What Happened to Cod?

After the peak catches of the 1880s, Gloucester fishermen continued to work coastal and offshore waters. In the 20th century, they typically used diesel- and gasoline-powered vessels called trawlers that pulled large nets to catch cod, haddock, flounder, and other fish.

Foreign trawlers began to appear in the 1950s, and a decade later huge factory trawlers from nations around the globe were capturing tons of fish. In 1977, the United States and Canada banned foreign trawlers from the fishing grounds. With foreign competition gone, the American and Canadian fleets soon expanded and the stocks of cod declined further. In the 1990s, both nations agreed to close much of George’s Bank to fishing for bottom-dwelling species like cod. Today, most cod at supermarkets was not caught in the North Atlantic.

Cod Coffin

In 1992, Canada declared a moratorium on cod fishing in its Atlantic coastal waters. Fisherman Dan Murphy of Dunville, Newfoundland, made this cod-in-a-coffin to express his view of the decision and its impact on his livelihood. He sold these coffins at a local flea market.