The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
New England's Cod in Crisis
The already bad news about Atlantic cod in New England just got worse. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service have found that the cod population in the Gulf of Maine is at an all-time low. Virtually every indicator of the stock condition declined in the past year, to the point that the total of adult fish, known as spawning biomass, is estimated to be just 3 or 4 percent of a healthy, sustainable population. Researchers also found very few young fish, another bad sign. In a notice issued Aug. 1, scientists warned fishery managers in the region that the new analysis presented “a grim picture for the recovery of this iconic fish."
A solid body of science shows that protecting habitat areas in New England waters has resulted in more large female cod. Credit: Joachim Muller / talkingfish.org
This is a serious blow to fishermen and fishing communities that depend on cod. Previous estimates showing this cod population at about 20 percent of target numbers had already made it necessary to sharply reduce the allowable catch. The Commerce Department declared the fishery a disaster in 2012, and some $33 million in federal aid is being distributed to New England fishermen.
Fishermen and fishery managers begrudgingly reduced fishing pressure, hoping it would bring a recovery. But it is now clear that the damage inflicted through decades of chronic overfishing and harm to ocean habitats is so great that more is needed.
First, we must stop degrading sensitive fish habitat with bottom-trawl fishing, scallop dredges and other high-impact gear. Fish need places where they can safely find food and shelter, grow and reproduce. A solid body of science shows that protecting habitat areas in New England waters has resulted in more large female cod, which are crucial to the reproductive success of the population.
Second, officials should implement the method of fishing regulation that scientists have long been calling for—ecosystem-based fisheries management. This approach keeps track not just of one species at a time, but also allows managers to account for how fish interact as part of an intricate food web. Science shows it is crucial, for instance, to incorporate the important relationships between predators and prey, and how changes in the ocean environment affect fish. New England’s fishery management council has taken the first tentative steps toward putting this big picture approach to work. The crisis with cod provides strong impetus to speed that process.
Yet, some in the fishing industry persist in questioning the science, saying what they see on the water tells a different story. Scientists have carefully explained in a recent study why some fishermen may enjoy a temporary abundance of fish even while the larger population is in sharp decline. In short, those fishermen are catching the last remaining pockets of cod as the fish gather densely within small areas of prime feeding habitat. Overall, however, fishermen have not been able to find enough cod in recent years to even fill their quota.
And, unfortunately, this council is also preparing to gut protections for ocean habitat before they have had a chance to take effect. An industry-supported proposal currently under consideration would slash habitat protection by some 70 percent, allowing damaging forms of fishing in a combined area the size of Connecticut. Cutting habitat protections now defies logic and almost certainly sets us on a path to eliminating these fish from New England’s waters.
What we do now will resonate for generations. The fishery managers for New England must pivot to ecosystem-based fisheries management and commit to leaving habitat protections in place to ensure fish for future generations.
You Might Also Like
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The supply chain that provides medical supplies to the world is favoring the U.S. and Europe, which are outbidding poorer nations for masks, gowns, gloves and ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic, according to NPR.
A garbage yard in Lucknow, India where plastic bottles are dumped before being sent to recycling. Abhimanyu Kumar Sharma / Moment / Getty Images
Scientists have engineered a mutant enzyme that converts 90 percent of plastic bottles back to pristine starting materials that can then be used to produce new high-quality bottles in just hours. The discovery could revolutionize the recycling industry, which currently saves about 30 percent of PET plastics from landfills, reported Science Magazine.
- Scientists Develop 'Infinitely' Recyclable Plastics Replacement ... ›
- Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Find Bacteria That Eats Plastic - EcoWatch ›
Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.