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Correlates of recovery for Canadian Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)

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The collapse of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L., 1758) in the early 1990s, perhaps the greatest numerical loss of a Canadian vertebrate (1.5–2.5 billion reproductive individuals), is one from which the species has yet to recover. Populations, or stocks, are at or well below their conservation reference points. The lack of recovery has been linked to ongoing fishing mortality (targeted, bycatch), changes to life history (reductions in age and size at maturity, truncations in age and size structure), and increased natural mortality. Emergent and demographic Allee effects, coupled with altered interspecific interactions, render questionable the presumption that the recovery of heavily depleted populations can be reliably forecasted by population dynamical behaviour during decline. Contrary to international commitments and inconsistent with fishery rebuilding plans elsewhere, cod recovery plans exclude target and limit reference points, recovery timelines, and harvest control rules. We suggest that the long-term biodiversity, social, and economic benefits associated with cod recovery can be realised by novel changes, including quantitatively responsible recovery plans based on science-determined reference points, new or revised legislation, integrated management strategies, strengthened sustainable seafood certification practices, expansion of marine spatial planning and protected areas, and novel financial incentives for investment in long-term, sustainable fisheries.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H 4J1, Canada. 2: WWF Canada, Atlantic Region, 1202-5251 Duke Street, Halifax, NS B3J 1P3, Canada.

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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