Stock identification of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in US waters: An interdisciplinary approach

Douglas R. Zemeckis, David Martins, Lisa A. Kerr, Steven X. Cadrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Mismatches between biological population structure and management unit boundaries often violate the unit-stock assumption, which can reduce the accuracy and relevance of stock assessment results and lead to ineffective fishery management. Since 1972, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) have been managed in US waters as two units: the Gulf of Maine and the Georges Bank stocks, both of which have experienced recent difficulties in rebuilding. An interdisciplinary review of available biological information was conducted to investigate cod population structure in US waters and to evaluate the biological appropriateness of the current two-stock model. Our review demonstrates that spawning components in the Great South Channel, Nantucket Shoals, southern New England, and Middle Atlantic are more connected with spawning components in the Gulf of Maine than on eastern Georges Bank, with which they are currently managed. Therefore, a modification of current stock boundaries is recommended to provide a more accurate representation of biological population structure. Proposed alternatives divide inshore and offshore spawning components into separate management units, thereby separating the current Georges Bank stock longitudinally. Continued research, including stock composition analysis, is required to evaluate uncertainties, delineate biological stocks, and develop sustainable management practices that account for intrastock diversity (e.g. winter and spring-spawning components that overlap spatially).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1490-1506
Number of pages17
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Atlantic cod
  • Fishery management
  • Georges Bank
  • Gulf of Maine
  • Stock identification


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