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The Sacred Cod: An Examination into New England’s Fishing Industry

The Sacred Cod addresses an issue that hits home among those who inhabit the coastal regions of New England: commercial fishing. Delving into the drama and disputes that surround New England’s cod fishing industry, The Sacred Cod examines a cod population in sharp decline, the scientists and policy makers who are fighting to save it, and the local fishermen who are fighting to save their livelihood.

The diminishing cod population in the Gulf of Maine is largely attributed to over fishing and warming waters, and has drastically changed the shape of the commercial fishing industry in New England. Scientists insist that fishing must be regulated in order to preserve the species, while those who catch it say that the strict quotas are destroying the only way of life they’ve ever known.

Throughout the film, the documentarians juxtapose scientific researchers, government offices, and political figures with men in rubber pants and old t-shirts, boats falling in to disrepair, and families who have been fishing on the Gulf of Maine for generations, all of whom have a stake in the cod fishing industry. The Sacred Cod explores the issue from all angles, and shows the consequences reaching beyond the fishermen and their families, to local pubs, one of the last ice houses in the region, and more.

After the Friday afternoon showing, viewers were treated to a Q&A with filmmaker David Abel. The Boston Globe reporter discussed some of the challenges that accompanied making the documentary, including balancing the many sides of the issue, and groups of people who are often at odds. The incredible impact and connection of local film-making was driven home when one audience member mentioned that she had attended high school with one of the fishermen featured in the film. Overall, the film seeks to tell the story of the cod and its impact as Abel says, ”fairly, thoroughly, and in a nuanced fashion.”

If you missed Friday’s showing, The Sacred Cod will be shown again at The Moffatt-Ladd House at 10:55AM on Sunday morning.

By Abigael Sleeper