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Sacred Cod

Captures the collapse of the historic cod population in New England, delving into the effects of overfishing, climate change and government policies on fishermen and the fish.

A printer-friendly version of this page 65 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Steve Liss, Andy Laub, David Abel
Produced by Cody Wolf Productions
Director of Photography: Steve Liss
Editor: Andy Laub
Written by: Andy Laub, David Abel
Soundtrack Composer: Andy Laub
Story Produced and Reported by David Abel

"If ever a documentary revealed how closely tied humanity is to the ecosystem on which we rely, this is it." Dr. Matthew McKenzie, Associate Prof, History, University of Connecticut
For centuries, cod was like gold, driving men to extremes. Cod were so abundant in the waters off New England that fishermen used to say they could walk across the Atlantic on the backs of them, and generations of men from places like Gloucester and Cape Cod spent their entire lives chasing the coveted fish.

In recent decades, something began to change in the Gulf of Maine. As the region's cod catch plummeted, government surveys of the iconic species reported increasingly dire results. Scientists and environmental activists raised alarms about overfishing and the warming ocean. They urged officials to act.

On Nov. 10, 2014, after years of ignoring warnings, NOAA officials banned virtually all cod fishing throughout the region. Fishermen were infuriated. They challenged the findings and accused the government of trying to destroy their livelihood. Environmental activists feared the government's action had come too late to save the cod.

In 2016, officials estimated there were fewer than 200 cod fishermen left in the fleet, and they're now in the fight of their lives, struggling to hold fast to a tradition that has endured for centuries in New England.

Produced by an outstanding team of filmmakers, including the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning environment reporter, David Abel, SACRED COD gives us an up close look at the challenges many will have to face in the age of climate change.

Other films by David Abel and Andy Laub are Lobster War and Gladesmen: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys.

Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2017     Copyright Date: 2016
DVD ISBN: 1-941545-78-5

"Perfectly captures the relationships between policy makers, scientists, fishermen, and humanity...A wonderful educational tool that provides and fosters many opportunities for critical thinking in providing solutions for dichotomous relationships."
Christina Conti, Science Books and Films

"A powerful, beautiful film that shows the multifaceted aspects of the fishery for this iconic species...The lessons in this documentary extend well beyond the focal region and species. It illustrates how our traditions and life choices color our perspective and collide with what is determined by scientists, managers and policy makers."
Dr. Robert Steneck, Professor of Marine Sciences, University of Maine

"Thoroughly researched, reasoned and surprisingly moving."
Peter Keough, Boston Globe

"Sacred Cod shows us the human and ecological costs caused by New England's ignoring obvious signs of ecological decline over the past four decades. The filmmaker's depiction of fractured families, disrupted communities, and decimated cod stocks demands that we do better. If ever a documentary revealed how closely tied humanity is to the ecosystem on which we rely, this is it."
Dr. Matthew McKenzie, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut, Author, Clearing the Coastline: The Nineteenth Century Ecological and Cultural Transformation of Cape Cod

"[An] intelligent and necessary documentary...Provides a perfect entry point into a discussion of the tragedy of the commons, climate change, American history, and economics. A valuable resource for both the brain and the heart."
Louis Proyect, CounterPunch

"Sacred Cod impressively captures the complexities of managing this vital natural resource in a changing environment. It gives insight into the sometimes-contentious ways that science, policy, and politics interact when both environmental goods and human livelihoods are at stake. This is a compelling case study for any class involving fisheries or natural resource management."
Kimberly Lai Oremus, Sustainable Development, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

"Remarkably balanced."
Times Herald-Record

"Sacred Cod does a fantastic job compressing the extremely complex and complicated issue of the New England cod fishery into a captivating and enjoyable one hour...A powerful educational tool...I teach undergraduate courses on fisheries policy and marine conservation, which are heavily based on developing critical thinking, and I look forward to showing this documentary to my students."
Dr. Tarsila Seara, Assistant Professor of Marine Affairs, University of New Haven

"The film does a good job of capturing the tension of the different stakeholders in a declining fishery, and it highlights well the disconnect between the 'big picture' stock assessments and the 'local view' of coastal fishers in the western part of the Gulf of Maine."
Karin Limburg, Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

"Sacred Cod will be useful in general environmental management or marine environmental management courses to introduce students to the interrelationships between the marine biological and human aspects of managing the Gulf of Maine fishery. This film should be shown in courses dealing with resource management."
Dr Richard Pollnac, Professor of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island

"The film breaks my heart as an American and infuriates me as a scientist. The legacy of ignoring scientific advice for decades is the complete destruction of our cultural heritage. I will definitely use this thought-provoking film in my fisheries management classes."
Dr. Janet Nye, Assistant Professor of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University

"Highly Recommended...A must have for all courses about fisheries, environmental management, and the Tragedy of the Commons. For any courses studying the scientific, political, or cultural impacts of the Atlantic cod fishery this is an essential purchase. No other documentary or television program is available as a substitution about cod fisheries...Recommended for campus and community film series."
Kristan Majors, Emory University, Educational Media Reviews Online

"If you like documentaries that make you feel for people on every side of the story - regulators, scientists, fishermen, local government officials, the guy who runs the ice factory - Sacred Cod is for you."
Margaret Lyons, The New York Times

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection

The film's website

Awards and Festivals
Camden International Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Wild & Scenic Film Festival
GlobeDocs Film Festival
International Maritime Film Festival
New Hampshire Film Festival
Science Books and Films Best Films List 2017

American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Labor and Work Issues
Local Economies
Marine Biology
Oceans and Coasts

Related Titles

Lobster War
Climate-changed ocean temperatures shift New England's lobster fishery across national boundaries, sparking international tension.

In a classic battle of competing interests, gladesmen and their airboats are being banned from Everglades National Park in the world's largest attempt to restore a damaged ecosystem.

Bluefin tuna is a thousand-pound warm-blooded giant with gills, which wholesales at up to a million dollars, and which is caught in an oceanic "last of the buffalo hunt."

Weather The Storm
Fishing communities on France's western coast show the path to sustainability.

Looting the Seas
Investigates the looming collapse of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna stocks and the role EU policies have played in the crisis.

The End of the Line
The first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. Based on the book by Charles Clover.

Empty Oceans, Empty Nets
Examines the global marine fisheries crisis and the efforts to implement sustainable fishing practices.

One Ocean
Spectacular 4-part series dives into the world's vast interconnected ocean ecosystem--telling the story from its turbulent birth to its threatened future.

Farming The Seas
The perils and promise of fish farms in a world running out of ocean fish stocks.

... more Reviews

"Highly personal and emotional...Useful for students studying the environmental effects of changes in climate, unregulated fishing, and the man-made consequences for those depending on a single source for their livelihoods."
Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, School Library Journal

"It carries a message that extends well beyond New England: if we're not careful, there may be no more fish to catch."
Heather Goldstone, Atlantic Public Media

"Deeply moving...Emotions run deep on both sides. The program concludes on a hopeful note that indicates that cod populations are on the rise, and fishermen are turning to other species to weather the quota storm and preserve their livelihood."
Carol Holzberg, Booklist

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