Overfishing of Cod in Newfoundland


"Here we are two decades after enormous depletion of cod stocks ... and people are still wondering about the prospects of recovery" -Jeff Hutchings (Professor of Biology at Dalhousie University)

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Cod Fish

A diagram of the cod fish in Newfoundland.

Importance of Cod

Cod is a food source that is available year-round and was once vital for the economy of Newfoundland. Since the moratorium 21 years ago, those living in the area have needed to find new jobs, or face having little success in the fishing business. Many people in the area moved to other parts of Canada in search for finding a job, after their fishing careers had ended. Since there is no fishing of this species anymore, the once thriving businesses in the area are struggling. Codfish also play an important role in the marine life ecosystem. If these fish are gone, many predators such as seals and whales are unable to receive their food source. In addition, codfish are essential for controlling the populations of crustaceans, planktons, and smaller fish that they feed on.

Impact From Humans

  • overfishing led to the collapse of one of the most abundant fisheries
  • 100 million tonnes of cod were harvested in 500 years (WWF)
  • extracting fish at a rate that was not sustainable
  • bycatch has led to the difficulty of rebuilding the population due to the unwanted catching of cod instead of the other intended targets
  • pirate fishers who do not follow the laws and regulations set out by the Canadian government
  • trawling damages the ocean floor and the codfish habitats
    • these areas are vital for habitat and food
  • boats that release toxic chemicals and leak oil into the ocean effect water quality
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This is an example of an enormous catch of fish which was performed by a commercial fishing company.

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A Diagram of How Trawling Works

This is a very effective method of fishing that commercial fisheries use to extract cod.

What are we doing to help?

  • federal government announced a moratorium on July 2, 1992 (CBC)
    • at this time, the cod population was extremely close to extinction
    • was suppose to last 2 years, but is now approaching its 21st year on banning
  • development of new technology for better fishing gear
    • help promote a sustainable way of fishing
  • research and monitor the codfish populations
  • ban and restrict the amount of boats within the waters
    • this will in turn decrease the amount of bycatch of unwanted fish
  • immediately protect the most endangered habitats and areas for codfish
  • increase monitoring of commercial fisheries catch limits and their bycatch
  • purchasing non-endangered species for food


Cod Fish by the WWF by xokatherine5