An inconvenient truth from Canada


Another inconvenient truth
Ransom Myers, who died in Halifax last week, was never popular with the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. He was formally reprimanded for suggesting that the main cause of the cod collapse was Canadian overfishing, and he eventually left the department to do fisheries research with Dalhousie University.

ram_myersMyers did extensive work on a variety of fish species, documenting the collapse of stocks of large pelagic species, and most recently, the precipitous decline - by almost 90 per cent - of shark populations.

But it is his message about cod that people in this province should pay the closest attention to.

He was one of the early birds warning about a collapse, and about the effects of unlimited industrial fishing, and his stark comments were anything but welcome in the politico/scientific world of fisheries and quotas during the 1990s.

"The collapse was all blamed on the environment, on the seals, on the foreigners, when it was primarily Canadians. ... I saw that as the big lie, blaming it on anything but ourselves," he said later.

In "Julius Caesar," Shakespeare wrote that "The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones."

That's every bit as true in fisheries science.

Myers died at 54, with the potential for many years of fisheries science ahead of him. With fellow scientist Boris Worm, Myers was very much the canary in the coal mine when it came to impending fisheries disasters.

Not only will we not be able to benefit from the concerns that could be raised by his future work, there's also a real danger that this country's fisheries apologists will take every possible opportunity to bury Myers' research and opinions with him.

No one likes to admit that they are actually the cause of a problem; it's much more comfortable to point a finger somewhere else.

Because of that, the big lie that it's all foreigners and seals who are to blame for problems in the fishery is still very much in vogue in this province, and will probably continue to be.

At the risk of piling on the quotations, it brings to mind the line once used by Jonathan Swift: "There are none so blind as those who will not see."

Ransom Myers did see. He saw and he thought and he studied, and from all of that, he developed a bank of scientific knowledge on the East Coast fishery that can hardly be equalled.

But that doesn't mean anyone will keep that knowledge alive, especially when it gets in the way of our own preconceived notions.

In the end, we'll probably all be comfortable to stick with a convenient fiction, rather than facing the inconvenient truth.

And we'll continue to bleat righteously, "It's everyone else's fault!"

This Editorial appeared yesterday in The Telegram in St. Johns, Newfoundland.
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