In the early 1990s the collapse of the Atlantic groundfish stocks signaled the destruction of life in the seas, but it also threw 40 000 people out of work, unraveling the very fabric of rural life throughout Atlantic Canada. Twenty years later, even after fishing moratoriums and limited directed fishing, the cod have not recovered and some stocks are on the verge of biological extinction. The fishing industry, politicians and government scientists blame the growing population of grey seals – a species that had up until the 1970s been severely depleted – and argue that a large-scale cull of the population is needed to save the cod.
In The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Linda Pannozzo finds that the truth is much more complex and that the seals are scapegoats for the federal government's mismanagement of the cod stocks, deflecting attention away from the effects of global warming and the continued use of destructive fishing methods. The collapse of the cod, its failure to recover and the recent recommendations for large-scale grey seal culls are stark reminders of how fisheries, science and public policy are increasingly estranged from each other.
An award-winning freelance journalist and researcher, Linda Pannozzo has written widely about ecological degradation and public policy. She lives in Nova Scotia with her husband, daughter and three cats.