Science Advisory Report 2017/021
Adapting Monitoring Protocols and Strategies for the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area
- Gilbert Bay’s Oceans Act Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring program includes 19–years of data and is among the longest in Canada. The Gilbert Bay MPA was established in 2005 with the conservation objective of protecting and conserving the unique population of Atlantic Cod and its habitat.
- The Gilbert Bay cod population has declined and remained at a low level of abundance since it was last assessed in 2010, with catch rates of commercial sized fish at, or less than, 10% of what they were at the beginning of the monitoring period in 1998.
- Long-term monitoring has indicated the recent appearance of sculpins, Rock Cod (Gadus ogac) and flounders which are competitors or predators of Gilbert Bay cod.
- Harvesting of cod directly impacted the Gilbert Bay cod population in 1998/99. With the population decline of Gilbert Bay cod, particularly since 2007, impact from fisheries outside of the MPA and within the home range of Gilbert Bay cod may be significant.
- Timing, location, or harvesting methods of Northern cod in areas outside the MPA, but within the home range of Gilbert Bay cod, could be adapted to reduce impacts on the Gilbert Bay cod population.
- Gilbert Bay cod are often more brown in colour than Northern cod, which can often be used to distinguish them. Live trapping or potting, which enables the live-return of cod, could allow Gilbert Bay cod to be released as a conservation measure.
- Genome-wide genetic analysis indicates strong population differentiation between Gilbert Bay cod and offshore Northern cod. This provides evidence that there is potential for local adaptation.
- Existing indicators are sufficient to monitor the population. Standardized plankton tows and research angling should continue annually to ensure the integrity of the monitoring program. Existing monitoring methods should not be replaced by additional monitoring methods.
- Existing movement and migration monitoring methods continue to be important to assess threats and improve management advice for the Gilbert Bay cod population.
This Science Advisory Report is from the December 8, 2016 Regional Peer Review meeting on Adapting Monitoring Protocols and Strategies for the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area. Additional publications from this meeting will be posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Science Advisory Schedule as they become available.
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