A milestone in the war over the true state of cod

Fishermen argue that cod’s demise has been greatly exaggerated, leading federal officials to wrongly ban nearly all fishing of the species.
Fishermen argue that cod’s demise has been greatly exaggerated, leading federal officials to wrongly ban nearly all fishing of the species. –John Tlumacki / Boston Globe

For years, fishermen from Gloucester to New Bedford have accused the federal government of relying on faulty science to assess the health of the region’s cod population, a fundamental flaw that has greatly exaggerated its demise, they say, and led officials to wrongly ban nearly all fishing of the iconic species.

The fishermen’s concerns resonated with Governor Charlie Baker, so last year he commissioned his own survey of the waters off New England, where cod were once so abundant that fishermen would say they could walk across the Atlantic on their backs.

Now, in a milestone in the war over the true state of cod in the Gulf of Maine, Massachusetts scientists have reached the same dismal conclusion that their federal counterparts did: The region’s cod are at a historic low — about 80 percent less than the population from just a decade ago.

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