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Who Killed the Grand Banks: The Untold Story Behind the Decimation of One of the World's Greatest Natural Resources [Hardcover]

Alex Rose
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 36.95 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

April 14 2008
While John Cabot's landfall may be in dispute, what he discovered is not: cod-and lots of them...

Historic accounts say that Cabot lowered a basket weighted with stones into the North Atlantic, then hauled it back up brimming with cod. The discovery of these fertile fishing grounds set of a centuries-long struggle among Basque, Portuguese, French, and English fishermen, and established a pattern of far-flung coastal settlements, called outports by Newfoundlanders, that ring the island.

And so the legend fits today: the Grand Banks became Valhalla, a miraculous, self-sustaining Eight Wonder of the world, feeding the known world for 500 years.

The catastrophic collapse of the fisheries, circa 1992, was unprecedente4d. An ecological disaster to rival any other-the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest notwithstanding-in modern history. This made-in-Canada plunder was part human greed, part stupidity, and part rapacity. Tarnishing Canada's standing within the international community, it holds the reputation of Canada's once-vaunted fisheries scientists up to ridicule. Sixteen years later, no one has taken accountability or apologized for the ruination of a centuries-old way of life and, taken accountability or apologized for the ruination of a centuries-old way of life and, more shocking, a stock recovery plan has yet to be produced...

There can be no forgetting-or forgiving-such catastrophic pillaging, Sparked by a second wave of environmentalism focusing on the state of the world's oceans, the Grand Banks cod collapse became a talking point, a sujet noir, now studied at universities and fisheries research centres, wherein students from around the world repeat this mantra: we must never allow our fisheries to go the way of the Grand Banks cod.


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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

The end came officially on July 2, 1992: John Crosbie, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced a moratorium on Northern cod stocks. For half a millennium, the Grand Banks cod had sustained international fishing fleets, boosted the world’s economy, become the flash point in power politics, and was the lifeblood of generations of villages perched on rocky outcrops along the Newfoundland coast. Crosbie’s announcement was the final nail in the Grand Banks coffin.

What happened? For 16 years, accountability has been dodged. The media has been mute. Successive governments buried the shameful tale under layers of secrecy, subsidies and the “good news” story of off-shore oil.

The new cod-fishing fleets – technological juggernauts with the capacity to ravage a sea floor – have denied responsibility. A few courageous marine biologists have spoken up, only to find themselves squarely in the sights of government censors. The in-shore fishery – the small-boat fishermen who plied the cold waters of the Banks for generations – now reflect bitterly on better times.

When they saw the stocks decline – and their livelihood with it – they sounded the first alarm, but apparently no one was listening.  

Alex Rose asks who is listening now. The answer to who killed the Grand Banks just might be another alarm bell for us today, signalling future environmental and ecosystem destruction. And while theories abound as to what caused the catastrophic collapse – botched science, timorous and fluctuating political will, a boom in the seal population -- it is indisputable that the ecosystem of the cold Grand Bank waters has changed dramatically.

Despite a decade of rhetorical hand wringing, served up with dollops of Canadian official denial, Rose has salvaged one hard truth: the Grand Banks cod fishery was wiped out because of made-in-Canada greed and willful blindness. Newfoundlanders and Canadians, now shamed and embarrassed into a stony silence, worked overtime to decimate one of the world’s greatest biological bounties. In a frenzy of collective hysteria, Canadians created an environmental catastrophe here on our own shore.

As the oil sands exploration gouges the landscape of northern Alberta, as overfishing hammers stocks of Pacific salmon, the fate of the Grand Banks has become a cautionary tale now told around the world. There’s a price to pay when a society ignores its role as a steward of the environment. This book poses the question of our generation: will the ecological disaster that befell the Northern cod happen again?

About the Author

Alex Rose is a Vancouver-based writer and journalist who helped to write three Royal Commissions and Provincial Inquiries, including one on Canadian fisheries which resulted in changes to public policy. A contributor to the National Post Saturday Review, The Toronto Globe and Mail, and BC Business Magazine, he co-authored North of Cape Caution, an investigation of ecotourism opportunities on the British Columbia coast. His book, Nisga’a: People of the Nass River, won the 1993 Roderick Haig-Brown B.C. Book Prize and his essay, In Search of Meaning, was shortlisted for Canada’s 2004 National Magazine Award.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read- well researched May 9 2008
Format:Hardcover
Scary to read how many warnings the governments got about the cod collapse.
Yet they went ahead and allowed fishing until it all fell apart.
There is a section on how we are playing the same game here on the west coast with salmon.
We blame every other nation until there are no fish left.

The book reads like a mystery novel, as no one has ever found out what really caused the loss of this once great resource.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well, it's the trawling Nov. 17 2013
By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Rose notes the walls of silence that commonly greet him in Newfoundland's coffee shops, bars, or offices. The resentment of prying outsiders, government officials and voracious foreign fishing fleets is understandable. It must have been a tough book to research. But as our investigator demonstrates quite obviously, it was the Canadian trawler fleet that actually did the damage. After expanding it's offshore territory to 200 miles and claiming the bulk of the Grand Banks for Canadians only in 1977, the government-subsidized industry expanded it's fleet dramatically. The upgraded local fleet then proceeded to bulldoze the seabed and vacuum the fish stocks till the environmental collapse of 1992.

This book spirals about, giving detailed reports on the politicized corruption of government ministries, the parallel issues with the West Coast salmon fishery, the murky history of Newfoundland's Beothuk natives, and the new prospects of an oil and gas bonanza as the next big thing. Readers may feel the book jumps from topic to topic, though these things are more or less related. Sometimes the presentation is repetitious. But much of it is clear and compelling. There is some good reflection on options for the future, but not so much research in that direction. The book does it's main service in highlighting the destruction caused by seabed trawling, which levels the ocean floor like a clear-cut, devastating the food chain at its base. Hopefully rising awareness of that issue will lead to growing no-trawl zones.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money Oct. 4 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If anyone is interested in a serious, researched read about the Grand Banks fishery....then don't bother with this book!
The writing is all over the place, is repetitive and reads like it was written by someone who has an axe to grind; someone who flew into Newfoundland for a few weeks, talked to a few people, became an expert, then left and wrote a book.
The title is "Who Killed the Grand Banks" but goes off into tangents with full chapters devoted to things like the salmon fishery in BC, and the Beothuk Indians in Newfoundland; both interesting subjects to be sure but slightly off topic. The author could also have at least attempted to put the state of the northern cod stocks in a bit of global fisheries perspective.
This book just comes off as a disjointed rant.....learn from my mistake, avoid it.
If you want to understand the Grand Bank fishery, including a global fisheries perspective, then go to Charles Clover's book "The End of the Line", a book I would recommend.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well, it's the trawling Nov. 17 2013
By Brian Griffith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Rose notes the walls of silence that commonly greet him in Newfoundland's coffee shops, bars, or offices. The resentment of prying outsiders, government officials and voracious foreign fishing fleets is understandable. It must have been a tough book to research. But as our investigator demonstrates quite obviously, it was the Canadian trawler fleet that actually did the damage. After expanding it's offshore territory to 200 miles and claiming the bulk of the Grand Banks for Canadians only in 1977, the government-subsidized industry expanded it's fleet dramatically. The upgraded local fleet then proceeded to bulldoze the seabed and vacuum the fish stocks till the environmental collapse of 1992.

This book spirals about, giving detailed reports on the politicized corruption of government ministries, the parallel issues with the West Coast salmon fishery, the murky history of Newfoundland's Beothuk natives, and the new prospects of an oil and gas bonanza as the next big thing. Readers may feel the book jumps from topic to topic, though these things are more or less related. Sometimes the presentation is repetitious. But much of it is clear and compelling. There is some good reflection on options for the future, but not so much research in that direction. The book does it's main service in highlighting the destruction caused by seabed trawling, which levels the ocean floor like a clear-cut, devastating the food chain at its base. Hopefully rising awareness of that issue will lead to growing no-trawl zones.
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