The Grand Banks is a continental shelf off the coast of Newfoundland that has centuries of abundant fishing in its history.

The cold Labrador current mixes with the warm water of the Gulf Stream. The water depth varies between 50 feet and 300 feet, very shallow considering the distance from shore. The mixing of these two ocean currents and the shape of the bottom lifts nutrients to the surface. The result was one of the most fertile fish habitats in the world. There was cod, swordfish, haddock, lobster, I grew up on the east coast of Canada and while I’m not into fishing, nor is anyone in my family, the port was only a few blocks from my house and we would go down to the port to look at the boats on a regular basis.

We regularly saw ships from Portugal, Japan, and Norway to name just a few. The local politics were often dominated by debate over fishing quotas. The argument was that it was unfair for Canadian vessels to be subject to quotas while ships in international waters could fish as much as they wanted. Eventually that debate was put to rest when the entire ecosystem collapsed and there were no more fish. There was an outright ban on fishing and now nearly 30 years later, the fish population is still a fraction of the population in the 1990’s.

Last month we had an entire week dedicated to the question of food security. On today’s show we are going to look at one of the richest ocean ecosystems on the planet.

The Galápagos Islands sit virtually on the equator and have been a territory of Ecuador since 1837. Despite being on the equator, the cold water Humboldt current brings nutrients for the Antarctic region up the coast of South America.

Combatting illegal fishing is a problem in the Galapagos as well.

In 2020 during the height of the pandemic, there were over 340 Chinese fishing vessels fishing in the region of the Galápagos Islands. Those 340 vessels logged more than 73,000 hours fishing in those waters.

The protected waters of the Galapagos are home to more than 20,000 species of wildlife.

Ships crossing the Pacific from China are not little rowboats with a single fishing rod. No these industrial ships are designed to harvest the ocean indiscriminately on a large scale.

The first warning signs of rapidly declining fish stocks in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland happened only about three years before the complete collapse of the fishery.


Host: Victor Menasce