The British love cod. But as recently as a decade ago, over-consumption had driven fish populations “to the brink of collapse.” The tide has turned…and the cod have come back.
In the late 1990s, scientists estimate that nearly 60 percent of North Sea cod were being pulled out of the water, each year. In response, the government purchased nearly half the fishing fleet in Scotland…and destroyed the boats. Boats that kept working have operated under strict regulations, including the number of days they can fish and the number of cod they can catch.
The actions appear to be working.
“We’ve seen a big explosion in the cod and hake,” says Alan Mutch, who runs the fish salesmen’s association here. “We’re definitely seeing an upsurge in that. And in fact, now vessels — because of the restrictions on the amount they’re allowed to land — vessels now have to steam to other areas to get away from cod.”
Will it last?
In Fraserburgh, Mutch tells me he thinks this community can regulate itself. I note that some critics say that, if the industry is allowed to self-regulate, then every ship will be in a race to empty out the oceans. What does he think?
“I would’ve said 20 years ago, 15 years ago, possibly. But you’ve now got a breed of young fishermen who have gone through all the trauma that we’ve gone through. They realize that we can’t do what we were doing before.”