Nova Scotia

U.S. scientists agree that cod stocks are still in decline

U.S. government scientists reporting on fish stocks off New England are reaching the same conclusions as their Canadian counterparts who have found that haddock is booming and cod remains in decline in the northeast.

2014 study shows haddock is booming and cod remains in decline in the northeast

Cod, Gadus morhua (Hans-Petter Fjeld)

U.S. government scientists reporting on fish stocks off New England are reaching the same conclusions as their Canadian counterparts who have found that haddock is booming and cod remains in decline in the northeast.

On Monday, the Northeast Fisheries Science Centre at Woods Hole, Massachusettes released an assessment of 20 northeast ground fish stocks from 2014 surveys.

"The rapid increase in haddock, redfish, pollock and white hake contrasts sharply with the decline of cod and the flatfish species," the report states.

The biomass of haddock, redfish, pollock and white hake has increased from less than 200 kilotonnes in 1994 to nearly 900 kilotonnes in 2014. Cod and the flatfish stocks have declined from about 140 kilotonnes to about 40 kilotonnes over the same period, the report says.

Groundfish from the mid-Atlantic to the international boundary with Canada is dominated by just a few species.

"The combined biomass of the Georges Bank haddock, Gulf of Maine haddock and redfish stocks currently constitute more than 80 per cent of the overall groundfish biomass observed in the surveys," says the report.

Quota cut in half

In Canada earlier this year, the federal government cut the cod quota in half in Nova Scotia as the once-abundant species continues to struggle. Scientists overestimated the cod stock's rebound after the quota was previously cut in half four years ago.

Cod remains in poor shape on the Scotian shelf from Halifax to Digby, leading Fisheries and Oceans Canada to spread the annual 1,600-tonne quota over two years.

When it comes to haddock, the story is the exact opposite. Fisheries and Oceans Canada increased the 2014 quota by 250 per cent to 16,470 metric tonnes.

Later this month, Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists will meet to review the results of 2015 vessel surveys on the Scotian Shelf, Bay of Fundy and Georges Bank.

Those surveys provide data about the distribution, biomass and health of commercial fish species, including cod, haddock, halibut and other flatfish.

The information will be used to set quotas in future years.

About the Author

Paul Withers

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Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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