BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union nations have decided to decrease catches of some threatened fish stocks in the North Sea and its Atlantic waters but have fallen far shy of targets scientists had been calling for. ****************************************************************************************************
Why I'm an Environmentalist
It’s strange to look back and realize that I’m probably one of the last living humans to have seen, live and not on film, the great North Atlantic fishing grounds as they were before Mother Nature was gang raped by the forces of modern technology. I have seen the oceans from the decks of merchant ships and fishing vessels and I know what we have done to them.
In the 1950’s it was not only acceptable, but a rite of passage for the sons of fishermen to be taken to sea on a fishing vessel. In 1953, as a 14 year old boy, I saw the ocean that had fed Europe for thousands of years. I saw the fishing grounds almost as they were when Columbus heard stories that sent him to what was a new world for him, but one known to fishermen for centuries. That was my father’s world, and as an American boy in 1953, it was impressive. At that time a fishing trip took anywhere from 10 or 11 to 16 or 17 days, depending on weather and fish. It was constant hard work; 6 hours on and 6 hours off working and sleeping while floating around on a dot in the Atlantic Ocean. The attitude of fishermen towards youthful irresponsibility in a world of deadly heavy machinery and fast running steel cables, was what we might call "experiential education: " Well by Jaysus bye ..... you do that and you won't do it a second time." They were all old dory fishermen, the men Kipling described in Captain's Courageous, but now they were not handlining cod from a dory. They were dragging a net across the bottom of the ocean, taking everything, and throwing away what wasnt wanted. It didnt matter. The ocean was full of fish.
In the 60’s I went fishing again. In the 60's I was not a passenger, I was a fisherman. Things were different in the 60’s. The crews were the same size and the watches the same, but the world had changed. In the 50’s when the nets were hauled back they were almost always full. The “cod end,” that funnel like end to the net, would be so full that when the net came to the surface it would bob up like a giant apple in a tub at a Halloween party. It would be the size of 2 50’s Cadillacs, and full of fish. The 60’s were different. By the 60’s there had been more than 50 years of high tech, high energy fishing. The fishing banks were crowded, but it was a different crowd. There were no more two masted schooners like those in Kipling’s Captain’s Courageous. Even the diesel trawlers I knew were becoming old fashioned. It was stern trawlers and factory ships with fish finding equipment that could spot a codfish and give you its size, weight, sex, and favorite country singer in 50 fathoms. When the nets were hauled back the cod end didn’t bounce to the surface full of fish. Instead, if the catch was very good, it might come to the surface, but it was nowhere near the same. The fish would be cleaned and on ice in an hour, but there were still enough fish, and prices were high, so no one worried. We should have been worried. It was the final act in the closing performance of a play that had run for thousands of years.
Thirty years later, I had not fished or gone to sea for many years, but you never lose your interest when you have been exposed to a world like that. I was living in Maine and pastor of a couple of rural churches in Aroostook County when I heard a local fisherman interviewed on Maine Public Radio. He talked about the problems faced by commercial fishermen and how difficult it was to maintain what had been a way of life for generations on the coast of Maine. It was frightening. I was listening to a man who was in many ways as much a part of that grey green North Atlantic as the codfish, the lobsters, and the seabirds. But in spite of his closeness, he simply didn’t see what had happened and what was still happening. He had grown up on a coastal Maine island. His family had been a part of that island ocean world since the 17th century but he still couldn’t understand. He thought the 80’s were the “good old days.” Anything before that was legend.