In October, Chief Scientific Officer Andy Pershing and his colleagues were published in perhaps the most prominent scientific journal in America – Science magazine. Their study focused on the dire status of Gulf of Maine cod.
For centuries, cod were the backbone of New England’s fisheries and a key species in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Today, cod stocks are on the verge of collapse, hovering at 3 to 4 percent of sustainable levels. Fishermen and fisheries managers alike were surprised when recent cuts to the fishery failed to slow this rapid decline.
This new report in Science explains why. It shows that rapid warming of Gulf of Maine waters – 99 percent faster than the rest of the global ocean – reduced the capacity of cod to rebound from fishing, leading to collapse.
“Managers kept reducing quotas, but the cod population kept declining,” said Pershing. “It turns out that warming waters were making the Gulf of Maine less hospitable for cod, and the management response was too slow to keep up with the changes.”
The study shows the risk of not including temperature in fisheries models, especially for stocks that, like Gulf of Maine cod, are at the edge of their ranges.