Comebacks. Sports teams and aging rockers have them. Fish rarely do. But in a bit of good news for fisheries scientists, one ecosystem devastated by overfishing off the coast of Nova Scotia is showing early signs of recovery, a new study suggests. Here, Atlantic cod and other predatory fish, whose numbers nosedived in the early 1990s, seem to be struggling back, pointing to the resilience of marine communities, researchers say.
The once widespread Atlantic cod—traditionally, the "fish" in "fish and chips"—are now just as famous for their decline as they are for their deep-fried crunchiness. In the 1970s, fishermen harvested about 100,000 metric tons on average of cod, haddock, and other hefty fish each year from the Scotian Shelf. Those years of plenty, however, took their toll on the ecosystem as these big predators disappeared. In 1993, the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on cod and haddock fishing along the shelf after populations of these fish crashed. Despite the ban, the region's entire cod population has remained in the dregs, weighing in at less than 5% of its total precollapse mass.