MEPS 138:293-308 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps138293

Hypotheses for the decline of cod in the North Atlantic

Myers RA, Hutchings JA, Barrowman NJ

We examine alternative hypotheses for the decline of 20 cod Gadus morhua stocks in the North Atlantic. The year of the lowest observed biomass of spawners did not correspond to low juvenile survival for the cohorts that should have contributed to the stock in that year. However, fishing mortality was very high for the years preceding the collapse. The collapse of the cod stocks was not caused by a lack of resilience at low population abundance because all spawners were able to produce many potential replacements at low population size. We show that as populations collapsed, fishing mortality increased until the populations were reduced to very low levels. We conclude that increased fishing mortality caused the population declines, and often the collapses, of the cod stocks.

Gadus morhua . Cod . North Atlantic . Decline . Stocks . Time series . Spawners . Recruitment . Catch . Mortality . Collapse . Density-dependent mortality . Fishing

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