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The brains of Newfoundland

It was the final item on the early morning national radio news recently and I was surely not alone among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians wearing broad smiles at what we heard.

Peter Pickersgill.

Twenty-three years after the dreadful announcement of the northern cod moratorium, our Codfather, Dr. George Rose, released the report of his findings on the recovery of the Fish. The Fish with a capital “F.”

The codfish, Gadus morhua, was so revered by my dear old friend Fred, a lifelong fisherman in Salvage, that he used to call them “the brains of Newfoundland.”

The Fish are back declared Dr. Rose, and in abundance. Likely two hundred thousand tonnes or more, over double the estimated population when the fishery was shut down. Good news, and there is better still. Among that massive number are “plenty” of large spawning fish whose presence will further accelerate the upward curve of repopulation. The brains of Newfoundland are back. Those of us who live around the shore among the fishers have known for some years now that the Fish were returning, but these numbers were surprisingly welcome.

I found it missed the point, and was just a trifle churlish when my Morning Show radio hosts scoffed that in our neck of the woods, we have known this day has been coming for years, but it took Dr. Rose’s final report for the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto to get the message. Sure it did, but not all Canadians are riveted to the latest fishery news, and the report from George Rose makes it official for all of us.

Now our national broadcaster can spread the happy news to all of Canada and the rest of the world. Rejoice Newfoundland and Labrador! Rejoice in the fact that not only are the Fish back, but they have the opportunity to assume once again their role as one of the mainstays of this province. We lost our focus for a few decades when we were wooed by a worldwide whirl of addictively high oil prices and forgot there was anything else. We endured the last decade under a government that was addicted, too.

That government is gone now, replaced by another, we hope very different one, that not only accepts that climate change is real, but that green renewable resources are the key to an enduring and healthy world.

This new federal government is awaiting the arrival, shortly, of a new provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Whatever the stripe of that government, it would be in the best interest of all of us if we, the citizens of this place, treated these Fish as if we wanted them to last for evermore.

Because they can. We are at a crossroads.

The return of the Fish has given us a golden opportunity. This fork in the road, if we choose to, can lead us to a place where we repeat the same mistakes that brought us to the precipice of the moratorium 23 years ago.

Or, we can choose to think of the Fish as an example of how to better treat everything Nature has provided for us to make our way on the planet Earth. These codfish, the icon of this place, can become a worldwide example. Twenty-three years ago we were a spectacle. We had ruined a magnificent food resource that had fed humans for thousands of years. Now the Fish are back. It is our good fortune to have a second chance. We can not only treat the Fish with the respect they deserve but make our treatment of them a worldwide example.

The planet earth can endure for evermore if we stop strip-mining its land and sea and fouling its surface and the air overhead in which it wraps itself.

Our example can be the brains of Newfoundland.

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