Avoiding Imminent North Sea Cod Extinction

Cod is historically one of the most popular commercial fish species in the UK, not to mention popular across the European continent. Because of this, major commercial fisheries have been forced to close, and existing fisheries may also soon face closure.

Exacerbated by the mismatch in timing of their young’s main food source, the copepod, caused by predicted warming events, Cod face an uncertain future.

If cod populations disappear completely, it is likely that ‘trophic cascade‘ events could occur, i.e. the food chain within the broader community could be severely disrupted, as happened when the Canadian cod stocks collapsed.

A recent review paper published in Biology Letters suggests that fisheries management should be at the species-fishery scale, rather than a broad species-specific approach to management. The motivations for the author’s suggestion lie in the considerable variability in genetic make-up and spawning aggregations between different cod populations, and the potential for small meta-populations to crash without being detected, since these are amalgamated with the whole population. Therefore data collection should be accurate and well-timed for effective management.

Targeted conservation measures are recommended to policy-makers where appropriate, however the socio-economic consequences of any decisions made must be given serious consideration.

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Source: Hutchinson, W.F. (2008). The dangers of ignoring stock complexity in fishery management: the case of the North Sea cod. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0443

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