Science Advisory Report 2017/042
Assessment of the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (3Pn, 4RS) Cod Stock in 2016
- The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 fishing seasons was 1,500 t in accordance with the recovery plan, and the preliminary landings totalled 1,263 t and 1,312 t, respectively.
- In 2016, the recreational fishery season increased from 32 to 46 days. This fishery's catches are not known, though they have probably increased. An assessment of its catches is necessary.
- The three commercial fishery performance indices are increasing and well above their respective averages in 2015 and 2016. Fishers corroborate these trends, according to a survey conducted by the industry.
- Recently, the standardized catch rates of the longline and gillnet sentinel fishing programs have been increasing. In 2016, they exceeded the averages of their respective series (1995–2014).
- The abundance index from the DFO research survey has been increasing slightly since 2010 and has exceeded the series average (1990–2014) since 2014. The abundance index from the sentinel fishery trawl survey varies, without any clear trends, and is at the average level in 2016.
- The increase in cod abundance in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent years is mainly attributable to its increase in division 4S. Since 2013, the spatial distribution of cod has been similar to that observed in the early 1990s.
- In 2015 and 2016, the monthly cod condition indices were generally lower than the averages of their respective series. The observed values are nonetheless considered to be at acceptable levels.
- Natural mortality estimated by sequential population analysis (SPA) has remained high in recent years. Possible causes are predation by seals and unaccounted fishing mortality.
- The estimated exploitation rates from the SPA and tagging program are weak and have been below 0.1 since 2012.
- Recruitment at age three, as estimated by the SPA, has been increasing since 2003. The abundant cohorts of 2011, 2012 and to a lesser extent 2013 have been confirmed by several indicators. The spawning potential of these cohorts will reach its peak between 2017 and 2020.
- Projections for 2018 and 2019 indicate that, with an annual harvest of 1,800 t or 3,000 t, the mature biomass should increase by 20% and 17%, respectively.
- Although the spawning stock biomass has increased, it is in the critical zone, at 32% of the limit reference point based on the 2017 estimate. It would be sensible for the fishery to maintain a low mortality rate.
This Science Advisory Report is from the February 23, 2017 meeting on the Assessment of the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (3Pn, 4RS) Cod. Additional publications from this meeting will be posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Science Advisory Schedule as they become available.
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