Water Closet for November 6, 2015
[pullquote]”Erica Goode in the October 29, New York Times, relates global warming to cod declines, especially acute in the Gulf of Maine waters, our sea.”[/pullquote]The Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, long economically identified New England to the world. Eaten fresh or dried and salted, it was transported inland, shipped across the Atlantic to Catholic Europe, and fed to the slaves in the south. A century before the Pilgrims, gutsy Basque, Portuguese, French and English fisherman discovered cod and other bottom fish in unbelievable numbers on the continental shelves here and on north. They came with hand lines and salt 3000 miles across a mostly unknown ocean in small ships we’d call boats now. The deeps beyond the reach of short lead lines were a mystery to those superstitious, largely illiterate men. Yet had they read about what was imagined there, they would have been further from the truth. Light from the dark oceans below 100 fathoms wasn’t seen until the mid 19th century. The fishermen’s boats were small; many in their crews couldn’t swim. No GPS or even chronometers were theirs. The North Star guided them to the right latitude along the coast; dead reckoning gave estimates of when they might arrive at the longitudes of the fabulous fishing grounds. Ships came by the hundreds each spring. Soundings and water color told them when they had arrived. Bays and islands along the coast where fish were dried and salted for fall returns were inhabited by Indians. Some helped them catch and process fish for tools and iron utensils. We know little of those times. Most skippers didn’t keep ships’ logs. Details of the little ships long ago departed with their builders’ minds. The artists of the time didn’t paint them. Merchants’ tallies found in Old World seaports have confirmed anecdotes of the tremendous catches. Cod was the chief victim and remained so for the next four centuries. A few weighed over 100 pounds; the average early on may have been close to 40. Now the mean heft of the relatively few caught is around 10.
In the Water Closet’s 11 years, sad tales of cod have been included too many times as new reports of fishery studies showing decreasing populations have appeared. Some have hinted at hope. Most, and the last received this week, have saddened. This summary of scientific studies reviewed by Erica Goode in the October 29, New York Times1, relates global warming to cod declines, especially acute in the Gulf of Maine waters, our sea. Outright banning as in the Maritimes, Canada, and strict quotas here in the states have not worked. The heat goes on.
Goode’s not very specific overview comes out of a team of marine researchers’ article in the latest issue of the journal Science. They say that from 2004 to 2013 temperatures in Gulf of Maine waters rose faster than in 99.9% of other places in the global ocean. The phrase global ocean is of interest. Usually we divide three-quarters of world’s surface of water up and give parts different names like the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian even though they are much more connected than divided. Perhaps this is a healthy 3rd millennial sign that nationalism is on the wane. And that global interests and solutions to problems will dominate in the future, and the terrible centuries of pollution and massive war casualties, such as those of the 19th and 20th will be behind us. We old timers in the Water Closet sometimes wonder at the presidential candidates’ hyperbole about violence and pollution now. When we were children during WWII tens of millions died in six years. In 13 years continuing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have taken only a million, still terrible but much less so. Man’s war industries and explosions, especially in the 20th century, polluted the biosphere and may have affected the fisheries. Technology arising out of two centuries of ever more high tech wars certainly did. Let’s hope new generations of more peacefully connected folks will use high tech and other means to save and restore declining species’ populations and their habitats.
Before you read Goode’s summary or its scientific source we recommend one of our favorite books on our Stream Team’s shelf to you. It is Mark Kuransky’s Cod.2 We’ll repeat a well known and loved historian’s words on this book’s jacket. David McCullough wrote after reading, “Every once in awhile a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight. Such is the case with Mark Kuransky and the codfish.” Two sentences on the same jacket from the Lost Angeles Times add another dimension. “A charming fish tale and pretty gift for your favorite seafood cook or fishing monomaniac. But in the last analysis, it’s a bitter ecological fable for our times.” It is much more than “pretty” and “pure delight” for us coastal Yankees who grew up hearing the history of our cod fish industry, so much a part of our forefathers’ lives. We as boys wanted to be like Portuguese schooner fisherman Manuel who made spoiled, rich-boy Harvey into a man in Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel Captains Courageous. If you haven’t read it please do after reading Kuransky’s Cod. Then go in the Massachusetts’s capitol and see the famous wooden cod hanging from its dome or better still visit the shipbuilding museum in Essex where 3000 plus Chebacco boats and schooners especially for cod fishing were built. Oak and workers from our towns provided the shipyards and helped crew the vessels built.
1 Erica Goode article – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/science/cods-decline-traced-to-warming
2 Kuransky, Mark. Cod (Penguin Books, New York) 1998
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Aug||Sept||Oct||Nov|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.37||3.77||4.40||4.55|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||2.67||3.97||2.8**||0.0 as of 11/2**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Nov 2, 2015 Normal . . . 23 CFS Current Rate . . . 42 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Sept..
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Oct and Nov.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584