Summary

IDENTIFICATION

SCIENTIFIC NAME

Gadus morhua

SPECIES NAME(S)

Atlantic cod

COMMON NAMES

4VsW cod, northeastern Scotian shelf cod

Eastern Scotian shelf cod in areas 4VsW has historically been assessed as a unit, but is described as a stock complex, with several subpopulations or spawning locations (Smedbol et al, 2002). Additionally, some mixing is known to occur between the Eastern Scotian Shelf component and cod in 4Vn and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife considers a Laurentian South “Designatable Unit” which includes this (4VsW) management unit, along with the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (4T-4Vn, from November-April) and resident 4Vn cod (from May-October)(DFO, 2011).


ANALYSIS

Strengths

The fishery is closed since 1993 to all directed fishing. Compliance with the moratorium is high. Cod bycatch in others fisheries is permitted, but catches are below the attributed quota and the extraction is not assumed to prevent the stock recovery. A Recovery Potential Assessment of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the Laurentian South Designatable Unit has been conducted (2011). Annual surveys are conducted to monitor the status of the stock. A limit biomass reference point (BMSY) is set. Technical management measures are established. The Scotian Shelf ecosystem is fairly well studied. The effect of the fishery on the ecosystem and on protected species is not considered to be an issue due to the current moratorium. Notwithstanding, area closures protect the ecosystem: a marine protected area (The Gully) is defined and managed, as are a Lophelia Coral Conservation Area and St Anns Bank, a proposed new marine protected area.

Weaknesses

The structure of the biological stock is not clear, and the complexity of spawning components should be recognized in a recovery plan, and a review made of the assessment/management units. The Eastern Scotian Shelf unit is considered by COSEWIC to be part of the Laurentian South Designatable Unit which is assessed as Endangered. No formal stock assessment has been undertaken since 2003. Survey indices indicate cod biomass at close to historically low levels. Fishing mortality reference points are not set. Natural mortality and predation by Grey seals (whose magnitude is unknown) may be preventing the recovery of the unit although fishing is considered to be the main cause of the current depleted stock status.

SCORES

Management Quality:

Management Strategy:

< 6

Managers Compliance:

≥ 8

Fishers Compliance:

10

Stock Health:

Current
Health:

< 6

Future Health:

< 6


RECOMMENDATIONS

CATCHERS & REGULATORS
  • Develop and implement a recovery plan for this stock, including biological reference points.
RETAILERS & SUPPLY CHAIN
  • Companies should encourage the Regional Director-General for the Maritimes Region to implement a recovery plan.

FIPS

No related FIPs

CERTIFICATIONS

No related MSC fisheries

Fisheries

Within FishSource, the term "fishery" is used to indicate each unique combination of a flag country with a fishing gear, operating within a particular management unit, upon a resource. That resource may have a known biological stock structure and/or may be assessed at another level for practical or jurisdictional reasons. A fishery is the finest scale of resolution captured in FishSource profiles, as it is generally the scale at which sustainability can most fairly and practically be evaluated.

ASSESSMENT UNIT MANAGEMENT UNIT FLAG COUNTRY FISHING GEAR
Eastern Scotian shelf Canada 4VsW Canada Bottom trawls
Longlines

Analysis

OVERVIEW

Last updated on 26 July 2014

Strengths

The fishery is closed since 1993 to all directed fishing. Compliance with the moratorium is high. Cod bycatch in others fisheries is permitted, but catches are below the attributed quota and the extraction is not assumed to prevent the stock recovery. A Recovery Potential Assessment of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the Laurentian South Designatable Unit has been conducted (2011). Annual surveys are conducted to monitor the status of the stock. A limit biomass reference point (BMSY) is set. Technical management measures are established. The Scotian Shelf ecosystem is fairly well studied. The effect of the fishery on the ecosystem and on protected species is not considered to be an issue due to the current moratorium. Notwithstanding, area closures protect the ecosystem: a marine protected area (The Gully) is defined and managed, as are a Lophelia Coral Conservation Area and St Anns Bank, a proposed new marine protected area.

Weaknesses

The structure of the biological stock is not clear, and the complexity of spawning components should be recognized in a recovery plan, and a review made of the assessment/management units. The Eastern Scotian Shelf unit is considered by COSEWIC to be part of the Laurentian South Designatable Unit which is assessed as Endangered. No formal stock assessment has been undertaken since 2003. Survey indices indicate cod biomass at close to historically low levels. Fishing mortality reference points are not set. Natural mortality and predation by Grey seals (whose magnitude is unknown) may be preventing the recovery of the unit although fishing is considered to be the main cause of the current depleted stock status.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Last updated on 14 September 2016

Improvement Recommendations to Catchers & Regulators
  • Develop and implement a recovery plan for this stock, including biological reference points.
Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain
  • Companies should encourage the Regional Director-General for the Maritimes Region to implement a recovery plan.

1.STOCK STATUS

Stock Assessment

Last updated on 26 July 2014

Eastern Scotian Shelf cod is composed of summer and fall spawning elements (DFO, 2011) and possibly other spawning components (4Vs vs. 4W; inshore vs. offshore). The current assessment unit delineations are based on management units and not on scientific knowledge of stock structure, which in this region is admittedly complex. It has been suggested that failing to protect spawning components may have been a factor in the stock collapse (DFO, 2005). The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) considers a “Laurentian South population” or Designatable Unit, which comprises three DFO management/assessment units: (1) Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (NAFO 4TVn, November to April), (2) Cabot Strait or Sydney Bight (NAFO 4Vn, May to October), (3) Eastern Scotian Shelf (NAFO 4VsW) (COSEWIC, 2010), under consideration here. A revision of stock assessment and management units should be considered (DFO, 2005).

No full stock assessment has been performed since 2003 (DFO, 2011) but a Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) has been conducted in order to provide information required under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), following cod’s assessment by COSEWIC as “endangered”. The RPA was based on information from surveys conducted annually by DFO (Clark and Emberley, 2011; Emberley and Clark, 2012) and applied an unspecified “population model” (DFO, 2011).

Scientific Advice

Last updated on 26 July 2014

The most recent scientific advice was presented by the 2011 Recovery Potential Assessment of cod in the Laurentian South Designatable Unit. Projections based on persistence of the productivity conditions at the time, and at varying historical levels of natural mortality, were pessimistic, with no recovery foreseen (DFO, 2011). Natural mortality, to which predation by grey seals Halichoerus grypus contributes an unquantified proportion, is a factor. For the neighboring Southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence unit (part of the same Designatable Unit), seal predation is a major component of natural mortality and removal of seals has been considered (DFO, 2011). However, Fu et al. (2001) assume that fishing is the main cause for the current depleted status of the stock.

Reference Points

Last updated on 26 July 2014

No reference points have been formally adopted. Based on the productive period of the stock, up to 1990, a Limit Reference Point (LRP) = 40% of SSB (BMSY) was set at 50,000 tons (DFO, 2011). Fishing mortality reference points are not set.

Current Status

Last updated on 26 July 2014

The most recent information available is survey trends, which show cod biomass in 4VsW in 2013 around historically low levels, having decreased from a short-lived bump which in 2009 broached the long-term (1970-2011) average. Both the 2012 and 2013 survey indices are also below the medium-term (15 year) and short-term (5 year) averages (DFO, 2014a). The trends are comparable to the most recent spawning stock biomass trends from a population model (DFO, 2011) which had captured the 2009 local peak and assessed it as above the limit reference point. Length frequencies from the survey indicate low numbers and below-average sizes but strong readings of very small cod (4 cm and especially 7 cm) (DFO, 2014a). Fishing mortality from bycatch (the only source of current removals) has been around 0.01 in recent years, which is projected to have little effect on the population. Predation by grey seals and natural mortality was considered in 2011 to have been decreasing (DFO, 2011). O’Boyle and Sinclair (2012) consider that predation has been hindering this fishery’s recovery since the 1990s, when the herds of grey seals in the region started to increase steeply (DFO, 2010).

Trends

Last updated on 26 July 2014

Biomass dramatically declined from the mid-1980s, from a SSB of around 150,000 tons to around 7,500 in 2003. An improvement was observed in the late 2000s (DFO, 2011) but recent surveys indicate the recovery was not sustained and biomass is again at historically low levels (DFO, 2014a). Although under moratorium since 1993, the stock has not recovered. Natural mortality (M) was unusually high in 1990s-2000s, contributing to the Endangered status of the Laurentian South Designatable Unit, but has been decreasing since then. Age and length at maturity have both declined since the 1950s for unknown reasons (DFO, 2011).

2.MANAGEMENT QUALITY

Managers' Decisions

Last updated on 26 July 2014

Stocks in the region were managed under annual and then multi-year groundfish management plans (DFO, 2005; DFO, 2002). The fishery has been closed since 1993 to all directed fishing (DFO, 2003; DFO, 2013a); but a maximum bycatch quota is set annually at 150 tons (DFO, 2013b). No harvest control rule is known to be in place, with explicit criteria for the reopening of the fishery should signs of improvement become apparent (DFO, 2005).

Different management measures are in place: gear restrictions, small fish protocols, bycatch protocols, logbooks, third-party catch verification, at-sea observer coverage, a Vessel monitoring system (VMS), area and season closures to protect juveniles (DFO, 2009). Several areas closures protect the ecosystem and overwintering habitat for resident and southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Atlantic cod populations (DFO, 2005; DFO, 2013c; more details in the Marine Reserves section).

It is hoped the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management (ESSIM) initiative will lead to the use of an ecosystem approach to fisheries in the eco-region.

Recovery Plans

Last updated on 26 July 2014

The fishery has been under moratorium since 1993, with only a limited bycatch quota set. An action team was established in 2003 to implement a recovery strategy for cod in 4VsW and 4Vn, and laid out several potential recovery strategies and made draft recommendations including developing a management decision framework, reviewing observer coverage programs, sharing stewardship and costs, obtaining input on mitigating seismic surveys and considering the protection of juvenile habitat (DFO, 2005).

Compliance

Last updated on 26 July 2014

There appears to be strong compliance by fishers with the directed fishery closure. Cod bycatch in other fisheries is below the maximum quota allowed (DFO, 2013b) and the limited bycatch is assumed to not be preventing cod’s recovery (DFO, 2011).

3.ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY

ETP Species

Last updated on 26 July 2014

Several Protected, Endangered and Threatened (PET) species inhabit the Scotian Shelf ecosystem (MacLean et al., 2013). None are expected to currently be impacted by the fishery due to the moratorium.

Juveniles of Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta occur often in the region and the species is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List (Marine Turtle Specialist group, 1996a) and is listed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)’s group of experts on the Species at Risk registry. Kemp’s Ridley turtle Lepidochelys kempii (Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List; Marine Turtle Specialist group, 1996b) is a more occasional visitor. Leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea (Least Concern on the IUCN Red List in the northwest Atlantic; Tiwari et al., 2013) is listed as Endangered in the Atlantic under COSEWIC and as a Schedule 1 species under SARA for the species in general.

Of the pelagic fish species, Blue shark Prionace glauca (Red List Near Threatened ; Stevens, 2009), Porbeagle Lamna nasus (Red List Vulnerable; Stevens et al., 2006; and COSEWIC Endangered), Shortfin mako Isurus oxyrinchus (Red List Vulnerable; Cailliet et al., 2009; and COSEWIC Threatened), Basking shark Cetorhinus maximus (Red List Vulnerable; Fowler, 2005) and Piked dogfish Squalus acanthias (Red List Endangered; Fordham et al., 2006) are common residents. Of the marine mammals, many species occur: Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis (Red List Least concern; Hammond et al., 2008a), Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus (Red List Endangered; Reilly et al., 2013; and SARA Schedule 3), Common Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata (RedList Least Concern; Reilly et al., 2008a), Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae (RedList Least Concern; Reilly et al., 2008b; and SARA Schedule 3), Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus (Red List Vulnerable; Taylor et al., 2008; but COSEWIC Not At Risk), Sei Whale Balaenoptera borealis (Red List Endangered; Reilly et al., 2008c; and COSEWIC and SARA Endangered Schedule 1), Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus (Red List Endangered; Reilly et al., 2008d; SARA Schedule 3), Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena (Red List Least Concern; Hammond et al., 2008b; SARA Schedule 2 Threatened) and North Atlantic Right Whale Eubalaena glacialis (Red List Endangered; Reilly et al., 2012; and SARA Schedule 1 Endangered). Northern bottlenose whale is also listed as Endangered Schedule 1 under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (MacLean et al., 2013).

Grey seal Halichoerus grypus (Red List Least Concern; Thompson & Härkönen, 2008a) and Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina (Red List Least Concern; Thompson & Härkönen, 2008b) have breeding populations in the eco-region. Of the most common pelagic seabirds, all are Least Concern (2012 IUCN Red List) except Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus (Near Threatened; Birdlife International, 2012): Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis, Herring Gull Larus argentatus, Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Thick-billed Guillemot Uria lomvia, Little Auk Alle alle, Wilson’s Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus, Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa (MacLean et al., 2013).

Other Target and Bycatch Species

Last updated on 26 July 2014

Currently, Atlantic cod is only taken as restricted bycatch (DFO, 2013b) by the fisheries targeting halibut, redfish and flounder (DFO, 2003).

Habitat

Last updated on 26 July 2014

The Scotian Shelf ecosystem is fairly well documented (MacLean et al., 2013). The seabed ecosystem is being analyzed to classify benthic habitats in the context of the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Canada (DFO, 2005; Westhead et al, 2012). One objective is to protect areas of high diversity or productivity or containing unique, rare or vulnerable species or features such as cold-water corals and sponge beds. The other is to protect representative ecosystem and habitat types (Westhead et al, 2012). The absence of a directed fishery since the 1993 moratorium has reduced any potential impact of the fishing gears on benthic habitats.

Marine Reserves

Last updated on 26 July 2014

A Canadian network of MPAs for the Scotian Shelf bioregion is being developed (DFO, 2012a). Several closure areas protect the ecosystem (DFO, 2005; DFO, 2013c, 2014b):
- The Gully is a Marine Protected Area 200km off Nova Scotia which was designated in 2004 with three levels of protection and is managed by The Gully Marine Protected Area Management Plan (DFO, 2013c). The Gully Advisory Committee (GAC) is developing a Management Plan, in a participative process with distinct stakeholders, to regulate uses and enforce compliance.
- The Lophelia Coral Conservation Area comprises and area of 1900 km2, was created in 2003 to protect the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa; all bottom fishing gears are forbidden (DFO, 2014b).
- Most recently, St Anns Bank Area which has been identified as a future MPA, covers 5100 km2 and one of the aims is to protect overwintering habitat for resident and southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Atlantic cod populations.

FishSource Scores

MANAGEMENT QUALITY

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is < 6.

The stock is depleted and there is no formal recovery plan with a harvest control rule in place. No fishing mortality reference points have been formally adopted. There is a moratorium in place since 1993 however.

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is ≥ 8.

There is compliance by managers with scientific advice. A bycatch limit is set and the extraction does not seem to be preventing the recovery of the stock (DFO, 2011).

As calculated for 2013 data.

This measures the Catch as a percentage of the Set TAC.

The Catch is 0.0500 ('000 t). The Set TAC is 0.150 ('000 t) .

The underlying Catch/Set TAC for this index is 33.3%.

STOCK HEALTH:

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is < 6.

Survey biomass in 2013 was close to historically low levels. The 2011 biomass estimate from a population model was well below the previously defined limit reference point.

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is < 6.

There has been no directed fishery since 1993, and removals as bycatch do not seem to be preventing the recovery of the stock. Natural mortality partly due to predation by grey seals is an important factor impeding recovery (DFO, 2011). Past fishing levels are considered to be the main reason for the current stock status.

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE RISK

High Medium Low

This indicates the potential risk of human rights abuses within this fishery.

No data available for recruitment
Data notes

1) Biomass data from 1958 to 2009 corresponds to the spawning stock (DFO, 2011) but the 2010-2013 values are survey indices of total biomass, due to the absence of published SSB data (Clark and Emberley, 2011; DFO, 2014a); trends of both data are similar so these data points were included for comparative purposes. The survey value for 2010 refers to cod in 4VW, but 2011-2013 values to just cod in 4VsW. As the limit reference point (40% of BMSY) defined (DFO, 2011) strictly applies to the SSB series, a qualitative score has been assigned to compute score 4.
2) In the absence of formal fishing mortality reference points scores 1 and 5 cannot be computed numerically and qualitative scores have been derived based on the latest information available (context is provided when mousing-over).
3) From 2006, despite the moratorium in place since 1993, a bycatch maximum of 0,150 tons has been allowed and corresponding catches were used to compute score 3. Bycatch removals are assumed to not be preventing the stock recovery (DFO, 2011). Score 2 was determined qualitatively in the absence of formal scientific advice.
4) The fishing season occurs from April 1st to March 31st of the following year, thus 2013 data corresponds to the 2012/2013 fishing season.

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Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs

Certifications

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

No related MSC certifications

Sources

Credits
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  2. Cailliet, G.M., Cavanagh, R.D., Kulka, D.W., Stevens, J.D., Soldo, A., Clo, S., Macias, D., Baum, J., Kohin, S., Duarte, A., Holtzhausen, J.A., Acuña, E., Amorim, A. & Domingo, A. 2009. Isurus oxyrinchus (Atlantic subpopulation). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [Accessed on 19 July 2014.]http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/161749/0
  3. Clark, D.S. and Emberley, J. 2011. Update of the 2010 summer Scotian Shelf and Bay ofFundy research vessel survey. Can. Data Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 1238 http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2012/mpo-dfo/Fs97-13-1238-eng.pdf?
  4. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), 2010. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Atlantic Gadus morhua in Canada, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa, 105 pp.http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/ec/CW69-14-311-2010-eng.pdf
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  6. DFO, 2003. Eastern Scotian Shelf cod. DFO Sci. Stock Status Report 2003/020, 9 pp.http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas/Csas/status/2003/SSR2003_020_e.pdf
  7. DFO, 2005. Management Strategies for Recovery of Atlantic Cod Stocks - Eastern Scotian Shelf (4VsW) Sydney Bight (4Vn May-October). September 2005 [Accessed on 15th July 2014].http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/initiatives/cod-morue/strategic-mar-eng.htm
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  13. DFO, 2013a. Maritimes research vessel survey trends on the Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Resp. 2013/004, 52 pp.http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/ScR-RS/2013/2013_004-eng.pdf
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  30. Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2008a. Balaenoptera acutorostrata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [Accessed on 19 July 2014.]http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2474/0
  31. Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2008b. Megaptera novaeangliae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [Accessed on 19 July 2014.]http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/13006/0
  32. Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2008c. Balaenoptera borealis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [Accessed on 19 July 2014.]http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2475/0
  33. Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2008d. Balaenoptera musculus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [Accessed on 19 July 2014.]http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2477/0
  34. Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2013. Balaenoptera physalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. [Accessed on 19 July 2014.]http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2478/0
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References

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