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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Cape Haddock

Air Date: Week of

Proposed cod-fishing restrictions off Cape Cod this summer are causing concern that tourism will be hurt on the peninsula that bears the fish’s name. But humorist and Massachusetts native Jimmy Tingle says don’t raise the alarm just yet.


CURWOOD: Gloucester isn't the only place in Massachusetts with fish issues. On Cape Cod, proposed restrictions on ground fishing, especially the taking of cod itself, are set to go into effect on August 15th. Chefs are already planning menus to replace traditional cod dishes. Still, others worry that seafood platters without cod? That could hurt tourism on the peninsula which bears the fish's name. But don't ring the alarm bells yet, says Jimmy Tingle, humorist for CBS's 60 Minutes II.

TINGLE: Listen, I'm not saying cod is not important. It is. And I'm pretty sure I like it. I just cannot ever remember ordering it in a restaurant or even seeing it on a menu. Fish and chips and fish sticks may in fact be cod, but I don't really know because I'm no expert on seafood.

As a matter of fact, as a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I'm embarrassed to admit that the last time I ordered fish on Cape Cod, it was a Filet O' Fish at McDonald's. I asked the manager what kind of fish McDonald's uses in the Filet O' Fish, hoping he would say cod. But instead he said haddock, which kind of makes perfect sense because we now know that on Cape Cod, there is no cod.

But maybe if the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce were to change the name of Cape Cod to Cape Haddock, they can actually trick the cod into thinking it was safe to come back to the cape. But before anybody takes that idea too seriously, let me just say I don't think the tourism industry has anything to worry about. I mean, come on, the last people to get really excited about the availability of codfish on Cape Cod were probably the pilgrims, and you can't really blame them. When it came to food in the 1620s there were not a lot of other options.

Today, of course, people come from all over the world to Cape Cod, but they come for the sun, the sea, the sand, and the romance, not the cod. Now, if there were a shortage of beer on the cape, that would affect tourism. I mean, when was the last time somebody walked into a bar and said, "It's my first day of vacation. I've been driving for 12 hours straight. Give me a cod!" Another reason we have nothing to worry about is that we have all sorts of other great seafood on the cape: lobster and crab, flounder, bass, bluefish, clams, oysters, and my personal favorite, scrod. That's right, scrod, which I think may be an old Pilgrim acronym, which actually means "some kind of cod."

Now, if none of these choices is attractive to you, you can always try the catch of the day. I have never been disappointed with the catch of the day. Although it is an odd name for an entree. The catch of the day is really another way of saying, "Of all the fish in the sea, this is the only one that didn't get away." Probably not the brightest fish in the school.

Anyway, if you do come to Cape Cod this summer, come for the ocean. Bask on the beaches. Fantasize about moving there and becoming a famous writer. Or at least a waiter. You will be amazed by the hospitality of the people, the beauty of the sunsets, and the price of the real estate. Relax. Have fun. You're on vacation. If you can't find cod on the menu, remember, you're in Massachusetts. You can always order "the chowdah."

CURWOOD: Humorist Jimmy Tingle can also be heard Tuesday nights on CBS's 60 Minutes II. His web site is www.jimmytingle.com.



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