Atlantic Cod (Southern Population)

Gadus morhua

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) is a bottom-dwelling fish that is brown to green in colour, with spots on its back and a very distinct lateral line. It is also recognized by its single chin barbel. The Southern designable unit (DU) Atlantic Cod sexually mature between the ages of 3 and 7 years and at approximately 40 cm in length.

A female can produce several million eggs in the spring during spawning. However, only one egg per million will complete the life cycle and become a mature cod.

Habitat

The Southern population of Atlantic Cod inhabits the inshore and offshore waters extending from southern Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy, to Eastern Georges Bank. Cod in the Southern Designable Unit are managed as two separate management units: Southern Scotian Shelf and the Bay of Fundy; and Eastern Georges Bank. The Eastern Georges Bank unit is transboundary and managed jointly by Canada and the United States.

Atlantic Cod spawn primarily in the spring. Their larvae are typically found in the top layers of the water column. Primarily inhabiting the habitat near bottom, juvenile cod prefer areas where there is protection. As individuals of the Southern population mature and grow, they move into deeper water and utilize a broad range of habitat with high prey concentrations. Atlantic Cod consume a variety of fish and shellfish including herring, flounder and crab.

Threats

The primary threat to the Southern population of Atlantic Cod is natural mortality which includes seal predation. Exact causes remain unknown but may include changes in interactions with other species and variation in marine environmental conditions. Fishing mortality is another threat facing Atlantic Cod whether as a result of directed fisheries, bycatch or discarding.

Further Information

The Southern population is managed as part of a multispecies (e.g. haddock, pollock, flounder) groundfish fishery under the Fisheries Act, Atlantic Fishery Regulations, and an Integrated Fisheries Management Plan. Licence conditions and/or Conservation Harvesting Plans identify targeted species, bycatch limits, area closures, gear restrictions, seasons, vessel monitoring systems, observers and quotas.

In 2003, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed the Maritimes DU of Atlantic Cod as Special Concern. In April 2010, COSEWIC re-assessed Atlantic Cod, splitting the Maritimes DU into two populations, the Laurentian South DU and the Southern DU. The Southern DU was designated Endangered due to the significant decline in abundance and evidence of an unexplained increase in natural mortality throughout the DU. DFO Science has completed a recovery potential assessment (RPA) to provide scientific advice that will help inform the decision whether or not to list the species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Should the Southern population of Atlantic Cod be listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act, a recovery strategy and action plan would be developed to ensure it does not become further endangered from human activity.

Visit the Species at Risk (SARA) Public Registry.

Atlantic Cod (Southern Population)

Side view of an Atlantic Cod

Scientific name: Gadus morhua
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Endangered (April 2010)
Region: Maritimes

Atlantic cod distribution

Map displaying Southern population of Atlantic Cod in the Maritimes Region.

Did You Know?

The average weight of an Atlantic Cod is 2.2 kg but a cod weighing 90 kg has been recorded.

Side view of an Atlantic Cod

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