The Cape By Any Other Name

Val & Jim Mellett

The Carriage House Inn

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.



Photo credit: willsfca / / CC BY-ND

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