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Culinary Cinema: Fish
by Mary Nyiri


At the markets in my Hamburg neighborhood it is difficult to find fresh fish that does not come from a fish farm, particularly salmon, which most often comes from fish farms in Norway. When I ask for “wild” salmon, sometimes a piece is brought from a refrigerator somewhere out of sight. I am told that the salmon is flown in “fresh frozen” from Alaska or Canada. Why not from Norway? Other kinds of fish are getting hard to come by. Growing up in Florida, any fish with white flesh was called cod. There are many distinctions among the types of cod, but cod is used to refer to different species for scientific or market/marketing driven reasons. How can you possibly find the best textured and flavored cod? A short film follows a small band of cod line fishermen off the coast of Newfoundland. A feature length documentary delves deeper into the big business of super-trawler cod fishing in the North Atlantic. (MNW)

Hand.Line.Cod: A Secret Mission on Fogo Island
Justin Simms, Canada

Just thirteen minutes long, don’t let the length of this film mislead you in its importance. Around Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in the northern Atlantic, traditional fishers catch cod by hand using a hook and a line, just one cod fish at a time. The boats are small. The mission is huge. They seek to drive up the price of cod. Anthony Cobb continued to longline fish in the traditional way. “We are people of the fish!” Handlining dates back to the 1600s. After a 20-year moratorium on North Atlantic cod fishing, the stocks are rebounding. This revolution is against the factory trawlers and for the reintroduction of sustainable fishing, which produces high quality cod. They are taking their cod to the commercial market for the first time. In Toronto, Lora Kirk, chef of Ruby Watchco Retaurant, sells the handline cod every Friday. Her customers cannot put into words how amazing the Fogo Island hand-caught cod tastes. Unlike most fish stories, this is not an exaggeration! (MNW)

Ristead Ó. Domhnaill, Ireland/Canada/Norway

Fishermen in three countries fight to keep their traditional livelihoods in the face of large-scale industrial fishing that is depleting fish stock, and the proliferation of oil drilling in their pristine waters. Actor Brendan Gleeson narrates the true hardships suffered in three small fishing villages in Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland. Once-thriving coastal communities have shuttered their businesses and lost many inhabitants.

Off the west coast of Ireland, Jerry Early knows that the super-trawlers from foreign countries are scooping up tons of fish. Back in 1973 the Irish fishing rights for over 200 million acres of sea bed were exchanged for agricultural subsidies under an European Union agreement. Irish fishermen allege that the super-trawlers routinely ignore EU regulations, depleting the fish resources. One ridiculous result is that under EU rules, Early’s community is banned from drift netting for wild salmon in their own waters. Early is personally being prosecuted for using a fishing net that could possibly catch a salmon. While he goes through the courts, thousands of fish are being netted by foreign trawlers lying not far off the coast, some of which is done in disregard of EU regulations.

Fishermen in Norway are also losing their traditional fishing businesses. Bjornar Nicolaisen explains how the thirst for oil impacts the fishing industry through seismic testing, which can create an impact as far as 200 km away. And across the Atlantic Ocean in Newfoundland, oil exploration and production has also impacted the traditional fishing industry. The money to be earned from working for oil companies combined with the cod fishing ban introduced in the 1990s brought the local fishing industry to a halt. Three countries, two resources and one ocean are embroiled in the politics of big corporations and independent fishermen. It is a tough story to listen to and watch, with pros and cons from each side, but one which must be addressed by three different governments in order to restore the dignity and livelihood to scores of disenfranchised fishermen who believe that fishing is no longer done at sea, but at tables and large corporations where they have no say. (MNW)