Sunday, June 09, 2013

A once great industry on the brink - The Boston Globe

A once great industry on the brink - The Boston Globe: The Boston Globe
A once great industry on the brink
After tough choices avoided, future bleak

By Beth Daley and Gareth Cook, Globe Staff | October 26, 2003

Photographs by Bill Greene, Globe Staff

First in a four-part series

PORTLAND, Maine -- In the veiled blue of the sinking twilight, Knoep Nieuwkerk is guiding the 38-foot Hannah-Jo homeward, past the Portland Head Light, when two of his crewmen begin what seems an act of madness: tossing gleaming, freshly caught cod back into the sea.

One by one the fish hit the water, and slide to the ocean floor, dead. The 400 pounds of cod Nieuwkerk's crew dump that day would have earned them $600, at least, at the next day's Portland fish auction. Yet days spent fighting wind and waves often end this way, with the New England fisherman's most despised ritual.

The government allows small boat fishermen to catch only 500 pounds of cod per day and requires them to toss any extra overboard before they reach shore. The rule is supposed to protect the fish, but fishermen often can't help but catch too much cod as they scour the sea, meaning that every year more than three million pounds of fish are squandered in the name of saving the fishery.