Collapse of The Northern Cod Fishery - Introduction - Technological


A major factor that contributed to the depletion of the cod stocks off the shores of Newfoundland included the introduction and proliferation of equipment and technology that increased the volume of landed fish. For centuries local fishermen used technology that limited the volume of their catch, the area they fished, and let them target specific species and ages of fish. From the 1950s onwards, as was common in all industries at the time, new technology was introduced that allowed fishermen to trawl a larger area, fish to a deeper depth and for a longer time. By the 1960s, powerful trawlers equipped with radar, electronic navigation systems and sonar allowed crews to pursue fish with unparalleled success, and Canadian catches peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

These new technologies adversely affected the Northern Cod population in two important ways: by increasing the area and depth that was fished, the cod were being depleted until the surviving fish could not replenish the stock lost each year; and secondly, the trawlers caught enormous amounts of non-commercial fish, which were economically unimportant but very important ecologically: incidental catch undermines the whole ecosystem, depleting stocks of important predator and prey species. With the Northern Cod, significant amounts of capelin – an important prey species for the cod – were caught as bycatch, further undermining the survival of the remaining cod stock.

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