“Cod Extinction Unlikely”


Professor Steve Cadrin teaches at the UMass Dartmouth School of Marine Science where he specializes in fisheries oceanography and fish stock population modeling.  Back in early March, Cadrin presented a talk regarding the state of our local cod stock.  Admitting that the stock is indeed in trouble, he made a bold statement that it is not on the verge of extinction.  With the National Marine Fisheries Service declaring with it’s most recent stock assessment that Gulf of Maine cod is over-fished and will not restore to historic levels even with zero fishing effort, the discussion has in many cases shifted towards the possibility of outright extinction.  However, citing science and history, he argues that cod’s ultimate fate does not lie in the hands of fishermen.  It is simply too hardy a fish to disappear from our waters solely as the result of overfishing.

“Speaking at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in early March, Cadrin said the idea of extinction should be taken off the table in management talks about Gulf of Maine cod. Instead, he said, the focus should be on how to avoid low recruitment (# of new young fish) in order to meet the ultimate objective of rebuilding cod for fishery production.” -Fishermen’s Voice

Cadrin pointed out that cod produce a high egg count each year, making them especially resilient against extinction.  This means that even at low numbers, cod have the potential to bounce back in a relatively short period of time.  More importantly, Cadrin focused on the current fisheries management scheme dictating the northeast fishery and spoke to how gaps in the science are making for poor policy making practices.

The Fishermen’s Voice article highlighting this talk notes:

“The crisis is not a result of irresponsible management or excessive fishing. The managers have followed the scientific advice. The fishermen have stayed within their catch limits. You hear these terms ‘overfishing,’ ‘overfished,’ and it implies the fishermen have been the cause of the problem. If we’re looking for cause, it’s scientific uncertainty. We haven’t updated the assessment frequently enough. There have been abrupt changes in perception. We have arbitrarily rapid expectations of rebuilding and arbitrarily high rebuilding targets.”

So where then, do we look for a solution to the issue with cod? Cadrin suggests that the answers lie first and foremost in improving the models we use to assess the health of a given fish stock.  He calls for more survey stations throughout the year that attempt to accurately sample all cod habitats. In the meanwhile, he adds that fisheries managers and fishermen must work collaboratively to make sure the fishing fleet is able to stay afloat while the science is improved.

You can read the whole article in Fishermen’s Voice by clicking here.