Who Killed the Grand Banks

While John Cabot's landfall may be in dispute, what he discovered is not: cod-and lots of them... Historic accounts say that Cabot lowered a basket weighted with stones into the North Atlantic, then hauled it back up brimming with cod. The discovery of these fertile fishing grounds set of a centuries-long struggle among Basque, Portuguese, French, and English fishermen, and established a pattern of far-flung coastal settlements, called outports by Newfoundlanders, that ring the island. And so the legend fits today: the Grand Banks became Valhalla, a miraculous, self-sustaining Eight Wonder of the world, feeding the known world for 500 years. The catastrophic collapse of the fisheries, circa 1992, was unprecedente4d. An ecological disaster to rival any other-the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest notwithstanding-in modern history. This made-in-Canada plunder was part human greed, part stupidity, and part rapacity. Tarnishing Canada's standing within the international community, it holds the reputation of Canada's once-vaunted fisheries scientists up to ridicule. Sixteen years later, no one has taken accountability or apologized for the ruination of a centuries-old way of life and, taken accountability or apologized for the ruination of a centuries-old way of life and, more shocking, a stock recovery plan has yet to be produced... There can be no forgetting-or forgiving-such catastrophic pillaging, Sparked by a second wave of environmentalism focusing on the state of the world's oceans, the Grand Banks cod collapse became a talking point, a sujet noir, now studied at universities and fisheries research centres, wherein students from around the world repeat this mantra: we must never allow our fisheries to go the way of the Grand Banks cod.