The decline, recovery, and collapse of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) off Labrador and eastern Newfoundland

The decline, recovery, and collapse of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) off Labrador and eastern Newfoundland

G.R. Lilly

The decline, recovery, and collapse of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) off Labrador and eastern NewfoundlandThis is part of Resiliency of Gadid Stocks to Fishing and Climate Change
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Description

The stock of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) off Labrador and eastern Newfoundland, in Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) divisions 2J3KL, declined severely in the 1960s and 1970s, recovered partially during the 1980s, and then collapsed to a very low level during
the early 1990s. The stock was closed to directed fishing in 1992, and has remained closed in the offshore, but there have been no sustained signs of recovery of offshore populations. The first decline was caused by overfishing, notably by non-Canadian trawler fleets. Recovery was promoted by a reduction in landings attending the 1977 declaration by Canada of a 200 mile fishery limit and good growth of young year classes that were already in the population. The collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s was caused by a confluence of negative factors, including fishing mortality that was higher than intended because of overestimation of stock size during the 1980s, a decision not to reduce fishing mortality dramatically when a sudden and severe downward reevaluation of stock status was announced (1988-1989), and the arrival of severe oceanographic conditions during the early 1990s. The lack of recovery is due largely to extremely high mortality. There is insufficient information to determine whether this mortality is caused by ongoing fishing for other species or by natural factors. The latter include the possibilities that the quantity or quality of prey is limiting and that the stock is being held in a predator-prey pit by seals and other predators.

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