Controversy over region’s cod population

Now fishermen spend more time avoiding cod than catching it

Re “Dwindling cod population no fluke in Mass.” (Editorial, April 5): Small family-owned fishing businesses operating in New England rely upon sound science. In recent years, reports for stocks like Gulf of Maine cod have gone from being overly optimistic to overly pessimistic, seemingly overnight. This flip-flop has justifiably created doubt and suspicion among those who participate in the fishery.

Further contributing to this skepticism has been the remarkable abundance of codfish observed by both commercial and recreational fishermen on the water over the past three years, as environmental conditions and oceanographic cycles have shifted. Today, fishermen spend more time avoiding these fish than catching them.

The Gulf of Maine cod stock, assessed to be reportedly near collapse, is instead becoming more and more difficult to avoid across a wide region. This is the case for many fish stocks in New England, not just cod. Many in the fishery today are left with questions about the limitations of the data sets, models, and processes that are used to assess stocks today.


Seeking alternative approaches to assessments that encourage better science and statistical reviews and offer small fishing businesses and their dependent communities some level of stability and certainty should be encouraged and praised, not dismissed.

Jackie Odell

Executive director

Northeast Seafood Coalition


There is more research to do
before we cast industry adrift

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We represent the Commonwealth’s coastal communities and their hard-working fishermen and -women as well as the scientists working to better understand how the fishery is evolving. We share a common goal: understanding the science that can get us to a sustainable fishery.

Americans will continue to eat fish, and it is in our best interest that it comes locally from a sustainable source. We were therefore dismayed to see the Globe, in its April 5 editorial, so willing to abandon ship on the industry (“Dwindling cod population no fluke in Mass.”).

There is no denying that New England fisheries are at a critical juncture, but fishermen have been abiding by mandated catch limits for decades. At a minimum, if the recent data on fish stocks are accurate, it shows that the science regulators are using has been outdated at best and incorrect at worst. In an age driven by science and big data, there is clearly much more research to do.

We can also continue to invest in innovations that will help generate more revenue from the fish we catch, build the market for alternative species, and drive progress in turning our coastal communities into thriving hubs of entrepreneurship and innovative marine industries.

Representative William R. Keating


Representative Stephen F. Lynch

South Boston

Representative Seth Moulton


Fishery needs to accept what science is telling us about depleted stock


Re “For iconic cod, study fails to calm waters” (Page A1, April 3): In a post-factual world there will never be agreement on any scientific finding. The fishing industry’s responses to dozens of thorough studies of fish populations are a case in point. Suppose other scientists faced such criticism? For Galileo: “The speed of those two falling balls was nowhere near the same. He certainly didn’t achieve a perfect vacuum standing out there on a tower! Besides, he only performed the experiment in Pisa, and it must be replicated at the campaniles in Florence, Lucca, and Siena in order to verify the results.”

Now come the rapidly declining stocks of cod in the Gulf of Maine, a trend that has been well documented for decades, and explained by the human actions of overfishing and possibly global warming. Yet once again we hear the same objections: “We need more studies! They weren’t looking for fish in the right places.”

What we are really seeing is the same politicization of empirical beliefs (sometimes known as “alternative facts”) that is affecting so many areas of our society today. And here, as in the debates over global warming, vaccines, and other issues, the outcome may be tragic.

The cod, which used to be abundant and a staple of our economy, are now scarce and possibly on the verge of extinction. It is a genuine shame that the people responsible for this situation cannot bring themselves to accept what has long been scientifically established fact.

Peter Dorfman