Northern Cod Science Program

Final Report 1990 - 1995


Ours is the first generation with the capacity to do real damage in the ocean. Our ability to find and capture fish has outstripped both the ability of many stocks to sustain themselves and our own ability to understand marine ecosystems and out impact upon them.

The ocean does not lend itself to easy study. Cold, stormy, dark and deep, hostile to humans without costly systems of life support, the ocean is like space. It demands as much of our budgets as it does of courage and imagination. In the Northwest Atlantic, pack ice and icebergs add to the cost and risk, menacing and obstructing ships for five and six months a year. Here, the environment imposes a high cost of learning.

Yet ignorance is costlier still. The Northern Cod Science Program (NCSP), the first really comprehensive effort to advance our understanding of ocean ecology in this region, was launched in 1990, at a time of looming crisis. Inshore landings of northern cod, the economic bedrock of hundreds of communities, were falling disastrously. Even the offshore fleet, which had formerly found concentrations of cod all along the edge of the Continental Shelf in winter, now found them only in one small patch. In 1992, the fishery collapsed altogether. Four years later, the prospects for northern cod and all the communities dependent on them remain uncertain. With the fishery shut down, the recovery of this stock is now entirely up to the fish themselves.

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