once you do, you move on and forget. YOU DON’T LEARN!!!

    You think I don’t know what “Me” was saying? That’s laughable. “Me” has commented on WUWT for years. And, not just WUWT. I know exactly what he was saying, because I take the time to note. I don’t discard criticism. I take the time to try and understand where it comes from and why. But, that’s what any normal rational person would do. But, you don’t do that. You never have…. at least, not at WUWT.

    Man, I love your writing, I love your mind. But, you’re wrong more often than you’re right, because you refuse to learn, any more. You’d rather win an argument than be correct. And, I’m not sure you understand the difference. But, there is a difference. “Me” understands the difference. I know he does because I remember what he wrote in the past. Just like I know Latitude knows what he’s talking about. Pay attention for a second. If your Alzheimer’s doesn’t allow for this, well, I’m sorry, but you were probably an idiot before it set in.

    My sincere sympathies,

    James Sexton

  151. James Sexton says:
    June 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Willis, you’re hilarious. The problem is you’re oblivious to the commenters. Sure, you pay special attention to the ones who critique, but, once you do, you move on and forget. YOU DON’T LEARN!!!

    You think I don’t know what “Me” was saying? That’s laughable.

    I don’t know if you know what Me was saying, nor did I claim you did, although I doubt it greatly unless you’ve had private communication with him. There’s not enough information in his post for anyone to tell what he was referring to … but that’s not what I said.

    I said I didn’t know what Me was saying. I didn’t comment on your knowledge at all.

    “Me” has commented on WUWT for years. And, not just WUWT.

    So he has. Here’s a typical post of his addressed to me, in its entirety:

    me says:
    October 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm
    So you don’t know the basics of what you post on? Who is surprised.

    A charming fellow indeed, your friend “Me” … and you think the problem is that I DON’T LEARN from dickheads like that? Exactly what lesson did I miss in his brilliant, witty exposition on my lack of knowledge?

    I know exactly what he was saying, because I take the time to note. I don’t discard criticism. I take the time to try and understand where it comes from and why. But, that’s what any normal rational person would do. But, you don’t do that. You never have…. at least, not at WUWT.

    Here’s the exact and full post from Me that you claim you can interpret perfectly:

    Me says:
    June 15, 2013 at 2:58 am
    Willis, you are starting to sound like the 97% crowd, Just saying!

    So … since you know “exactly what he was saying”, perhaps you can enlighten me. Just exactly which one of my evil habits was Me talking about? Was it that I’m krool and heartless? Or that I “don’t know the basics of what I post on”? Or perhaps was it my tendency to ridicule people like Me who specialize in handwaving attacks?

    Or maybe it was that it was that I don’t suffer fools like you very gladly? Which one do you claim Me meant … and upon what possible evidence are you basing your claim?

    So pick one of these, or if it’s none of these that Me is talking about, then please, break out your Magic 8-Ball, give it a spin, and tell us exactly what he does mean. You claim to know exactly what it is, so please tell us. What was it about what I said that is like the “97% crowd”?

    While you’re at it, could you tell us what the “97% crowd” is like? I was unaware that there actually was a “97% crowd”, I thought that was just more consensus nonsense.

    But obviously, you and “Me”, whoever s/he is, know not only that the 97% is real, but you know what they are like, and just exactly how I’m like them.

    Personally, I think you’re full of unadulterated BS on this question, and that you are talking out your fundamental orifice. There’s no way anyone could know what “Me” meant by that post, whether you’d read every single previous post of his or not. Your claim that you know is a pathetic joke.

    But heck, give us your cockamamie idea about exactly what “Me” meant, demonstrate your mind-reading talents, let us in on the secrets encoded in “Me”‘s post. Reveal all, tell us exactly which of my ways is like exactly what about the 97%. I haven’t had a good belly laugh all evening, so break out your theory … I await your explanation of what you know about his meaning, and just how you deduce it from his post …

    w.

  152. A brief summary of cod fishing in the NW Atlantic: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/moratorium.html

    It doesn`t mention the thousands of tonnes of marketable fish that were dumped in the late 1980`s in order to maximize landings of steak cod – this fish never came off the quotas. It doesn`t mention the effect on cod recruitment of unusually cold water off eastern Newfoundland in the late 80`s and early 90`s. It doesn`t mention the effect of an estimated 5 million harp seals on cod populations and that the importance of seal predation is probably underestimated as they are know to bite out the lipid rich liver from the fish leaving the head (and otoliths) etc. behind.

  153. Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 16, 2013 at 2:28 am
    I said I didn’t know what Me was saying. I didn’t comment on your knowledge at all…….
    =================================
    Willis Eschenbach says:
    June 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm
    ….. James, the problem is that neither you nor I know what demeanor the anonymous poster was implying, because he didn’t quote,………
    ========================================
    Apparently, Willis, quoting you has no relevence to your responses. Willis, you’re still hilarious. While I’d love to continue this wonderful dialogue, I find impossible to adequatly exchange thoughts and ideas with people who reject and deny what they’ve written in their prior comments.

    How is it you expect people to adequately respond to you, and your criticizing them for not quoting you, but, when you are quoted you deny writing such things?

    Take your meds. Krool? Naw, boorish, is more like it. Willis, I’m sorry I upset you. It was an effort to increase your ability to engage with other people who may communicate differently than you do. And, to get you to focus on relevent things in a discussion instead of obsessing on the minutia and harmless observations towards your demeanor. I see I’ve utterly failed in that effort.

    I do get a little defensive of people when I see needless responses. If you didn’t know what he was referring to when he mentioned the “97%” you could have just asked as opposed to writing a rant. But, I don’t believe you’re that dense. Alternatively, if you did understand the reference, you could have either accepted the criticism and moved on, or ignored it.

    I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to resond to demands from a fellow who will simply wave off what he stated prior when I do respond, as your most recent comment just did. Again, this thread has devolved into limited utility. I’ll let you have the last rant. I’m already tired of responding to your insanity.

    Best wishes,

    James

  154. Well, I can’t let things end on such a sour note.

    I had no idea idea that “Me” had any sort of history or harassing Willis. Now that I do, I think his last name may be Squeeter.

    The problem with mosquitoes is that it doesn’t do much good to reason with them.

    When I was a teenager a member of my gang had the nickname, “Pest.” He was a really good guy around 95% of the time, but 5% of the time I don’t know what the devil got into him, but it earned him his nickname.

    For example, you might be out hiking on a beautiful day, with everything lovely, and he would pluck a long stem of grass. The stem was the sort that, rather than having a seed-head like wheat, had a seed head sort of like a round, green, fuzzy Caterpillar. In a most innocent manner Pest would stick it in your hair and twirl it left and right. It took him all of three seconds, but snarled itself so hideously into your hair it took around five minutes to pick it to pieces and remove it. It took me longer, because I was always in a rush in those days and had to do it while walking. Sometimes even before I had the first stem remove he’d innocently pluck another…

    I tried to reason with Pest, but it was absolutely no use. He might nod, but even as he nodded he’d mischievously pick another stem. The ability to annoy the heck out of everyone (because guys had long hair in those days,) gave him a odd power: Merely by plucking and waving a stem of grass he could have everyone flinching and backing away, avoiding him as if it was a gun. Also he found it funny. Every time he annoyed someone he’d laugh until tears came out of his eyes, and we discovered it is hard to give someone a thump, if they are rolling around helpless with laughter.

    Some of the other guys just got fed up, lost it, and gave him a thump anyway, but I pretty much decided Pest was just put together in an annoying way by God, and I resigned myself to the fact Pest would always be a pest. As soon as I did that, I was much less fun to torment, and he took to pestering others more than he pestered me.

    That taught me a sort of lesson about respecting people for what they are, even if they are a pest.

    I tend to be respectful, even when I get only half as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield in return. (I suppose it is due to having a small gang of older siblings. They tended to demand respect without being very respectful about it.) This actually prepared me for life, because if I cared a hoot for respect I never would have been able to go the places I’ve gone, because I often had to sleep in my car and take bottom-rung jobs, like cleaning toilets.

    Sometimes too much self-respect can keep one at home, living with mother, because one fears it might be beneath them to clean toilets. However not enough self-respect, and people think they can exploit you and walk all over you. When things got that bad I tended to simply depart, and move on to the next situation. I wasn’t disrespectful to my former boss; I just politely bid him adieu. None of the “respectful” things, such as promotions, raises, pensions, insurance plans, had any hold on me. For that reason I’ve done things and been places in my life that respectable people haven’t dared do or go. Where they stayed stuck, I bummed my way onward.

    If fate had wished it, I might have bummed my way out onto a Santa Cruz wharf and set sail on the same ship as Willis back in the 1980’s. (Stranger coincidences have happened.) However where I would likely have shipped out as Bilge Scrubber Second Class, he likely would have been the guy organizing the escapade. As such, he commands more respect. It is simply the way things work in real life, and it is especially so at sea, for otherwise things get very rotten very fast, and you either ram a reef or have a mutiny on your hands.

    The blogosphere is a strange ship to sail upon, because the rules of who respects who are not very clear. I would like to think we would stick to the subject of “increasing the population of codfish,” but, as we have seen, something new and interesting appears. We get off track, and enter the world of how egos respect, or don’t-respect, other egos.

    As I said earlier, I don’t need much respect. Getting my writing published by Anthony was honor enough, and I rather enjoyed the ensuing uproar. People can call me all sorts of bad things, and it is like water off a duck’s back. Mostly i placate, however at times I may gently needle right back, to keep a discussion progressing. And I confess the original essay was full of needles, to get things started.

    In a manner of speaking I am ship-builder, boat-owner and captain of this thread, (Anthony owns the sea,) and if things get out of hand very fast and we ram a reef or have a mutiny on our hands, I am at least partly to blame.

    Well, things did get a bit out of hand. I spent a lot of time scratching my head like a captain on his first voyage, wondering how on earth to get the crew to quit brawling and back to work. I was glad to have Willis aboard, for he actually has been a captain, and when he roared I could study how an experienced captain roars.

    Latitude, “ME,” and James Sexton were like three shipmates who likely should have never boarded this ship, though at least Latitude scrubbed a deck or two by making two points that added to the discussion.(IE: “stock” is not the same as “catch”, and “coastal” stocks “might” have been depleted by the damming of rivers reducing stocks of migratory fish that codfish eat, peaking 150 years ago in 1870.)

    Two points, among a great many other good points, but Latitude seemed to think he deserved a hundred spotlights for his two points, and everyone else deserved shadow. He made his points over and over and over, and called everyone deaf for not hearing him, when he had been heard. The simple fact is that his points don’t solve the problem, and people said so. He doesn’t deserve a hundred spotlights, and people said so.

    However in charges James Sexton, defender of the oppressed, to save Latitude from….the other points people are making? To defend Latitude from the fact his two points are not even close to being central, and are actually at the periphery of the issue? I’m not sure, but I do see James didn’t bring any new points, (except to guess, “winds and tides probably are not important to what Latitude is saying,”) and instead said some very offensive things about others who confronted Latitude. I don’t see what telling Willis to take meds, or calling Willis senile, adds to a discussion of Codfish. All in all, James Sexton never scrubbed a deck for us, but did contribute to a mutiny.

    Lastly we have “Me,” who never dared step aboard, and merely yelled something from shore which had nothing to do with what was being discussed.

    All in all, these three took up a lot of space and time, and all we got out of it was two rather inconsequential points. I will remember them, if I captain another voyage

    RE: Jon. Thank you for clarifying how cod can breed at depth, and the eggs then float up to the surface. In twenty-five words you added more to the discussion than others did with thousands.

    RE: eyesonu Though you jest, a harvest of seals could suppy food, oil, and fur. It would be stupid to just slaughter them. 100,000 seals can have up to 50,000 pups a year, while living 20 years. The New England harvest could be sizable, and “sustainable.” Guys who hate working ashore could have jobs at sea, or at least on the shore.

    RE: Some commented earlier on the history of the three-mile-limit. Although I mentioned the 1950’s, I am well aware it went on far longer. When I looked out to sea, up in Maine in the 1970’s, there was so much light out to sea it was like there was a city out there. The reason I blame Russia, (though there were others,) is because besides sending a fleet, they sent a floating factory. The politics surrounding the madness of allowing them to sail so close and over-fish so badly could be the subject for another post. Like Global warming, it is proof politicians are capable of the most dunderheaded deeds.

    RE: Some people commented earlier about my brief mention, in the original essay, about people who sailed to our shores for the cod, (and one mentioned walrus,) long before the Pilgrims. I’d love to launch off on all the various views and versions and lore surrounding that subject, but that should wait until another post. The topic I was focused on this post was how to get the codfish population back up to former levels.

    I think the conclusion is that the protection of the sea bottom ought receive much more attention than it does.

    More study of the ecology of the fish that breed at sea is needed.

    I still think the idea of floating hatcheries that release very young cod ought be explored. However if turns out to be as impractical as wind turbines, dump my idea altogether. I’d hate to be remembered for causing there to be as many useless floating hatcheries as there are useless wind turbines.

  155. JonNL says:
    June 16, 2013 at 8:29 am

    A brief summary of cod fishing in the NW Atlantic: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/moratorium.html

    It doesn`t mention the thousands of tonnes of marketable fish that were dumped in the late 1980`s in order to maximize landings of steak cod – this fish never came off the quotas. It doesn`t mention the effect on cod recruitment of unusually cold water off eastern Newfoundland in the late 80`s and early 90`s. It doesn`t mention the effect of an estimated 5 million harp seals on cod populations and that the importance of seal predation is probably underestimated as they are know to bite out the lipid rich liver from the fish leaving the head (and otoliths) etc. behind.

    Thanks for the link, Jon. Here’s a study that does consider some of those things. The conclusions of the study? Overfishing was the culprit for the decline. Let me quote from their discussion (emphasis mine):

    Discussion
    The collapse of cod in Eastern Canada
    Our analysis clearly shows very high fishing mortality in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This high fishing mortality is much higher than these populations can sustain (Hutchings and Myers, 1994). It has been suggested that the collapse of the largest of these populations, Labrador/north-east Newfoundland, was caused by an increase in natural mortality in the spring of 1991 caused by cold water.

    Hutchings and Myers (1994) argued against this hypothesis. They showed that the components of the population were drastically reduced before this time, that fishing effort had greatly increased in the late 1980s, and that the ocean was not cold on a century time scale.

    Furthermore, Myers and Cadigan (1995a,b) showed that the methods used to derive the conclusions of high natural mortality were not statistically valid. Although we did not directly esti- mate natural mortality, our results clearly support the hypothesis that the populations collapsed because of overfishing.

    First, our results clearly show that fishing mortalities were very high before the supposed increase in natural mortality in 1991. Second, the same pattern of high fishing mortality occurred in all regions. St Pierre Bank and the Gulf of St Lawrence are very different oceanographic regimes compared to the Labrador shelf (Thompson et al., 1988); there is no known oceanographic influence that would cause high natural mortality to all three stocks. These patterns of high fishing mortality also provide evidence against the hypothesis of migration appearing as increased natural mortality in any one region.

    w.

  156. Caleb says:
    June 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Well, I can’t let things end on such a sour note.

    My thanks to you, Caleb, for your level-headed take on all of this. It’s true that I get impassioned about these matters, and that may not be the best response. You advise that with “Pest” when you stopped responding to his tormenting you, he stopped trying to torment you.

    My problem with that is that it doesn’t seem to work on the web. They don’t get discouraged. Instead, the lack of response encourages them to multiply and support each other. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that they get to see their immortal prose up there on the silver screen, or they just want to tear down because they can’t build, but whatever the reason, my experience is that ignoring them doesn’t work.

    I hold this opinion because I’ve been dealing with the issue of people coming in to my threads and making mud-slinging personal attacks for some years now. The only thing I’ve found to work is to step on them like the cockaroaches that they are. I have no tolerance for unfounded, uncited, unreferenced personal accusations, and I’m happy to make that clear to those that come crawling around here making such accusations.

    I’m more than happy for someone to show I’m wrong. No, not more than happy, that’s not right, no one is happy to be wrong. But I know that that’s my only hope. I know that’s the path of scientific and personal progress. If people don’t tell me when I’m going off the rails, I may not notice until it’s too late, or perhaps never.

    But vague assertions, like that I’m a “denier” or that I’m “like the 97%”, without a scrap of information about what I did or said that has so upset them, are something I won’t put up with. I will not allow a man to libel me in that manner and make no response. I’ve tried it, and if I say nothing, on the web these anonymous folks are only encouraged to post another nasty remark.

    I think part of the reason the web is different from your experience with “Pest” is that on the web, there’s always jerkwagon number two. When some charming and usually anonymous fellow makes some unpleasant and untrue statement about me, if I say nothing, you can bet that JW#2 will notice that lack of response, and they’ll jump up and say “Yeah, Me, you’re right, and besides Willis never acknowledges his sources” or some vague libel like that, again without anything to back it up. Then I’m fighting two lies.

    Someone actually said that on a thread the other day, claiming that I was plagiarizing ideas without attribution.

    I can’t let that kind of lie remain unopposed and unfalsified. I called them out. I said if you can find anywhere I’ve done that, give me chapter and verse of where I’ve done it, and I’ll set it right immediately.

    I didn’t hear another damn word on the subject, and the lurkers found out the truth about my accuser. It was just another attempt to attack my honesty rather than deal with my scientific claims.

    So I swat people like that. I don’t want them around. I don’t care if I insult them. I hope they take their ball and go home.

    I’ve found no other way to get rid of such charming folks, but if you have one, I’m all ears …

    And again, my thanks for riding herd on a most interesting thread. Like a garden, a post and the resulting thread of comments require cultivation and weeding, and you’ve done a good job of it … even including how much harder I made your job.

    Well done,

    w.

  157. Caleb says:

    RE: eyesonu Though you jest, a harvest of seals could suppy food, oil, and fur. It would be stupid to just slaughter them. 100,000 seals can have up to 50,000 pups a year, while living 20 years. The New England harvest could be sizable, and “sustainable.” Guys who hate working ashore could have jobs at sea, or at least on the shore.

    ==================

    I fully agree with you. There is a valuable resource that could be harvested for good cause.

    I just presented it in a rather unorthodox way. To be honest, I was just amusing myself. ;-)

    I would certainly hope that any of our PETA friends were not offended.

  158. RE: Willis.

    “….and you’ve done a good job of it … even including how much harder I made your job.”

    Thanks, and I was glad you came aboard. The graphs were especially helpful. It is OK if a job gets harder if it means you get more done. And if you hadn’t joined, the responses might have petered out after sixty or so. 174 responses is pretty good.

  159. Willis … yes I realize that overfishing was the main culprit … but there was a lot more to it than just that … just ask the fishermen in Newfoundland. Just because it’s put in a scientific document doesn’t mean that it’s gospel :) The late Ram Myers was very much a stats guy … I prefer the hands on biology myself.

  160. JonNL says:
    June 17, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Willis … yes I realize that overfishing was the main culprit … but there was a lot more to it than just that … just ask the fishermen in Newfoundland. Just because it’s put in a scientific document doesn’t mean that it’s gospel :) The late Ram Myers was very much a stats guy … I prefer the hands on biology myself.

    Thanks, Jon. While several people have claimed that “there was more to it than that”, you need to actually demonstrate that.

    The study I cited shows that the overfishing is both necessary and sufficient to cause the crash. And I doubt very much that there would have been a crash without the overfishing. So Occam would recommend caution in considering other causes …

    Temperature is considered and rejected in the study, and for very good reasons—the decline started before the temperature drop, and the decline occurred where the temperature didn’t drop.

    Inshore food lack was proposed by Latitude, but the cod live way out to sea, and the decline started in the north, far from the dams Latitude mentions.

    Finally, although the recent increase in seals certainly could have prevented the cod’s recovery, they’ve been around for centuries during which cod, seals, and humans all coexisted. So it’s doubtful that they contributed much to the decline.

    So when you say “there was a lot more to it than just that”, you’ll have to be more specific—a lot more of what?

    My best to you,

    w.

    PS—I’ve “asked the fishermen” about a host of things regarding the ocean. Despite learning many, many true and valuable things about the ocean that way, I’ve also found their explanations are often childish, superstition-ridden, simplistic, and self-serving … to hear many fishermen talk, there’s no species that have ever been over-fished, and taking a banana on board your boat is a recipe for nautical disaster.

    So while I am a fisherman, and I listen to fishermen and have my whole life, you have to keep your salt shaker handy, a grain is often needed …

  161. I disagree … there is a lot more to it, because of all the fish that was dumped, because of mis management, because the ecosystem was disrupted by fishing etc. etc. I have lived and worked in fishing communties and the fishing industry all my life … there is nothing worse that some scientist sitting in a comfy chair preaching about things they (and all of us) don’t fully understand. You can read all kinds of information into catch statistics, fish surveys etc.etc. but you have to realize that sometimes the science is flawed. Case in point … DFO says the cod stocks have not recovered since the moratorium … sure not offshore, but inshore, the cod are almost rolling on the beaches when the capelin come in and lobster fishermen are catching cod in there traps … something never recorded before (they are not all “way out to sea”).

    Of course fishermen have misguided ideas about what is going on but they are on the water and see things first hand every day. They are a tremendous source of information. You don’t know the stories and first hand accounts that I do … if you want I can elaborate further.
    p.s. I am also a marine biologist from Newfoundland.

  162. Caleb,

    Well done in bringing this thread back to the proper focus in a very civilizing rejoinder to the participants. I’m most impressed.

    Jon,

    I’ve never been to Newfoundland, which is a huge weakness in my work, but I did once interview Ram Myers in Halifax, and I have interviewed other scientists involved in CAFSAC or working for the DFO, although not about the cod stock collapse. Do you work in St. John’s? I note that you describe yourself as a marine biologist, not a fisheries biologist – which piques my interest, as they are quite different things. You critique Ram Myers as being a statistics guy, but I have the sense that so were many fisheries biologists on both sides of the debate about whether cold temperature conditions precipitated the cod stock collapse. In the mid-1990s, the DFO tried to defend its scientific record by blaming the groundfish fishery collapse solely on an unprecedented temperature change: Ram Myers used statistical arguments, much as Steve McIntyre does vs Mann and Briffa, to argue that something else had happened: i.e. overfishing. The Deputy Minister of Fisheries tried to shut Myers up by forbidding him to publish contradictory information or to talk to the media: I’ve read the heated debates about the role of fisheries science in cod stock management in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science from that era.

    Is it not the case that the inshore cod belong to various cod offshore cod stocks, that migrate inshore when the capelin come in? It was inshore fishermen who sounded the alarm about the drastic and progressive decline in the cod stocks in the 1980s, and demanded that the TAC be sharply reduced, because the offshore fishery was destroying the inshore fishery. I would assume that swimming inshore would concentrate the fish population in certain locations, but that they would disperse offshore. Perhaps very early signs of recovery? You have to recall that the 1980s ‘healthy’ catches were but a fraction of the catches taken in the 1960s, and the cod populations must be nowhere near the size they were in the 1980s. Perhaps part of the issue is defining ‘recovery’?

  163. Hi Vigalantfish … DFO historically always assumed the offshore and inshore cod to be separate stocks (rightly or wrongly). There was a big difference though in that offshore stocks massed and spawned in the winter … this spawning biomass was the main focus of the offshore dragger fleet … and it soon became depleted. The inshore stock appears to be a pulse spawning fish (i.e. it spawns over a protracted period) … I don’t know if this was something that evolved recently or not. Incidently, the annual inshore quota set by DFO was never reached.

    It’s pretty obvious that overfishing was the main cause of the fishery collapse … but there is a hugh amount of politics involved in this and in the so called “non recovery”.

    With respect to the science … I totally disagree with the methods used by DFO to assess the population sizes of cod … inshore they use (at least until recently) random transect lines to assess abundance. But everyone knows that the cod are not located randomly … they concentrate in feeding areas, typically shallow banks.

    p.s. all fisheries scientists are marine biologists :)

  164. Vigilantfish … there is another story here too … why do fishermen get paid around $2 per pound for cod in Scotland and only 40 cents a pound in NL??? Doesn’t that stink of corruption to you???

  165. Jon,

    I don’t know why the pay rates are so different but Newfoundlanders have traditionally gotten the short end of the stick economically. Are these current prices? Perhaps the big fish processors have carried on in some form monopolistic practices to depress prices with the sanction of the government – some form of crony capitalism? After all, they have been hit with hard times /semi-sarc. (It seems to me that the Canadian government is turning a blind eye to collusion in the oil industry, since gas prices fluctuate in lock-step whether from Esso or Petro Canada – at least here in Ontario.)

    My expertise, as stated before, lies in the first half of the 20th century, which of course is the period when Newfoundland was emerging from the truck system. The answer may be a combination of slick commercial practices and sociological factors: Newfoundlanders have not historically been in a position to drive hard bargains, and have not been in the habit of doing so. Again, historically, the industry has been carried on at or just above subsistence levels, and was the lifeblood of the Island – i.e. there were few economic alternatives for supporting oneself and one’s family. Even when the salt cod industry for export dominated, Newfoundland was tied to Caribbean markets, which did not pay premium prices for the goods, which were intended for slave labourers in earlier times, and the poor plantation labourers who succeeded them. Even after the market shifted to the United States and Canada, inlanders sadly had no taste for fish and it did not command high prices.

    Scotland historically had ties to superior European and English markets and could get a better price for a highly prized food commodity i.e. fish and chips. Of course, the Scots are well-known for their fiscal prudence, as well!

    What is your area of expertise (if you don’t mind)?

  166. RE: JonNL

    Where is it the Cod are again found inshore, in lobster traps? Up in Newfoundland?

    My Dad took me out with a lobsterman in the waters off Brewster on Cape Cod, back in 1966, when the traps were made of wood. I remember being impressed by all the stuff besides lobsters in the traps. Some stuff he threw back, some he kept for bait, and some he kept to bring home for his wife to cook. There was a dead sand shark (dogfish) twice as long as a trap that had somehow managed to get into the trap, folding itself in half. That was bait. There were fish, some of which I think may have been Cod, alive and well and flopping in the traps. There were various kinds of crabs and starfish, and also lots of green sea urchins, which the lobsterman had no use for, but my Dad had learned from an European fisherman had edible roe. I can remember the surprise on the lobsterman’s face as my Dad took out his jack knife, cut the urchin open, and slurped up some raw, orange roe. (I didn’t like it much…too bitter for my teenaged tastes.)

    I think it is good news that the Cod are coming back inshore anywhere.

  167. Meso predators. Matt Ridley has a piece, titled Badgers versus Hedgehogs, at his blog that seems relevant to this.

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