Mysteries, codfathers, and cuttlefish brawls
December 30, 2017 2:06 PM   Subscribe

The Last Trial of the Codfather: "Since his release from prison in the 1980s, Carlos Rafael has ruthlessly run his Massachusetts seafood business with little regard for the law. But is there any other way to survive the gauntlet of restrictions on the New England fishing industry?" This feature is part of Hakai Magazine's Best of 2017.

All of the features are also available in audio via the links. Some of these pieces were posted to Metafilter during the course of 2017 - links to those previous posts are included below.


The Mysterious Disappearance of Keith Davis
by Sarah Tory • Jan 4, 2017 • 4,500 words, about 23 minutes
The unsettling disappearance of a fisheries observer sparks questions about safety on the high seas and the fate of the fish stocks observers attempt to monitor.

[Previously on Metafilter]

The Last Trial of the Codfather
by Brendan Borrell • Jan 10, 2017 • 5,000 words, about 25 minutes
Since his release from prison in the 1980s, Carlos Rafael has ruthlessly run his Massachusetts seafood business with little regard for the law. But is there any other way to survive the gauntlet of restrictions on the New England fishing industry?

From Vilified to Vindicated: the Story of Jacques Cinq-Mars
by Heather Pringle • Mar 7, 2017 • 3,000 words, about 15 minutes
How a toxic debate over the first Americans hobbled science for decades.

The Lunar Sea
by Ferris Jabr • Jun 13, 2017 • 2,300 words, about 11 minutes
The moon influences life in a surprising and subtle way: with its light.

Blasting Through the Hunley Mystery
by Evan Lubofsky • Aug 1, 2017 • 2,900 words, about 15 minutes
A maverick scientist claims she has done what scores of researchers before her failed to do: solve the century-old mystery of why a legendary Civil War submarine sank.

[Previously on Metafilter]

From Prejudice to Pride
by Jude Isabella • Oct 10, 2017 • 6,300 words, about 31 minutes
In the 20th century, Japanese anthropologists and officials tried to hide the existence of the Indigenous Ainu. Then the Ainu fought back like their cousins, the bears.

Death of a Modern Wolf
by J. B. MacKinnon • Oct 17, 2017 • 4,300 words, about 22 minutes
Once feared, vilified, and exterminated, the wolves of Vancouver Island face an entirely different threat: our fascination, our presence, and our selfies.

The Ecolabel Fable
by Raina Delisle • Nov 7, 2017 • 4,500 words, about 23 minutes
Buyer beware: sustainable seafood programs can’t guarantee ocean-friendly choices.

The Hunger Games: Two Killer Whales, Same Sea, Different Diets
by Larry Pynn • Nov 28, 2017 • 3,700 words, about 18 minutes
The Salish Sea’s resident killer whales are in trouble—and garnering all the headlines—but transient killer whales traveling the same waters seem to be doing fine.


There’s Probably Plastic in Your Sea Salt
by Michael Allen • May 8, 2017 • 550 words, about 2 minutes
Now you can season your plastic-contaminated fish with plastic-contaminated sea salt.

God or Geology? The Genesis of Ram’s Bridge
by Ariel Sophia Bardi • May 31, 2017 • 950 words, about 4 minutes
Secular and religious Indians are butting heads over the origin of an important shoal.

First Nations Test the Political Water with Fish Farm Protests
by Erica Gies • Oct 13, 2017 • 1,000 words, about 5 minutes
First Nations’ occupations of fish farms are rooted in a deeper conversation about Indigenous land rights.

Poverty, Poaching, and Death by Great White Shark
by Kimon de Greef • Oct 27, 2017 • 700 words, about 3 minutes
South African abalone poachers are dying as they fuel illegal trade.

No Happy Ending for the Vaquita
by Sarah Gilman • Nov 14, 2017 • 1,400 words, about 7 minutes
A last-ditch effort to save the vaquita has ended in tragedy.

Videos and Visuals

Cuttlefish Brawl
Text by Shanna Baker, Art by Mark Garrison • Mar 6, 2017 • 34-panel comic
Bif! Blam! Whack! Boom! When giant Australian cuttlefish convene to mate, males usually rely on visual displays to intimidate one another—but sometimes, things can get rough.

Mexican Fishing Bats
by Edward Roqueta • Jul 25, 2017 • 6 min
In the Sea of Cortez, researchers delve into the mystery of a bat that makes its living at sea.

Beauty in Blackwater
Photos and story by Michael Patrick O’Neill • Nov 9, 2017 • 1,100 words, 14 photos
While most photographers are tucked in bed, this sharpshooter dons dive gear and searches for his subjects at the ocean’s surface, in the black of night.

[Previously on Metafilter]
posted by mandolin conspiracy (7 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Just so you know mandolin conspiracy, you've probably cost yourself 16 favorites from me alone by making this all one big post. It's excellent! I'm starting at the bottom for the pretty night fish and excellent fishing bats video and working my way up, and couldn't be more pleased.

Fishing bat science guy alone makes the post worthwhile and makes me a bit sad for my life choices since everything about that gig is awesome, including science guy himself, Edward Hurme, who I hope makes more videos about his research.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:15 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

(Il)legal Seafood 
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:52 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will take this time to note that New Bedford is the largest and most profitable fishing port in the USA, and near the top globally. It is a depressed, poverty-ridden post-urban hellhole mostly because the Codfather made damn sure of it with his fleet and shore criminal cartel shenanigans. Good riddance.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:46 PM on December 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Post-urban? Hellhole? My home, this is!
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:02 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well, but good Portuguese food, so that's not nothin'.

I read the lead article and I was surprised there wasn't anything about connections to the big organized crime families in either Boston or (more likely, given his ethnicity) Providence. I just can't imagine the dude got away with what he apparently did just on his lonesome; unless cod fishermen are a much more polite bunch than lobstermen, he'd be long dead if he didn't have the backing of someone else, or multiple someones, further up the food chain.

I mean, he spends a lot of his time on docks and near boats, surrounded by people carrying (at the very least) big knives, and it sounds like if he turned up dead tomorrow there'd be a veritable Agatha Christie novel's worth of suspects; the cops would have to start off by eliminating the people who weren't happy, just for starters. So how is it that he's survived so long, without someone taking him on a Tony Soprano-style fishing trip?

The usual answer is that criminal syndicates don't end up getting annihilated by the same sort of violence they inflict or threaten on others, because they worm their way in via corruption and get state protection. Wherever you see a criminal organization existing in some steady state, exploiting a population but nobody really pushing back, that's usually the explanation. (Or in some cases, the criminal organization is the government, de facto if not de jure, and the population tolerates some exploitation in return for order.)

So I'm really curious if there isn't another whole level to the story that gets into local or state politics and explains why the situation festered for as long as it did.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:16 PM on December 31, 2017

I've been following this story as best I can. Groovy post. New Bedford has been changing and is way better than wormtown.
posted by vrakatar at 7:07 PM on December 31, 2017

New Bedford is big. Providence is not. Especially since the bankers left for North Carolina. New Bedford should be the second wealthiest city in New England, considering the size of her fleet and the economic activity it produces. Only, pay close attention kids, resource extraction is a system completely gamed against the working and middle class - criminals and the political class get all the moolah, you get to spend six months at sea spending eighteen hours on shift everyday so your kids can go to New Bedford public schools subsisting on food stamps.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:31 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older This world crucifies you again and again   |   Larkin Poe Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments