Few fish are as well-known and rich in history as the cod. For centuries the species has played a unique role in trade throughout the world. Places like Penobscot Bay, La Rochelle, Southampton, Newfoundland, Dutch West Indies, Iceland and Norway have all been affected by the cod fishery.
The Basque region were unique among cod fishery, reportedly fishing the Atlantic far and wide, avoiding British ships centuries ago as the Basques maintained secrecy about the rich locations where abundant fish could be found. These people, along with the Portugese, have even been reported to have discovered regions of eastern Canada, long before Jacques Cartier of France discovered the region — along with John Cabot.New Englander’s owe much of their flourishing trade in earlier times to the cod fishery, where the lengths of these fish were equal to the size of man at one time. Spawning nearly 10 million eggs per fish in some cases, salt-laden cod ships filled the ports of Plymouth and Southampton, later to be traded throughout the Mediterranean. Indeed, those places on a UK map today bearing an ending ‘wich’ — literally meaning place of salt, were known for their salted cod. Though northerners and those of Scotland may have preferred haddock in its place when it come to ‘fish and chips’ — similar to the Nova Scotians.
The French and the British wagered cod trade and barter along the east coast of North America, finally resulting in the French being left with the islands of San Pierre and Miquelon in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that remains to this day. And no less than George Washington himself included cod as part of his election campaign funding.
Found through the Atlantic Ocean, fishermen from Iceland ventured to Greenland in search of cod, making maps of the fjords there — Gudbrandur Thorlaksson making maps in 1606. A vast North European network once formed, called the Hanseatic League, who controlled the salt fish trade — later losing strength due to the vast richness of the North American fish trade.
The ocean temperatures at which the species eggs hatch impacts survival rates and the locations of spawning fish. Today, speculation continues on their declining population, including ocean temperatures, over-fishing and ecosystem changes.
The story of the cod provides valuable insight into how important food is to trade and the movement of people and their survival. After all, even the Pilgrims arrived in North America incapable of fishing and knowing little about farm production. Worse, they did not like native foods. Ultimately, they returned to England to learn cod fishing before once again sailing to North America to begin living more permanently — and successfully.Links :