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Ecological Diversity of Cod in the Gulf of Maine and its Role in Resiliency of a Fishery

Cod is an iconic species in New England and historically was one of the most economically and socially important fish in the North Atlantic for commercial and recreational fisheries. Extremely low estimates of cod biomass in the Gulf of Maine suggest that cod are at a small fraction (3-4 %) of the target biomass, and the livelihoods of many fishermen are imperiled due to the decision to close the targeted fishery for cod in the Gulf of Maine through May 2015.

One of the major gaps in our knowledge of cod in the Gulf of Maine is an understanding of the importance of individual spawning groups and the unique role they play in the resilience of this fishery resource. Currently, there is strong evidence for the existence of two distinct spawning groups in the Gulf of Maine (winter and spring spawners in Massachusetts Bay and Ipswich Bay) with historical evidence suggesting more unique groups were once prevalent. We are interested in how the fishery interacts with these groups of fish. Understanding the origin and habitat use of fish landed by the fishery, both today and in the past, will shed light on potential avenues for improving the productivity of this resource and the resiliency of this fishery.