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The Scientific American reports that a group of scientists from the University of New Hampshire have fully quantified how much Atlantic cod stocks have collapsed since 1850.
Using daily fishing logs from the 1850s--which recorded the number of fish caught, their size and their location--together with a population modeling program, Andrew A. Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire and his colleagues reconstructed the total biomass of cod that existed in the area at the time. The team calculated that there were 1.26 million metric tons of the fish on the Scotian Shelf in 1852, compared with less than 50,000 total metric tons--and just 3,000 metric tons from adult fish--today. "Despite stringent regulations for the last six to 10 years and a slight rebuilding of fish stocks, the best estimate of adult cod biomass on the Scotian Shelf today comprises a mere 38 percent of the catch brought home by 43 Beverly schooners in 1855," the scientists report.
What's interesting about this is that it finally quantifies just what has been lost. The collapse of Canadian cod stocks in the early 1990's proved economically devastating for much of Atlantic Canada (and fishing areas in Maine). It came about because of a complicated interplay of poor governmental management, overfishing, and environmental factors. It's an interesting (and fairly grim) topic. One to keep your eye on, as other fishing areas of the world are also on the edge of rushing over the precipice that the Grand Banks hit in the early 90's.