For centuries, cod was like gold. Wars were waged over it. Settlers sailed across oceans in search of it. And early America relied on it to finance a revolution. Cod were so abundant in the waters off New England that fishermen used to say they could walk across the Atlantic on the backs of them, and generations of men from places like Gloucester and Cape Cod spent their lives chasing the coveted fish.
In recent decades, as the Gulf of Maine has warmed at an alarming rate and environmental advocates warned about overfishing, government surveys reported increasingly dire results: Cod had dwindled to as little as 3 percent of what it would take to sustain a healthy population of the iconic species. As a result, in the fall of 2014, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration banned virtually all cod fishing throughout the region.
“SACRED COD,” premiering Thursday, April 13, at 9PM ET/PT on Discovery, chronicles the collapse of America’s oldest fishery. Scientists and environmental advocates have attributed the decline to overfishing, climate change, and government mismanagement. Many of the fishermen -- who are losing their livelihoods and way of life as the species has declined -- have argued that the science is wrong and have protested the government’s ban. The film features interviews with fishermen and their families, along with scientists, advocates, and federal officials who warn that the plight of cod could be a harbinger for fish around the world as the planet warms and overfishing persists. The illuminating documentary tells a complex story that shows how one of the greatest fisheries on the planet has been driven to the edge of commercial extinction, while providing suggestions about how consumers can help support sustainable fisheries. It also shows how climate change is no longer a distant threat and is now having a very real impact on everything from fish to fishermen.