Recent changes in the winter distribution and movements of northern Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua Linnaeus, 1758) on the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf

Wroblewski, Joseph S. and Kulka, David W. and Narayanan, Savi (1995) Recent changes in the winter distribution and movements of northern Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua Linnaeus, 1758) on the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 52 (6). pp. 889-902. ISSN 1095-9289

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Abstract

Using catch data collected by fishery observers from the otter trawl fleet, we describe changes in the winter distribution of cod on the Newfoundland–Labrador Shelf between 1980 and 1992. We determined the relative abundance of cod in three areas of winter aggregation: south-east of Hamilton Bank, south-east of Belle Isle Bank and south-east of Funk Island Bank. The principal finding was that the cod, during their reproductive period, exhibited significant changes in distribution and behaviour, well before the stock showed signs of collapse. There were three indicators of these changes. First, there was a progressive disappearance of fish from the north with time. Most of the biomass was located in the Hamilton Bank area before 1984. By 1989, most of the fish were found at the Belle Isle Bank and south-east of Funk Island Bank locations and by 1991, only to the south (Funk Island Bank). Second, movements of the prespawning/spawning schools became more limited. Compared with the extensive along-shelf migrations, often covering distances of about 100 km, observed in earlier years, the fish schools after 1989 exhibited less movement to the north. Density of fish in the schools was highest in 1990. By 1991, the schools remained nearly stationary around 49°30′N, near the southern end of their distribution. Third, the schools spread over an increasingly greater range of depths. The greatest density of fish as reflected by high catch rates was generally observed no deeper than 600 m between 1980 and 1988. By 1989–1990, substantial catch rates were observed as deep as 1100 m, particularly to the north although catches continued to be considerable at the shallower depths. These changes in distribution and behaviour were generally coincident with the occurrence of anomalously cold ocean temperatures and heavy ice conditions, but no direct link between these changes and the environment was evident.

Item Type: Article
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/2014
Item ID: 2014
Keywords: prespawning/spawning distribution, movements, northern Atlantic cod, fisheries observers, environmental changes
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Ocean Sciences
Date: 1995
Date Type: Publication
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