Since the Viking Age, cod have been instrumental in providing food and livelihoods to societies throughout Northern Europe, allowing them to flourish for 1000’s of years. The primary Viking food was cod. It was cod they ate fresh and preserved on their raids of up to 2000 kilometers, allowing them to conquer many lands. In more recent centuries, fishermen, dock workers, boat builders, food preservers, and restaurant workers have based their income off of cod. Their economies depended on the fish. In the 20th century, new technologies allowed fishermen to travel farther, explore new territory, and catch more fish. When cod number stocks were depleted, everyone suffered.
Many people lost their jobs and food. As a result of non-regulated overfishing, the Cod Wars were fought. The Cod Wars demonstrate the need for international cooperation to further sustain cod populations and thus their economies, because no one country can protect the whole population.Cod were not only an extremely important resource in providing meals and livelihoods to the Vikings, but cod were the number one reason the Vikings were able to make their long, treacherous, sea expeditions to North America.
The Vikings were an adventurous type of people, and while traveling to new lands needed a steady food source. For this food source, the Vikings learned how to preserve cod. They did this by hanging it in the frosty winter air until it lost four-fifths of its weight and became a durable wood-like plank, and what they didn’t break off and eat themselves, the Vikings traded in Northern Europe. By preserving fish through air drying and freezing the Vikings could guarantee some form of food for their trading or raiding journeys, allowing for the Vikings to travel further and more efficiently than anyone else at the time. Also, the addition of being able to trade cod for services allowed the Vikings to focus on exploring and conquering rather than working for supplies. Another reason cod proved to be important to the Vikings was they provided jobs. The main Viking jobs were farmers and fisherman, and in the 11th and 12th century more than 60% of all fish eaten in Northern Europe were cod. Since cod were abundant, easy to catch at the time, and tasted great they were fit to be the perfect Viking meal.
Without cod, the Vikings couldn’t have been the dominant power they were, and couldn’t have traveled the places they did. This proves that cod were extremely important, even in the 1100’s, and need to be protected so they can continue to provide jobs and livelihoods throughout the modern ages. Cod throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, although far less abundant than they were in Viking ages, are still a common food source, and provide a substantial number of jobs world wide. Fish and chips, mostly made from atlantic cod are among the most popular restaurant meals in the United States.
Jobs such as commercial fishermen, dock workers, boat builders, food preservers and restaurant workers base their income off a steady population of cod, and when in 1989, cod size and numbers began to rapidly decrease due to new ways of fishing it left many workers in the fishing industry jobless and without money. In the 1990’s the Norwegian government realized its cod stocks were in a serious decline. It severely restricted the fishery, putting many fishermen and boat builders out of business, drastically reducing the size of its fleet. Following these events in 1992 the Norwegian area had an unprecedented 23 percent unemployment rate. That’s around 40,000 fisherman alone being put out of work. Cod more than any other fish make and have made an impact on both people and their economies. The various 1900’s discoveries of new fishing technologies such as steam engines, diesels, invincible trawler nets, fish-finding sonar gear, and giant factory ships allowed for further travels, and made cod an even greater target to be more heavily overfished. Now former cod fishermen, victims of their own proficiency, hope for the fish’s return.
The countless, modern uses of cod both for jobs, and for the economy, prove that it is imperative that governments work together to sustain the population, so we can continue to use cod as the outstanding resource it is.Cod was such a valuable resource in the 1960’s, it caused a series of three Wars between Iceland and the United Kingdom. Iceland was a relatively poor nation of only 160,000 people who were almost exclusively dependent on fishing as a source of income. The Cod Wars showed how seriously nations took their fishing rights, and the lengths they would go to in order to access rich fishing grounds. At the time of the first War, Iceland realized cod were becoming scarce, and saw the effects of overfishing. To stabilize their economy, they extended their fishing limits or EEZ from four to twelve miles off their coast.
The British, being stubborn and not realizing the effects of their overfishing ignored the new EEZ and continued fishing where they wanted to. The situation escalated when Britain sent Warships to protect its trawlers fishing in the disputed areas. The British Fishing Company describes this as a David versus Goliath conflict, as Britain had, at that time, the second most powerful navy in the world, while Iceland had little more than patrol boats and militarised coast guard vessels to protect itself. After several small battles the British retreated and made an agreement to settle all future conflicts in the Court of Justice. The second Cod War was in 1972, nearly 14 years later, Iceland now for the second time recognizing that its cod population was declining extended its EEZ to fifty miles. The British again choose to ignore these regulations and continued to fish within this territory. Icelandic Coast Guards started cutting the nets of British trawlers and even taking the British ship captain as prisoners.
Then in March of 1973 a British trawler Brucella refused to follow directions of the patrol boat to leave the EEZ. The Icelandic patrol boat began firing shots at Brucella and caused major damage to the vessel. Shortly after another British trawler C.S. Forester was fishing inside the zone, their ship was taken and their captain held in prison. The British then reached an agreement with Iceland that they would be able to fish inside the zone as long as they didn’t take over 130,000 tons of Cod per year, however this agreement was only valid for a few years. The third and final Cod War was in 1975, soon after the agreement expired Iceland took the bold move of once again expanding its EEZ to 200 miles.
This expansion not only angered the British fisherman, but also got the attention of other European nations. This fishing territory dispute turned into several intense battles including the “Battle of Por,” in which Icelandic patrol boat Por, and three Royal Navy support ships. Por was rammed by the British vessels so many times it began to sink. In an attempt to defend itself fired live ammunition at the British ships.At the end Iceland was successful in extending its EEZ, and today the 200 mile limit is accepted internationally.
The fact that Cod, a fish, started a War proves not only the importance of the fish itself to Iceland and the UK, but the importance that governments work together to protect and regulate cod in the future. If we don’t continue to regulate cod carefully, we could lose one of the most important food and livelihood resources, and there could be another Cod War.Cod is one of the most important food and livelihood resources ever, and this importance of cod worldwide to this day, proves the need for international cooperation among governments and fisherman. This cooperation is absolutely crucial to the fishing industry because as seen in the Norwegian area during the 1990’s, when cod numbers and size declined all classes were affected. Fish expert Mark Kurlansky says, “Everyone suffered from commercial fisherman to the common guy that likes to eat fish and chips.” To have success in sustaining the population, the current threats such as overfishing, and the possibility for another Cod War must be looked at.
To not overfish cod, only the necessary amount needed should be taken, and none put to waste. Also, strict regulations must be put into place not only on the amount of cod allowed to be kept, but also on the size of those cod. Cod size matters because cod do not become sexually mature till about 5 years old when they are around 25 inches, so if 20 inch cod are allowed to be kept they will not get the chance to reproduce. To prevent the recurrence of the Cod Wars, nations must respect each other and realize the effects of overfishing. Cod are currently at risk from overfishing in the UK, Canada and most other Atlantic countries.
As fisheries have become more efficient at catching cod, populations have declined. Continued unregulated, unreported, and illegal fishing, the stocks do not have a chance to recover. This proves that as a nation, we must have this international cooperation on protecting cod, or we could have a recurrence of the Cod Wars. In conclusion, cod have been an extraordinary resource in providing food and livelihoods to societies from the viking age of freeze drying cod, to modern day where cod is a top restaurant food. Cod not only serve as a food, but also as a source of jobs and economic prosperity, and when cod stocks depleted due to new technologies, everyone suffered. Also, during the time of cod stocks decline, fishing territories were disputed and the Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland took place. The Cod Wars more than any other evidence prove the need for international cooperation. No single country can solve this problem, it will require the whole nation as seen in Cod, The Fish That Changed the World.
“When cod became scare different parts of the world dealt with the problem differently. For example, Russia choose to ignore the problem and ended up losing almost all their cod population, but other areas such as Norway began to take steps to solve the problem and were able to sustain their population.” This proves that it is imperative that international cooperation takes place to further sustain cod populations and thus their economies, because no one country can protect the whole population.