Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday scenes and scenery: the fish are almost gone

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The little port of Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard is getting dock repairs over the winter. Come summer, small boats will pull up here to be refueled. It's a busy place then. Now it is quiet.

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Menemsha is a fishing village -- the landing for fishermen bringing in the catch. Stanley Larsen sells what they bring him in a store next to the dock. He's unique in these parts because he stays open through the tough winter.

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The market sports a tank full of lobsters, buckets of clams and oysters -- and these offerings.

A sadness hangs over Menemsha these days. The cod for which the area is named are nearly depleted. There are arguments over what killed the fisheries; regulatory miscalculations, industrial fishing, pollution, and a warming ocean are among the factors. But some combination has left the Gulf of Maine cod population at only 18 percent of what scientists say is healthy and Georges Bank, off Cape Cod, at a dismal seven percent. And without the cod, there goes a way of life. Mandated cuts in the cod catch will echo through the human ecosystem. The scientists agree that the cuts will

decimate fishing communities across the region and have a domino effect on seafood processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers who all make a living off the water.

"The impact will be severe," said John Bullard, the regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who voted in favor of the cuts.

"It wasn't easy, but it was necessary."

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This winter, customers at Larsen's market come as much for the chowders as for the bulk fish. This tough New England fish monger has adapted. People do. But that doesn't do away with the sadness.

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