Editorial: Give Morro Bay’s black cod a chance

As Tribune writer David Sneed reported Sunday, Morro Bay’s beleaguered fishing industry is experiencing an upturn. That’s great news not only for the fishermen and their families, but for Morro Bay’s economy as well, which was devastated by the decline in the fishing industry that began in the mid-1990s.

Business further plummeted in 2005, due to a federal restriction on trawling — a method that involves dragging nets along the ocean floor. Trawling was banned on the Central Coast after it was found to cause unacceptable levels of environmental damage.

Since then, local fishermen have turned to other methods, such as traps and hook and line, with some good results. There were 3.5 million pounds of fish caught off Morro Bay in 2009 — up from a paltry 910,000 pounds in 2007. We don’t want to err on the side of optimism, to be sure. The 2009 catch is still far below the 10.6 pounds reported for 1993. But it is a move in the right direction, and we hope the numbers can continue to inch upward — provided, of course, that sustainability isn’t jeopardized.

The recent revival also is a testament to the ingenuity and determination of fishermen who have proven, yet again, that adaptation is key to survival. Not only have local fishermen switched to different methods, they also are relying more on a different type of fish. Specifically, they are hauling in more black cod to supply a booming market for the fish in Japan.

Also known as sablefish, black cod is not nearly as popular here in America as it is in Japan, and Morro Bay fishermen don’t expect it to catch on here anytime soon.

It may be wishful thinking on our part, but we’d love to see local consumers at least try it a time or two. (Google “black cod” and you’ll find a number of tasty-sounding recipes.)

Voting with our pocketbooks — or our debit cards — is one of the most effective ways we can show our support for a particular company or industry. And we can think of few more deserving recipients of those votes than the fishermen of Morro Bay.