Back in the 90s I bored anyone who knew me about a book I’d read: ‘Cod – a biography of a fish that changed the world’. I’d tell people how the Portuguese actually discovered Cape Cod in the 14th or 15th Centuries, way before the ‘Americans’, how Baccalao, or salt cod, was part of the shipping system that supported the slave trade, along with sugar, connecting north America with Africa and the Caribbean. I’d also tell them how cod are can grow to more than 6ft long and live to 25 years old, and that when the Portuguese fisherman first discovered them (keeping the knowledge to themselves for a couple of centuries) they were so big and numerous they could walk across them in the water, and that cod have a special device in their bodies that keeps them from freezing in deep waters. An ability that also makes them impossible to farm, unlike salmon.
Dotted through this book were recipes for cod and baccalo that had me salivating, but before I’d even got half-way through, I was too much in awe of these amazing creatures, both their physiognomy and their incredible impact on human survival, and in despair at how our reliance on them as a food source and subsequent over-fishing was harming them, that I realised I could never eat cod again. And I haven’t.
Tragically, not enough people read this book, nor listened to Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall and other chefs in 2011 when they introduced their ‘eat different fish’ (fishfight.net) campaign, or heard of Fishlove, a photographic project that asks celebrities to make a stand to stop over-fishing.
Scientists predict that all marine life will effectively disappear from our oceans by the middle of this century if nothing is done about over-fishing.
There are now less than 100 adult cod aged over 13 left in the North Sea which has dire consequences for their very existence. No adults means no babies, which means no fish.
Do you want to be part of the generation that oversaw the demise of one of the planet’s greatest species, that’s uniquely adapted to its environment, simply because you couldn’t stop eating them? Or do you want to save them?
If you do one thing today, make it this, STOP EATING COD!