SERVANTS OF THE FISH by Myron Arms

SERVANTS OF THE FISH

A Portrait of Newfoundland After the Great Cod Collapse
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The sorry tale, grimly and searchingly told by Arms, of Newfoundland's collapsed cod fishery and the social and economic havoc left in its wake.

In 1998, Arms sailed with a small crew up to Newfoundland to witness the effects five years after the closing of the island's mainstay cod fishery. The cod had–and this is the soundest assumption among many–simply been fished out, thanks largely to policies set by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Arms posits that the quotas had been set too high, and his is certainly not a dispassionate analysis–he's furious that what was once a sustainable fishing practice, centuries old, had been demolished, leaving entire outpost communities boarded and mute. As he walks the empty streets of port after port, he recognizes the wholesale unraveling of the social fabric, all the while reciting their once quietly thriving histories. On the one hand, this is a sharp if woeful piece of travel reporting. But along the way, Arms asks questions about the factors that led to the disappearance of the cod–they range from the huge hauls of factory ships and inshore dragging, to climate change, to disruptions in the food chain–and he does a practical job of applying what science is known about these influences. Because the cod failed to rebound, fishermen have turned to shrimp, caplin, and snow crab–all of which are food for cod–and in a repeat performance, the government allows them to take large hauls. Needless to say, the cod will not be coming back. Arms also discusses the pitfalls of the prevailing aquaculture, with its environmentally toxic production of antibiotics, pesticides, and fecal matter in wild waters–a vivid, and lamentable, contrast to the small-scale, freshwater, environmentally sound aquaculture in China.

A simple, straightforward cautionary tale that foresees the distinct possibility of another fall from environmental grace. (8 pp. b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-942679-29-6
Program: Kirkus Indie
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