The Cape By Any Other Name

Located only 4/10 of a mile from The Carriage House Inn, the Chatham fish pier is the hub of Cape Cod’s largest commercial fishing operation. The fishing industry has always been crucial to Chatham. So, it may come as no surprise that at one time cod were so plentiful in this area that an English explorer noted how they “pestered” his ship. The year was 1602 and Bartholomew Gosnold was so taken by the abundance of the fish that he named the area Cape Cod. Now, flash forward about 400 years and if
another explorer were wending his way along the New England coast, he might be more apt to dub the area Cape Dogfish. I can already picture the hats and shirts, but there is a lot more to this issue than just a name.

Cod is the fish that launched a thousand ships and with its rapid decline, comes a lot of tough questions and even harder decisions. Some blame mismanagement and quotas that were too optimistic for the current stock levels. Others see agencies working at cross-purposes, one protecting the predators of cod, like seals, making it difficult for the fish to recover. And there’s always global warming. With winter water temperatures
reaching 44-degrees, cod stay spread out rather than coming together to spawn.

The catch of the
day – Chatham, MA

The reality is that the total catch of U.S. cod has not just declined, but dropped
drastically. According to The Cape Codder, in 1982, the high was 61,172 metric tons and in 2010, the number was a paltry 4,159. That comes out to a 93 percent reduction. While some are calling for an outright shutdown to avert extinction, the New England Fishery Management Council came close in its recent decision. The Council approved quotas of 1,550  metric tons for the Gulf of Maine and 2,002 for Georges Bank through 2015. Many say, they doubt even those numbers can be met.

Recently, John Pappalardo CEO of the Chatham based Commercial Hook Fisherman Association presented a three-part solution to the US Congress. “First, the fishermen
support annual catch limits, but they need annual fish population assessments to do this right. That means they need better information that is based on real-time catch information. Second, fisherman are asking for better community protections to ensure a small boat fishery for the next generation, and third,  they need new market development and price support for healthy fisheries such as dogfish.”
 
“This whole economy in this region is a really small micro-business economy,” as Frank Miriachi from Massachusetts put it in a recent New York Times article. “The fuel guy, the ice guy, the guy that drives the fish truck from the landing port to the processing centers, fish cutters – a job here, a job there,” he said. “It’s not like closing a big factory. It’s little jobs on nondescript piers that just kind of disappear and nobody notices.”
 
As part of the community of Chatham, we at the Carriage House Inn would notice. For us the fisherman, the truck driver, the ice guy are not just people who lend charm to a quaint Cape Cod town. They are an integral part of our environment and we hope they will continue to thrive on Cape Cod for many more years.
 
Val & Jim Mellett
The Carriage House Inn

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