Rethink: From Cod to Coltan

Rethink: From Cod to Coltan

In the year 1992 the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on the Northern Cod fishery on the east coast. The closure of the fishery was by most unexpected. For years, the fishery had grown. Our ability to harvest cod from the ocean seemed unbounded and unending. It was not. 

The hope was that a short closure would allow the Cod stocks to rebound. They did not. As of today, the Cod stocks have not rebounded. 

In 2008, the Rainforest Conservation Foundation reported that British Columbia’s salmon stocks were on the brink of collapse. The cause – the same as the Cod stock collapse – overfishing. 

The effects of a fishery collapse on those that depend upon it are obvious. The impact of overfishing goes beyond human impact however. What about the effects of our over-harvesting of fish stocks has on other species? 

While understanding fish stocks is complex, understanding that we are having an impact on other species is easy to grasp. When it comes to how each of us can make choices to reduce that impact Oceanwise, by the Vancouver Aquarium, is doing a fantastic job. 

By linking the sea food on your plate directly to the overall impact its harvesting has had provides people with a choice to have less impact. When I first saw Oceanwise I was impressed, and began thinking about how we at the Britannia Mine Museum could help link people’s choices to their real impacts, and provide people with choice. 

It is far harder to make the link between end product and mineral resource, than to make the link between fish on the plate and how it was harvested, however. Take for example Coltan. Coltan mining in the Congo has been linked to the financing of conflict in the area and the use of child labour to mine it. Coltan is a source of tantalum, a metal used in cell phones. Where did the tantalum in your cell phone come from? Up until recently, that would have been next to impossible to identify. 

Conflict resource laws, which require manufacturers to track the sources of their resources, have begun to change this. Resource extraction companies, manufacturers, and governments are in the best position to initiate this type of change. The end user however, still has to choose whether or not to demand ethically sourced materials, or 100% recyclable materials, or fully biodegradable materials be used in products. The Museum is in a position to share with people how change is happening, and how we can all be a part of it.

That is the purpose of Rethink – to rethink how we harvest and use our mined resources. 

Photo credit: Patrick Gijsbers / Wiki 

The views expressed by the author(s) of Rethink are not necessarily reflective of the organization and are provided as ideas for consideration in context of a changing world view.