Improving the management of the Atlantic Cod fishery by updating stock assessments and enforcing compliance
Management of Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, has become increasingly stringent since the
implementation of the first groundfish fishery management plan (FMP) in 1977, yet overfished
stock status is evidence of ineffective management. This management relies on fish surveys and
computer models to assess the stock, and various regulations to control the level of catch. This
masters project investigates the assessment and management practices of the Unites States and
Canada (focusing on the former) and provides practical modifications to remedy errors and
improve the current Multispecies FMP.
The cod stock assessment model includes two assumptions about the species: cod are nonmigratory,
and cod natural mortality has remained the same since its last evaluation 28 years ago.
I present two studies that contradict the assumption that cod are non-migratory, and provide three
reasons that cod natural mortality has increased: heightened competition and predation, habitat
damage, and genetic modification resulting from selective harvest.
To avoid the overfishing that results, I recommend that the model equation be changed to include
migration frequency and utilize an increased value for the natural mortality parameter. Until
necessary studies to correct the model are completed, stock assessors should add an uncertainty
parameter into the equation that buffers against error resulting from inaccurate model
Prioritization of economic concerns, overconfidence in the effort-reduction program, and
ineffective monitoring have routinely produced cod landings that surpass the target total
allowable catch (TAC). Recent landings below the target TAC are due to low biomass rather
than management success. I propose four recommendations to improve the management process:
1) decrease target TACs; 2) restrict trawler vessel days-at-sea and fishing areas; 3) improve
monitoring; and 4) fund a fisher retraining service.
The status of the Atlantic cod fishery indicates the need for a different management regime. The
New England Fishery Management Council should act now to transform the cod fishery from the
best example of management failure to the best example of collapsed stock recovery. The
science and technology to implement these recommendations is ready and waiting.
School Location:USA - North Carolina
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:cod fishery management plan
Date of Publication:01/01/2006