Seasonal movements and connectivity of an Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) spawning component in the western Gulf of Maine

Douglas R. Zemeckis, Chang Liu, Geoffrey W. Cowles, Micah J. Dean, William S. Hoffman, David Martins, Steven X. Cadrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Movement patterns of marine fishes can have considerable impacts on their population dynamics. A thorough understanding of fish movements is therefore required for informing stock identification, stock assessment, and fishery management. This study investigated the seasonal movements and connectivity of a spring-spawning component of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the western Gulf of Maine. From 2010 through 2013, spawning cod were sampled within an inshore spawning closure and tagged with conventional tags (n=2368), acoustic transmitters (n=106), and archival data storage tags (n=266). Acoustic receivers were deployed on three inshore spawning sites to test for connectivity among sites. Data from archival tags were used to describe seasonal habitat occupancy and movement patterns via geolocation to statistical areas. Tagging data indicated that cod were primarily residential in the western Gulf of Maine, moving inshore to spawn during the spring (April-July), followed by an offshore migration to their feeding grounds for summer and fall. Cod generally inhabited waters from 45 to 175 m, with the deep offshore basins (>150 m) serving as overwintering habitat. Occupied water temperatures ranged from 4.0 to 13.3 °C, with the coldest temperatures experienced from March through July and the warmest temperatures experienced from September through January. Results provided evidence of spawning site fidelity and connectivity among spawning sites, with some fish visiting multiple spawning sites within or between years. The movements observed during and after the spring-spawning season serve as important mechanisms influencing metapopulation dynamics in the Gulf of Maine region, including both fine- and broad-scale population structure. The improved understanding of cod movement patterns will assist fishery managers in developing management plans, including spawning protection measures, and help to address remaining uncertainties with respect to cod population structure in the Gulf of Maine and other regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1780-1796
Number of pages17
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • Acoustic telemetry
  • Atlantic cod
  • Data storage tags
  • Gadus morhua
  • Geolocation
  • Metapopulation
  • Population connectivity


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