Dean Bavington, author of “Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collap

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
An Investigation into the Scapegoating of Canada’s Grey Seal

By Linda Pannozzo  

Linda Pannozzo brilliantly illustrates how grey seals have been politically, ethically, emotionally, and physically sacrificed to divert attention from the scientifically managed annihilation of Canada’s cod fisheries and their failure to recover. As cod face immanent biological extinction over twenty years on from a fishing moratorium designed by DFO to save them we learn that toxins from the St. Lawrence river are contaminating the habitat needed for healthy cod; that scientific diet studies on how much cod seals eat produce extremely variable results depending on the techniques used; that ocean acidification is influencing cod’s food sources; and that even complex ecosystem models of sea creatures fail to capture experiences with actual living beings and their endangered milieus.

The research behind this story of sacrifice is extremely thorough, balanced and up to date, but most important to me, Pannozzo provides the context behind the scapegoating of grey seals. Revealing are the many stalls, roadblocks and gag orders she encounters as prolific public relations staff attempt to manage the questions she is allowed to ask and the answers federal scientists are allowed to give in Stephen Harper’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We are shown the reality and rapidity of changes brought on by Omnibus Bill C-38 to the functioning of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. After much time and Access to Information (ATIP) requests the Kafkaesque episode comes to an end with a revealing email trail through eighteen communications employees in the federal DFO spread over three provincial offices.

But this book is worth reading for much more than the epilogue, the many complex issues Pannozzo uncovers as factors influencing the lack of cod recovery should be mandatory reading for all of us interested in fish, seals and other sea life. What The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea ultimately illustrates is the urgency of the need to change our relationships with fish, seals and all other marine life. Understanding the scapegoating of grey seals for the commercial cod fisheries collapse and its failure to recover is the necessary first step before beginning to reimagine and reestablish appropriate relationships between fish and people on Canada’s east coast. If a new relationship is established we will have reached a point where our culture can understand the true sacrifice and loss associated with the commercial extinction of the cod fishery and the fisheries failure to be encouraged to recover.–Dean Bavington, Professor at Memorial University, NFLD and author of Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse

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