Key Scene 1 - Cod Overfishing

Voiceover (Ted Danson)
We never used to think about where our fish came from. But in fact they’re wild animals. And we found that out to our cost for the first time in Newfoundland. For centuries the waters in Northern Canada teemed with unbelievable amounts of codfish. Legend had it that you could walk across their backs on the water. The cod was so plentiful the communities thrived on fishing. As the years went on technology improved. The boats got bigger and catches increased. The bounty seemed endless. Then in 1992 the unthinkable happened.

(News footage reporter speaks)
In St. John’s tonight angry fishermen vented their rage. They charged the room where John Crosby was holding a news conference, but security would not let them in.

What has once been the most abundant cod population in the world had been fished out of existence.

John Crosby, Fisheries Minister Canada
I’ve decided that effective at midnight tonight there will be a moratorium on harvesting northern cod until the spring of 1994.

Brian Mulroney, Canadian Prime Minister (1984–1993)
Either we co-operate in addressing it or there’s going to be no fish for anyone. No fish for the Europeans, no fish for the Canadians and an ecological catastrophe on our hands.

(News footage: Newfoundland Fisherman speaks)
With or without you, with or without you. And not only me, but every fisherman on this island – we’re going fishing.

Overnight 40,000 people lost their jobs.

Professor Jeffrey Hutchings, Dalhousie University
The cod is gone and I think within the context of cod, particularly in the Canadian perspective, is that this is a species that has been fished for centuries and centuries. Cod was the reason that people migrated from the UK, Europe – and Northern France in particular – to Canada. It was because of cod.

The fishing ban brought people to the streets. They hoped that one day the cod would return.

Charles Clover (Author)
The significance didn’t drop. Didn’t dawn on anybody till much later.

Professor Callum Roberts, York University
Today there are so few left that they’ve got endangered species status in Canada. The cod populations have not rebounded despite a moratorium on cod fishing since 1992.

In 2007 this research vessel set two lines with 1500 hooks. To find out how many cod were left in the waters off Eastern Canada. On the first line they caught one small codfish. On the second a small basket full. The cod stocks had been depleted to such a low level that they had been unable to recover.

Professor Jeffrey Hutchings, Dalhousie University
For Newfoundland, for a community for which the whole reason for its existence was cod. There is this historical ingrained element its part of society, permeates society and the loss of the dish is basically akin to a loss of soul. And it still remains that fifteen years later.