Rebuilding plan for Atlantic cod - NAFO Division 4X5Y

Foreword

Picture of Atlantic cod
Atlantic cod
(Gadus morhua)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has developed A Fisheries Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach (PA Framework) under the auspices of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework. It outlines the departmental methodology for applying the precautionary approach (PA) to Canadian fisheries. A key component of the PA Framework requires that when a stock has reached or fallen below a limit reference point (LRP), a rebuilding plan must be in place with the aim of having a high probability of the stock growing above the LRP within a reasonable timeframe.

The purpose of this rebuilding plan is to identify the main objectives and requirements for Atlantic cod in NAFO division 4X5Y, as well as the management measures that will be used to achieve these objectives. This document also serves to communicate the basic information on 4X5Y Atlantic cod and its management to DFO staff, Indigenous groups, and other fishery interests. This plan provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for rebuilding this stock. The objectives and measures outlined in this plan are applicable as long as 4X5Y Atlantic cod is below the LRP. Management measures outlined in this rebuilding plan are mandatory, and may be modified to include additional catch restrictions if they fail to result in stock rebuilding.

This rebuilding plan is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The plan can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the rebuilding plan in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Signed: Regional Director, Fisheries Management, Maritimes Region

Preamble

In 2017, a new 4VWX5 groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) was developed by DFO and the Scotia-Fundy Groundfish Advisory Committee (SFGAC). Information that pertains to the mixed groundfish fishery, which includes Atlantic cod, can be found in the IFMP and is referenced throughout this document.

The last scientific assessment for the Atlantic cod stock in the Canadian portions of NAFO Divisions 4X5Y was completed in 2009. Stock status updates were provided in 2014 and 2016, and the next framework assessment is tentatively scheduled for 2018/19.

Outcomes from the application of this plan will be reviewed periodically to determine if changes to the plan might be required, and this rebuilding plan will be reviewed and revised as needed following the framework assessment.

I. Biological synopsis

Atlantic cod is a bottom dwelling North Atlantic fish that ranges from Georges Bank to Northern Labrador in the Canadian Atlantic, including the southern Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy management unit (4X5Y) (Figure 1).

Seasonal spawning migrations occur and a number of spawning areas exist in 4X5Y (e.g., spring spawning on Browns Bank, fall spawning (October – December) along the coast of Nova Scotia) (DFO 2011). On average, cod in this area reach 53cm by age 3 years, 72cm by age 5 and 110cm by age 10. However, growth differences within the stock area are evident, with more rapid growth noted for cod in the Bay of Fundy. Recently, the stock shows a truncated age structure relative to earlier time periods, with very few fish older than age 6 appearing in either the DFO research vessel survey or the fishery (DFO 2017).

Atlantic cod are serial batch spawners with individuals typically releasing several batches of eggs during a protracted spawning period. Age at first reproduction for the 4X5Y stock generally occurs at 2 to 3 years of age. Generation time is estimated at 7.5 years, with a 3-generation time period of 22.5 years (DFO 2011).

Total recruitment greater than 15 million fish/year was common for 4X5Y cod in the 1980s but since the 1992 year-class, no recruitment has approached this level. Recruitment has generally been higher when ages 3+ biomass exceeded 25,000t, but in recent years with biomass less than this value, recruitment has been poor (DFO 2011). Age 1 recruitment index for 2015 remains among the lowest on record and there has only been one strong year-class (2001) since 1995 (DFO 2017).

Map of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Divisions 4X4Y
Figure 1: Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Divisions 4X5Y (DFO 2017)

Habitat requirements

Previous investigations have concluded that there is no indication that the amount of suitable habitat is currently limiting recovery of cod in this area (DFO 2011).

DFO’s Maritimes Region delivers regional programs and services in support of the national mandate for fish habitat management and oceans management. Additional information on the national mandate for the oceans management program can be found online:

For more information on habitat requirements, please refer to Section 5.3 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP.

II. Overview of the fishery

Historically, the 4X5Y Cod stock traditionally supported a significant directed fishery. Currently, as a result of substantial declines in stock biomass and consequent low quota levels, only a very small amount of directed fishing takes place, mainly conducted by the inshore fixed gear fleet using longlines, gillnets and handlines. The majority of Atlantic cod in Divisions 4X5Y are caught as part of a mixed species fishery that includes haddock, pollock, winter flounder, redfish and other species (DFO 2017) (See Table 1 for fleet shares). Several other fisheries catch cod as bycatch in 4X5Y, but may or may not be permitted to land cod (DFO 2011). There are also recreational and Aboriginal food, social and ceremonial components to the 4X5Y cod fishery.

Table 1: Fleet shares for 4X5Y cod. Fixed gear refers to longlines, gillnets, and handlines while mobile gear refers mainly to otter trawls. Each fleet is described by the vessel lengths historically permitted for that fleet (i.e., fixed gear ) <45’ licences are restricted to a vessel no more than 44’11”
FLEET PERCENT SHARE
Aboriginal EA (Mobile gear <65' 5.980
Fixed gear <45' 55.150
Fixed gear 45' -64' 3.960
Mobile gear <65' 26.910
Fixed gear 65' -100' 0.610
Mobile gear 65' -100' 1.390
Vessels >100' 6.000

Additional information on the 4X5Y Atlantic cod fishery can be found below in Section IV, Socio-economic and cultural importance. Information on the mixed groundfish fishery in 4X5Y can be found in Section 2 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP.

III. Stock status

Stock assessment

The most recent peer reviewed stock assessment in 2009 showed that the stock had declined in numbers and biomass since the early 1990s, and suggested a continuing declining trend (Figure 2) (Clark and Emberley 2009).

Figure 2: Mature (3+) abundance (left) and spawning stock biomass (right) for cod in NAFO Divisions 4X5Y, 5Zjm and the Southern DU (both stocks combined) to 2009 (DFO 2011)
Description

Figure 2 presents The most recent peer reviewed stock assessment in 2009 showed that the stock had declined in numbers and biomass since the early 1990s, and suggested a continuing declining trend (Figure 2) (Clark and Emberley 2009).

  3+ Abundance       3+ SSB
  Southern DU 4X5Yb 5Zjm       Southern DU 4X5Yb 5Zjm
1980 56500.62 41749.62 14751     1980 140008.2 86182.21 53826
1981 56323.56 41476.56 14847     1981 147359.8 88370.82 58989
1982 51876.91 37467.91 14409     1982 138930.3 83392.3 55538
1983 51707.4 36038.4 15669     1983 124319.5 76873.5 47446
1984 39823.57 28598.57 11225     1984 104640.4 69446.4 35194
1985 32699.3 23526.3 9173     1985 95609.75 60965.75 34644
1986 34436.1 23217.1 11219     1986 88686.47 53730.47 34956
1987 27073.3 18267.3 8806     1987 76310.68 45492.68 30818
1988 44283.26 27197.26 17086     1988 94673.25 48807.25 45866
1989 40329.4 27032.4 13297     1989 89443.38 50085.38 39358
1990 48597.96 32506.96 16091     1990 106861.9 58708.9 48153
1991 34624.8 24293.8 10331     1991 91441.59 54040.59 37401
1992 26871.8 19270.8 7601     1992 68432.4 41525.4 26907
1993 22897.05 16057.05 6840     1993 49120.28 28288.28 20832
1994 17549.05 14025.05 3524     1994 34867.9 24337.9 10530
1995 29734.58 26306.58 3428     1995 42930.03 34927.03 8003
1996 32375.67 28554.67 3821     1996 59904.26 49436.26 10468
1997 26090.01 22782.01 3308     1997 53164.48 43498.48 9666
1998 20012.2 16680.2 3332     1998 41879.38 33742.38 8137
1999 19845.37 15197.37 4648     1999 38014.52 28107.52 9907
2000 16715.37 12904.37 3811     2000 34927.43 24977.43 9950
2001 18833.83 13817.83 5016     2001 36564.52 23834.52 12730
2002 15799.62 11920.62 3879     2002 32638.06 22310.06 10328
2003 12220.41 9229.41 2991     2003 26150.15 18416.15 7734
2004 15384.8 12289.8 3095     2004 26658.06 19016.06 7642
2005 10761.16 8454.16 2307     2005 22074.64 17091.64 4983
2006 14408.11 9682.109 4726     2006 23727.27 16149.27 7578
2007 11542.63 7769.63 3773     2007 22804.14 14751.14 8053
2008 8656.838 5170.838 3486     2008 18695.83 10625.83 8070
2009 11575 7694 3881     2009     9426
2010     3386     2010     8746

The 2009 stock assessment, using a virtual population analysis (VPA) model, estimated the natural mortality (M) for Atlantic cod at 0.76 for ages 4+ (from 1996-2008). This value is much higher than the 0.2 estimate historically used for M at all ages for Atlantic cod. Natural mortality may be caused by predation, disease, poor conditions, discards in a recreational or commercial fishery, and/or unreported landings. This stock assessment also found that fishing mortality had been above the target (0.2) for the stock since 1980, and was estimated at 0.35 in 2009 (DFO 2009).

Stock scenarios

A recovery potential assessment (RPA) for 4X5Y Atlantic cod was completed in 2011. Under the RPA, the 36-year projection for 4X5Y cod indicated that the spawning stock biomass (SSB) was expected to increase to a level above the LRP of 24,000t. Fishing at the reference exploitation rate for this stock (Fref = 0.2), the biomass was expected to increase at a rate whereby the median projection would reach the LRP around 2025. With fishing at half of Fref (i.e., 0.1), the biomass was expected to increase at a rate whereby the median would be expected to reach LRP around 2016.

Following the RPA, a 2014 stock status update for 4X5Y Atlantic cod concluded that “the projections depicting the expectation that the stock would increase as a result of the total allowable catch (TAC) reduction in 2011 have not occurred” (DFO 2015).While new estimates of SSB and F could not be produced at that time, it was noted that both the recruitment index and the survey biomass index had remained very low or decreased, relative to 2011.

In 2016, another update confirmed that the stock remains at a very low level, with the biomass in the most recent 5 years being the lowest in the time series (Figure 3) (DFO 2017). The update concluded that “given the very low biomass, lack of decline in relative F in recent years, low productivity due to low recruitment, truncated age structure and high natural mortality, the current outlook for this stock is extremely poor. This outlook suggests that removals of Atlantic cod from all fisheries should be reduced to the lowest possible level.”

Figure 3: Scaled biomass index of Atlantic cod in 4X5 from the DFO summer research vessel (RV) survey, from 1970 to 2015. Age 1+ and age 3+ VPA scaled biomass estimates from 1980-2008 are also shown
Description

Figure 3: Scaled biomass index of Atlantic cod in 4X5 from the DFO summer research vessel (RV) survey, from 1970 to 2015. Age 1+ and age 3+ VPA scaled biomass estimates from 1980-2008 are also shown. The dashed dark blue line represents the scaled long-term average (1970-2015), the red dotted line represents the 15-year scaled average (2001-2015), and the green solid line represents the 5-year scaled average (2011-2015) (DFO 2017).

  Year Biomass Biomass_std Landings_cal Landings_quot relF TAC vpa1 vpa1_std vpa3 vpa3_std desc vpaF Z4.6 Z5.7 Z4.5
11 1970 42996.15 2.145411 18020 NA 0.419107 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 1.067182 0.95945 0.994048
12 1971 20184.35 1.007154 20301 NA 1.005779 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.493928 0.723744 0.600399
13 1972 28325.47 1.413377 20531 NA 0.724825 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.753095 1.2881 1.307048
14 1973 16786.97 0.837632 19991 NA 1.190864 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.058401 0.108303 0.065611
15 1974 24859.63 1.24044 18942 NA 0.761958 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.137343 -0.11872 -0.20501
16 1975 32892.37 1.641255 19586 NA 0.595457 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.289231 0.654456 0.606854
17 1976 27532.26 1.373798 16141 NA 0.586258 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.43235 0.766466 0.724311
18 1977 30314.63 1.512632 21989 NA 0.725359 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.554941 0.747596 0.592829
19 1978 21656.62 1.080617 23723 NA 1.095416 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.171083 0.295173 0.320072
20 1979 31938.87 1.593678 28707 NA 0.898811 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.433947 0.504549 0.407418
21 1980 25439.03 1.26935 31277 NA 1.229489 NA 95250.82 2.033569 86182.21 2.036687 vpa 0.414328 0.072454 0.290398 -0.00748
22 1981 28911 1.442594 31521 NA 1.090277 NA 96080.08 2.051274 88370.82 2.088409 vpa 0.474049 0.396998 0.586967 0.488325
23 1982 27377.44 1.366073 33134 NA 1.210266 30000 91171.78 1.946483 83392.31 1.970756 vpa 0.596263 0.069273 0.397164 0.311138
24 1983 22138.4 1.104656 29471 NA 1.331216 30000 81449.57 1.738918 76873.52 1.816701 vpa 0.410946 0.505895 0.472536 0.42873
25 1984 25312.88 1.263056 25528 NA 1.008498 30000 74204.94 1.584248 69446.44 1.641182 vpa 0.438583 0.704184 0.589623 0.634465
26 1985 32041.45 1.598796 21499 NA 0.670975 30000 66185.28 1.413031 60965.75 1.440764 vpa 0.546302 1.252273 1.049284 1.23847
27 1986 18011.89 0.898753 20040 NA 1.112599 20000 57886.57 1.235857 53730.48 1.269777 vpa 0.533863 0.81798 0.704213 0.670072
28 1987 16061.58 0.801437 19005 NA 1.183258 18000 53878.62 1.150288 45492.68 1.075099 vpa 0.481696 -0.41982 -0.13525 -0.17933
29 1988 46407.98 2.315654 20537 NA 0.442532 16000 55373.51 1.182204 48807.25 1.15343 vpa 0.629441 1.268147 1.246865 1.208441
30 1989 21406.97 1.06816 19885 NA 0.928903 13000 57879.34 1.235702 50085.39 1.183635 vpa 0.455239 0.240281 0.150157 0.147523
31 1990 32766.99 1.634999 23904 NA 0.729515 22000 61924.8 1.322071 58708.97 1.387431 vpa 0.579984 0.737082 0.934635 0.952542
32 1991 21163.58 1.056015 27749 NA 1.311168 26000 58528.92 1.249571 54040.6 1.277106 vpa 0.681656 0.618434 0.624497 0.650725
33 1992 18319.28 0.914091 26080 NA 1.423637 26000 46266.93 0.987782 41525.44 0.981343 vpa 1.113258 1.09902 1.857093 1.80174
34 1993 10220.72 0.509991 16026 NA 1.5679911 16000 33402.69 0.713135 28288.28 0.668518 vpa 0.872641 0.536281 0.664535 0.777934
35 1994 18463.41 0.921283 13045 NA 0.706533 14000 33586.25 0.717054 24337.9 0.575162 vpa 0.875788 0.713042 0.771061 0.85632
36 1995 17221.98 0.859338 8767 NA 0.509059 9000 40064.37 0.855359 34927.03 0.825408 vpa 0.39655 -0.0438 0.276957 0.23942
37 1996 53669.16 2.67797 10572 NA 0.196985 11000 53505.1 1.142314 49436.26 1.168295 vpa 0.291799 0.693363 0.877632 0.833918
38 1997 19873.45 0.99164 11239 NA 0.565528 13000 46644.66 0.995846 43498.48 1.027971 vpa 0.349557 0.290227 0.479059 0.489898
39 1998 22320.01 1.113718 8283 NA 0.371102 9300 37297.13 0.79628 33742.38 0.797411 vpa 0.301139 0.790945 1.043765 0.8482667
40 1999 10490.73 0.523464 6304 7330 0.600911 7910 30763.49 0.656789 28107.52 0.664247 vpa 0.218615 0.556489 0.771177 0.85815
41 2000 13198.69 0.6585 5755 5834 0.436028 6000 28545.11 0.609427 24977.43 0.590275 vpa 0.262542 0.310495 0.83691 0.713173
42 2001 12980.6 0.647703 5707 5908 0.439656 6000 26042.97 0.556008 23834.52 0.563266 vpa 0.294719 0.293797 0.529537 0.637209
43 2002 20914.15 1.043569 5893 5817 0.281771 6000 24394.05 0.520804 22310.06 0.527239 vpa 0.342816 1.010815 1.195503 1.174128
44 2003 12089 0.603214 5668 5399 0.468856 6000 21753.48 0.464429 18416.15 0.435217 vpa 0.351957 1.15108 1.479007 1.441945
45 2004 8396.037 0.418943 5010 4857 0.59671 6000 20166.43 0.430546 19016.06 0.449394 vpa 0.278896 0.475676 0.484713 0.402116
46 2005 9742.171 0.486112 4121 3850 0.423006 5500 19803.97 0.422807 17091.64 0.403915 vpa 0.243296 0.980729 1.444978 1.386114
47 2006 5969.049 0.297842 3700 3712 0.619864 5000 17292.13 0.369181 16149.27 0.381645 vpa 0.380071 0.473391 0.47495 0.323443
48 2007 7003.148 0.349441 3790 3938 0.541185 5000 16009.44 0.341796 14751.14 0.348604 vpa 0.36696 0.907791 1.410416 1.137653
49 2008 3277.751 0.163552 4132 4064 1.260621 5000 12985.19 0.277229 10625.83 0.251113 vpa 0.341165 -0.34743 -0.03629 -0.06257
50 2009 14972.53 0.747096 3167 2931 0.211521 3000 10174 NA 8098 NA proj NA 2.07827 2.117691 2.420699
51 2010 3038.046 0.151592 2964 2864 0.975627 3000 12420 NA 10746 NA proj NA 0.248252 0.92736 0.913438
52 2011 3775.087 0.188368 1448 1423 0.383567 1650 13651 NA 11850 NA proj NA 1.338229 1.873637 1.854333
53 2012 3267.64 0.163048 1315 1202 0.402431 1650 18463 NA 16460 NA proj NA 0.810048 1.607512 1.531672
54 2013 2057.845 0.102682 1181 1212 0.573901 1650 20693 NA 18567 NA proj NA 0.805767 2.781008 2.781008
55 2014 2786.58 0.139044 1177 1207 0.422381 1650 22536 NA 20345 NA proj NA 0.270454 0.62106 0.62106
56 2015 3722.176 0.185728 705 675 0.189405 825 24128 NA 21870 NA proj NA 1.223607 1.472733 1.478265
57 2016 5195.406 0.259239 717 736 0.138007 825 25394 NA 23077 NA proj NA NA NA NA
58 2017 3068.361 0.153104 NA NA NA NA 26437 NA 24093 NA proj NA NA NA NA

Both stock status updates emphasized the apparent increase in natural mortality (M) in recent years. The 2016 update stated that: “… Atlantic cod (age 4 and 5) are only sporadically being seen as older Cod (age 5 and 6) in following years. Moreover, there have been very few Atlantic cod older than age 5 in survey and fishery catches since 2010, which suggests that natural mortality of age 4+ cod from recent VPA model runs remains elevated or has further increased” (DFO 2017). The apparent increase in M is being deduced from the recent high total mortality from the RV survey catches at age (4-5) as compared to the relative fishing mortality rate over the same time period (Figure 4).

In addition, both recent updates state that the reason for increased natural mortality is not known, although the same trend is noted in other nearby stocks including 5Zjm cod and 4VsW cod. Predation by seals is noted as a likely or partial cause of higher mortality. The 2016 update (DFO 2017) also mentions unknown discard mortality in the lobster fishery and other fisheries as potential contributors.

Map of Capelin fishing areas around Newfoundland and Labrador
Figure 4: Relative fishing mortality (relF), instantaneous fishing mortality from the most recent virtual population analysis model run (VPA F) and total mortality from annual DFO summer research vessel survey catches-at-age (Z4-5)
Description

Figure 4: Relative fishing mortality (relF), instantaneous fishing mortality from the most recent virtual population analysis model run (VPA F) and total mortality from annual DFO summer research vessel survey catches-at-age (Z4-5). Population analysis F is for Ages 4-5 and relF is based on landings/survey biomass (DFO 2017).

  Year Biomass Biomass_std Landings_cal Landings_quot relF TAC vpa1 vpa1_std vpa3 vpa3_std desc vpaF Z4.6 Z5.7 Z4.5
11 1970 42996.15 2.145411 18020 NA 0.419107 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 1.067182 0.95945 0.994048
12 1971 20184.35 1.007154 20301 NA 1.005779 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.493928 0.723744 0.600399
13 1972 28325.47 1.413377 20531 NA 0.724825 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.753095 1.2881 1.307048
14 1973 16786.97 0.837632 19991 NA 1.190864 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.058401 0.108303 0.065611
15 1974 24859.63 1.24044 18942 NA 0.761958 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.137343 -0.11872 -0.20501
16 1975 32892.37 1.641255 19586 NA 0.595457 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.289231 0.654456 0.606854
17 1976 27532.26 1.373798 16141 NA 0.586258 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.43235 0.766466 0.724311
18 1977 30314.63 1.512632 21989 NA 0.725359 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.554941 0.747596 0.592829
19 1978 21656.62 1.080617 23723 NA 1.095416 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.171083 0.295173 0.320072
20 1979 31938.87 1.593678 28707 NA 0.898811 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA 0.433947 0.504549 0.407418
21 1980 25439.03 1.26935 31277 NA 1.229489 NA 95250.82 2.033569 86182.21 2.036687 vpa 0.414328 0.072454 0.290398 -0.00748
22 1981 28911 1.442594 31521 NA 1.090277 NA 96080.08 2.051274 88370.82 2.088409 vpa 0.474049 0.396998 0.586967 0.488325
23 1982 27377.44 1.366073 33134 NA 1.210266 30000 91171.78 1.946483 83392.31 1.970756 vpa 0.596263 0.069273 0.397164 0.311138
24 1983 22138.4 1.104656 29471 NA 1.331216 30000 81449.57 1.738918 76873.52 1.816701 vpa 0.410946 0.505895 0.472536 0.42873
25 1984 25312.88 1.263056 25528 NA 1.008498 30000 74204.94 1.584248 69446.44 1.641182 vpa 0.438583 0.704184 0.589623 0.634465
26 1985 32041.45 1.598796 21499 NA 0.670975 30000 66185.28 1.413031 60965.75 1.440764 vpa 0.546302 1.252273 1.049284 1.23847
27 1986 18011.89 0.898753 20040 NA 1.112599 20000 57886.57 1.235857 53730.48 1.269777 vpa 0.533863 0.81798 0.704213 0.670072
28 1987 16061.58 0.801437 19005 NA 1.183258 18000 53878.62 1.150288 45492.68 1.075099 vpa 0.481696 -0.41982 -0.13525 -0.17933
29 1988 46407.98 2.315654 20537 NA 0.442532 16000 55373.51 1.182204 48807.25 1.15343 vpa 0.629441 1.268147 1.246865 1.208441
30 1989 21406.97 1.06816 19885 NA 0.928903 13000 57879.34 1.235702 50085.39 1.183635 vpa 0.455239 0.240281 0.150157 0.147523
31 1990 32766.99 1.634999 23904 NA 0.729515 22000 61924.8 1.322071 58708.97 1.387431 vpa 0.579984 0.737082 0.934635 0.952542
32 1991 21163.58 1.056015 27749 NA 1.311168 26000 58528.92 1.249571 54040.6 1.277106 vpa 0.681656 0.618434 0.624497 0.650725
33 1992 18319.28 0.914091 26080 NA 1.423637 26000 46266.93 0.987782 41525.44 0.981343 vpa 1.113258 1.09902 1.857093 1.80174
34 1993 10220.72 0.509991 16026 NA 1.5679911 16000 33402.69 0.713135 28288.28 0.668518 vpa 0.872641 0.536281 0.664535 0.777934
35 1994 18463.41 0.921283 13045 NA 0.706533 14000 33586.25 0.717054 24337.9 0.575162 vpa 0.875788 0.713042 0.771061 0.85632
36 1995 17221.98 0.859338 8767 NA 0.509059 9000 40064.37 0.855359 34927.03 0.825408 vpa 0.39655 -0.0438 0.276957 0.23942
37 1996 53669.16 2.67797 10572 NA 0.196985 11000 53505.1 1.142314 49436.26 1.168295 vpa 0.291799 0.693363 0.877632 0.833918
38 1997 19873.45 0.99164 11239 NA 0.565528 13000 46644.66 0.995846 43498.48 1.027971 vpa 0.349557 0.290227 0.479059 0.489898
39 1998 22320.01 1.113718 8283 NA 0.371102 9300 37297.13 0.79628 33742.38 0.797411 vpa 0.301139 0.790945 1.043765 0.8482667
40 1999 10490.73 0.523464 6304 7330 0.600911 7910 30763.49 0.656789 28107.52 0.664247 vpa 0.218615 0.556489 0.771177 0.85815
41 2000 13198.69 0.6585 5755 5834 0.436028 6000 28545.11 0.609427 24977.43 0.590275 vpa 0.262542 0.310495 0.83691 0.713173
42 2001 12980.6 0.647703 5707 5908 0.439656 6000 26042.97 0.556008 23834.52 0.563266 vpa 0.294719 0.293797 0.529537 0.637209
43 2002 20914.15 1.043569 5893 5817 0.281771 6000 24394.05 0.520804 22310.06 0.527239 vpa 0.342816 1.010815 1.195503 1.174128
44 2003 12089 0.603214 5668 5399 0.468856 6000 21753.48 0.464429 18416.15 0.435217 vpa 0.351957 1.15108 1.479007 1.441945
45 2004 8396.037 0.418943 5010 4857 0.59671 6000 20166.43 0.430546 19016.06 0.449394 vpa 0.278896 0.475676 0.484713 0.402116
46 2005 9742.171 0.486112 4121 3850 0.423006 5500 19803.97 0.422807 17091.64 0.403915 vpa 0.243296 0.980729 1.444978 1.386114
47 2006 5969.049 0.297842 3700 3712 0.619864 5000 17292.13 0.369181 16149.27 0.381645 vpa 0.380071 0.473391 0.47495 0.323443
48 2007 7003.148 0.349441 3790 3938 0.541185 5000 16009.44 0.341796 14751.14 0.348604 vpa 0.36696 0.907791 1.410416 1.137653
49 2008 3277.751 0.163552 4132 4064 1.260621 5000 12985.19 0.277229 10625.83 0.251113 vpa 0.341165 -0.34743 -0.03629 -0.06257
50 2009 14972.53 0.747096 3167 2931 0.211521 3000 10174 NA 8098 NA proj NA 2.07827 2.117691 2.420699
51 2010 3038.046 0.151592 2964 2864 0.975627 3000 12420 NA 10746 NA proj NA 0.248252 0.92736 0.913438
52 2011 3775.087 0.188368 1448 1423 0.383567 1650 13651 NA 11850 NA proj NA 1.338229 1.873637 1.854333
53 2012 3267.64 0.163048 1315 1202 0.402431 1650 18463 NA 16460 NA proj NA 0.810048 1.607512 1.531672
54 2013 2057.845 0.102682 1181 1212 0.573901 1650 20693 NA 18567 NA proj NA 0.805767 2.781008 2.781008
55 2014 2786.58 0.139044 1177 1207 0.422381 1650 22536 NA 20345 NA proj NA 0.270454 0.62106 0.62106
56 2015 3722.176 0.185728 705 675 0.189405 825 24128 NA 21870 NA proj NA 1.223607 1.472733 1.478265
57 2016 5195.406 0.259239 717 736 0.138007 825 25394 NA 23077 NA proj NA NA NA NA
58 2017 3068.361 0.153104 NA NA NA NA 26437 NA 24093 NA proj NA NA NA NA

Precautionary approach (PA)

The United Nations Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFA), which came into force in 2001, commits Canada to use the PA in managing straddling stocks as well as, in effect, domestic stocks. In 2003, the Privy Council Office, on behalf of the Government of Canada, published a framework applicable to all federal government departments that set out guiding principles for the application of precaution to decision making about risks of serious or irreversible harm where there is a lack of full scientific certainty.

In 2009, subsequent to these commitments, DFO developed a PA Framework, which applies where decisions on harvest strategies or harvest rates for a stock must be taken to determine TAC or other measures to control harvests. The framework applies to key harvested stocks managed by DFO: those stocks that are the specific and intended targets of a fishery, whether in a commercial, recreational or subsistence fishery. In applying the framework, all removals of these stocks from all types of fishing must be taken into account.

The following are the primary components of the generalized framework:

Reference points

Reference points will be reviewed during framework assessment meetings planned for 2018/19.

The fishing mortality target reference (Fref) of 0.2 was determined in the 1980’s and approximated F0.1 at the time, a fishing mortality target that has been widely used across fisheries. This continues to be a management target for the stock when in the Healthy zone.

Interim fishing mortality limit reference for the Critical zone (FLIM) = 0.1

The fishing mortality limit reference for the Critical zone was established in 2011 through discussions at the SFGAC, and based on advice from the 2011 RPA that indicated a high likelihood of recovery at this level. This reference point was intended to reduce removals to the lowest practical level while still allowing the prosecution of other fisheries.

Limit reference point (LRP) = 24,000 t

The limit reference point was established at the December 2010 Atlantic Cod Framework meeting (see Clark et al. [2011] for further information).

Upper stock reference point (USR) = 48,000 t

The USR point was established in 2011 through discussions at the SFGAC. This value was adopted because 48,000 t is a value twice the LRP and will provide sufficient opportunity for the management system to recognize and react to a decline from the healthy zone. Also, the default position in the fishery decision making framework for implementing the PA indicates that 40% and 80% of BMSY may be used as the LRP and USR (i.e. the USR is twice the level of the LRP).

COSEWIC assessment / SARA considerations

In its 2003 assessment of Atlantic cod in Canadian waters, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated the Maritimes designatable unit (DU) as Special Concern. In April 2010, COSEWIC re-assessed Atlantic cod; in this assessment, Atlantic cod in 4X5Y was included in the Southern DU, which was designated Endangered. A Species at Risk Act listing decision for the Atlantic cod Southern DU is pending.

For more information, please refer to Appendix 7 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP.

Aboriginal traditional knowledge/traditional ecological knowledge

DFO aims to incorporate traditional knowledge into fisheries management planning. Please refer to Section 3.1 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP for additional information.

IV. Socio-economic and cultural importance

Landings of 4X5Y Atlantic cod increased in the 1960s as domestic and foreign otter trawl fleets joined the fishery, and then dropped in 1970 due to restrictions on haddock fishing. Total landings averaged 20,000 t for several decades, but have recently declined along with restrictive total allowable catches (TACs) (Figure 5). In 2015, landings decreased to 705t.

Figure 5: Landings and TAC (solid red line) for 4X5Y Atlantic cod by quota year (DFO 2017).
Description

Figure 5: Landings of 4X5Y Atlantic cod increased in the 1960s as domestic and foreign otter trawl fleets joined the fishery, and then dropped in 1970 due to restrictions on haddock fishing. Total landings averaged 20,000 t for several decades, but have recently declined along with restrictive total allowable catches (TACs).

Year Total TAC
1960 12069  
1961 12423  
1962 14549  
1963 15790  
1964 21067  
1965 24221  
1966 24163  
1967 27813  
1968 30840  
1969 24112  
1970 18020  
1971 20301  
1972 20531  
1973 19991  
1974 18942  
1975 19586  
1976 16141  
1977 21989  
1978 23723  
1979 28707  
1980 31277  
1981 31521  
1982 33134 30,000
1983 29471 30,000
1984 25528 30,000
1985 21499 30,000
1986 20040 20,000
1987 19005 18,000
1988 20537 16,000
1989 19885 13,000
1990 23904 22,000
1991 27749 26,000
1992 26080 26,000
1993 16026 16,000
1994 13045 14,000
1995 8767 9,000
1996 10572 11,000
1997 11239 13,000
1998 8283 9,300
1999 7330 7,910
2000 5834 6,000
2001 5908 6,000
2002 5817 6,000
2003 5399 6,000
2004 4857 6,000
2005 3850 5,500
2006 3712 5,000
2007 3937 5,000
2008 4064 5,000
2009 2947 3,000
2010 2864 3,000
2011 1423 1,650
2012 1202 1,650
2013 1212 1,650
2014 1207 1,650
2015 675 825

Since 2014, following reductions in the TAC, landings for 4X5Y Atlantic cod have decreased substantially. The total value of the 4X5Y Atlantic cod fishery dropped from $2.85M in 2012 to $1.74M in 2016.

Please refer to Section 4 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP for additional details on the socio-economic and cultural importance of the cod fishery.

V. Management issues

The major potential threats to survival and recovery that have been identified for 4X5Y cod are natural mortality (including seal predation), fishing above FREF, discards and bycatch. The effects of large scale environmental change on 4X5Y cod productivity are unknown (DFO 2017) but have been implicated in contributing to declines in the nearby Gulf of Maine (e.g., Pershing et al. 2015).

Cod in 4X5Y are caught along with halibut, haddock, pollock, Winter flounder, redfish, and other species in a mixed species fishery. In the 1960s, landings of 4X5Y cod increased as domestic and foreign otter trawl fleets joined the fishery, and then dropped in 1970 as effort declined due to restrictions on haddock fishing. Landings averaged over 20,000 t for several decades and then declined, following steep quota reductions through the 1990s. The quota continued to be reduced through the 2000s and in the 2009 quota year, 2,900 t of cod were landed in 4X5Y (DFO 2011). Despite quota reductions over this time period, the 2009 stock assessment indicated that fishing had been above the fishing mortality target of 0.2 for the entire time series, and was above 0.4 from 1980-1995. Based on the results of the stock assessment in 2009, the TAC for the 4X5Y cod fishery was set at 1650t from 2011 to 2015, a level which was expected to result in an F=0.11.

In response to the 2014 stock status update, which showed the status was worse than previously expected, the SFGAC met in 2015 to discuss reducing 4X5Y Atlantic cod mortality and additional strategies to promote rebuilding. Recommendations from stakeholders included reducing the overall quota, setting the quota over 24 months rather than annually, quota carry-forwards, reducing natural mortality by reducing predators (e.g. grey seals), implementing gear modifications (e.g. separator trawl, changes to bait, hook size changes), and additional spawning closures.

As a result of these discussions, DFO reduced the quota by 50% to 1,650t over 2 years. The rationale for the quota reduction was to reduce removals of 4X5Y Atlantic cod from all fisheries to the lowest possible level, as the stock is in the Critical zone. Industry members felt that adopting a 2-year quota approach would incentivize leaving cod quota in the water, and give them more flexibility to use the very low amounts available in the best way for their enterprises.

The 2016 stock status update indicated that reducing the quota to 1,650 t over 2 years had reduced relative F to the lowest point in the time series, and that the stock appears to have stabilized at a low level. A second 2-year quota of 1,650 t was announced for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 quota years. Between the 2-year quota periods, a quota carry-forward for 4X5Y Atlantic cod of no more than 15% of final quota amounts at the individual or management board level was approved.

In 2011, the RPA identified that an increase in seal populations may contribute to the high natural mortality for 4X5Y Atlantic cod, but stated that the degree to which seals contribute to the natural mortality has yet to be quantified. Therefore, it is not known to what extent a reduction in seals would assist in the rebuilding of the stock. In 2015, the SFGAC discussed various approaches for rebuilding the 4X5Y Atlantic cod stock. Several meeting participants expressed concerns about predation mortality from grey seals, and recommended that the Government of Canada consider management actions to reduce the grey seal populations, including a cull on Sable Island.

VI. Objectives

There are 5 overarching objectives identified in the groundfish IFMP, and these are guided by the principle that the fishery is a common property resource to be managed for the benefit of all Canadians, consistent with conservation objectives, the constitutional protection afforded Aboriginal and treaty rights, and the relative contributions that various uses of the resource make to Canadian society, including socio-economic benefits to communities.

Conservation-based objectives

  1. Productivity: Do not cause unacceptable reduction in productivity so that components can play their role in the functioning of the ecosystem.
  2. Biodiversity: Do not cause unacceptable reduction in biodiversity in order to preserve the structure and natural resilience of the ecosystem.
  3. Habitat: Do not cause unacceptable modification to the habitat in order to safeguard both physical and chemical properties of the ecosystem.

 

Social, cultural and economic objectives

  1. Cultural and sustenance: Respect Aboriginal and treaty rights to fish.
  2. Prosperity: Create the circumstances for economically prosperous fisheries

 

As outlined in the PA Framework, the primary objective of this rebuilding plan is to promote stock growth out of the Critical zone (e.g. grow the stock beyond the LRP), by ensuring removals from all fishing sources are kept to the lowest possible level until the stock has cleared this zone. There should be no tolerance for preventable decline. Within the Critical zone, this objective remains the same whether the stock is declining, stable or increasing.

Short-term objectives (3-5 years)

Under current conditions of high natural mortality, and in the absence of a new stock assessment, it is difficult to set timelines for rebuilding the 4X5Y Atlantic cod stock. The short-term management objective is to ensure that total fishing mortality from the groundfish fishery does not exceed the FLIM for the Critical zone.

Mid-term objectives (5-15 years)

In general, when a stock is in the Critical zone, rebuilding to a level above the LRP should be achieved in a reasonable timeframe (1.5 to 2 generations) with a high degree of probability (greater than 75%). For the 4X5Y Atlantic cod stock, this equates to approximately 11-15 years; however, given the low productivity and high natural mortality of the 4X5Y Atlantic cod stock, timelines for rebuilding are difficult to specify.

Long-term objectives (15 + years)

The long-term objective for 4X5Y Atlantic cod is to grow the stock out of the Critical zone, and eventually to achieve and maintain the spawning stock biomass in the Healthy zone (i.e., at or above the USR) for the benefit of all Canadians, including harvesters, industry and the coastal communities which depend on the resource for their livelihood, and to provide reasonable fishing opportunities during the rebuilding period. 

VII. Management measures

The only mitigation measures identified under the 2011 RPA to increase survivorship include the reduction in directed fishing (to the level of FREF) and bycatch mortality.

Catch reductions and controls (groundfish fisheries)

The primary control on fishery removals of 4X5Y cod is the TAC. All groundfish landings (directed and bycatch) are counted towards the quota, and no discarding of 4X5Y cod is permitted in groundfish fisheries.

While the fisheries reference point (FREF) = 0.2 has been in place for many years, the 2009 stock assessment concluded that actual fishing mortality had been above that level for the entire time series (1980-2008). Subsequently, quota reductions were adopted from 5,000 t per year in 2008 to 3,000 t in 2009, and 1,650 t per year in 2011. In 2011, an (FLIM) of 0.1 for the Critical zone was adopted. While no absolute estimates of F have been available since that time, a quota reduction to 1650 t over 2 years was adopted for 2015/16, with the expectation that this would bring F below FLIM. This catch level (1650t total) has also been established for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 quota years.

Most landed catch is subject to independent verification via the Dockside Monitoring Program. While no discarding is permitted, estimates of discarding could be generated by comparing catch on unobserved trips to trips with at-sea observers, as is done for the 5Z Atlantic cod stock on Georges Bank. Observer coverage targets in the groundfish fisheries in 4X5Y are generally 5-10% annually, except 10-20% in the Unit 3 redfish fishery. These targets have not been met in most fisheries in most years, which limits the ability of Fisheries Management to assess the possible extent of discarding in these groundfish fisheries. Also, these targets have not been assessed as to whether they are adequate for estimating discard rates of 4X5Y cod with a reasonable level of certainty. An observer coverage plan was adopted by the SFGAC in 2017 to outline strategies and quantify progress towards meeting observer coverage targets in the groundfish fisheries in Maritimes Region.

Catch reductions and controls (other fisheries)

DFO has developed a Policy for Managing Bycatch. The policy will be implemented through IFMPs over time, according to national and regional priorities and resource availability. This policy has 2 objectives:

  1. to ensure that Canadian fisheries are managed in a manner that supports the sustainable harvesting of aquatic species and that minimizes the risk of fisheries causing serious or irreversible harm to bycatch species; and
  2. to account for total catch, including retained and non-retained bycatch.

 

Bycatch of groundfish species in other directed fisheries (e.g., cod and cusk in the lobster fishery) can be a management issue, if that bycatch could result in significant unaccounted mortality. The IFMPs for those directed fisheries address the approaches to be used in dealing with bycatch. In the RPA, the total estimated discards from non-groundfish fisheries were less than 20 t annually, from 2002 to 2006, based on extrapolating reports from at-sea observers. However, observer coverage in 4X5Y has generally been limited, including within large fisheries known to have cod bycatch. One of the measures recommended in the RPA for promoting recovery was therefore to increase at-sea observer coverage in fisheries where the catching and discarding of cod is likely to be high so that mortality from non-groundfish fisheries can be better estimated.

The Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) 33 through 38 overlap with 4X5Y Atlantic cod. The fisheries in these areas open in the fall (October or November) and close in late spring or summer. There are over 2,000 commercial licences in these LFAs combined, with trap limits ranging from 250 to 400 per licence. None of the LFAs in 4X5Y have had regular at-sea sampling of bycatch. However, during the 2009/10 season, observers were deployed in LFAs 33 and 34 under a special project aimed at obtaining information about interactions with cod and several other depleted species in the lobster fishery. The estimated bycatch of cod from this study was 96 t in LFA 33 (based on 172 observed trips) and 211 t in LFA 34 (based on 288 observed trips) (Pezzack et al. 2014). It was noted that these estimates should not be interpreted as mortality estimates, since the survivorship of cod caught in lobster traps has not been assessed.

The short-term management objectives with respect to cod bycatch in LFAs 33-38 are as follows: to introduce regular at-sea sampling in each of the LFAs (a preliminary target of 1% of sea days has been set, beginning in fall 2018); to seek science advice on the level of precision and accuracy needed for robust estimates of cod bycatch; and to request that mortality as a result of bycatch in the lobster fishery be explicitly accounted for as a source of fishing mortality in the next cod stock assessment.

The RPA noted that there are other fisheries, such as scallop fisheries, in the Maritimes Region which can catch Atlantic cod as bycatch, but for which at-sea observer coverage is too low to reliably estimate discard levels in most years. Enhanced observer coverage in the inshore scallop fishery in 2008 and 2009 indicated relatively low levels (3 t or less per year) of 4X5Y cod bycatch (Sameoto and Glass 2012). More recently, the Full Bay inshore scallop fleet is undertaking a program to improve bycatch data collection. At-sea observer coverage in offshore scallop fleets in 4X5Y has typically been very low. Given conservation concerns for the 4X5Y Atlantic cod stock, DFO should ensure that estimates of bycatch levels are available for fisheries that have the potential to impact this stock.

Seal predation

In 2011, the RPA identified that an increase in seal populations may contribute to the high natural mortality for 4X5Y Atlantic cod, but stated that the degree to which seals contribute to natural mortality has yet to be quantified. Therefore, it is not known to what extent management of the seal population would assist in the rebuilding of the stock. In addition to scientific uncertainty, significant logistical and political constraints may limit the feasibility of any management measures to reduce the seal population.

Gear modification and restrictions

Separator trawls are mandatory in the Georges Bank (5Z) mobile gear haddock fishery to reduce bycatch of cod. In the 4X5Y area, they are not mandatory although operators could choose to use them in order to control cod bycatch levels. In discussions in 2014, fleet representatives expressed concern with the economic impacts of requiring separator trawls in the 4X5Y area, and asked for flexibility in determining how best to operate within the available cod bycatch quotas, rather than through mandatory gear modifications.

Closed areas

Originally established to protect haddock, there is a spring spawning closure on Browns Bank annually, from March 1st to May 31st. Through licence conditions, this spawning closure has been extended to include the period from February 1st to June 15th. The intent of the closure is to minimize disturbance during cod spawning in case such disturbance might negatively affect spawning success.

For additional information, please refer to Section 5.4.2 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP.

Monitoring

Monitoring tools in use vary by fleet and include hails, dockside monitoring of landings, at-sea observer coverage, logbooks, and vessel monitoring systems. Please refer to Section 5.1 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP for additional details.

Habitat protection

Please refer to section 5.1 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP for further details on oceans and ecosystem management considerations in the Maritimes Region, and section 5.5 for details on existing measures within 4X5Y to limit benthic impacts.

Harvest strategies and tactics

Current harvest strategies and tactics for the 4X5Y Atlantic cod stock are outlined in Table 2.

Table 2: Current harvest strategies and tactics for the 4X5Y Atlantic cod

STRATEGIES TACTICS
Productivity

Manage fishing mortality in the groundfish fishery by using the following references and risk tolerances:

  • The TAC may be set with a neutral (50%) probability of exceeding the fishing mortality target reference for the Healthy zone (FREF) when the SSB is above the USR, or
  • The TAC may be set with a low (less than 25%) probability of exceeding the fishing mortality limit reference for the Healthy zone (FLIM; not yet determined) when the SSB is above BMSY/ the USR.
  • The TAC should be set to mitigate declines and, when possible, promote positive change in spawning stock biomass (SSB) over a 3-year period when it is below the USR. A harvest strategy of FREF is acceptable when the stock is in the Cautious zone, so long as the first criterion is met; however, it is required that fishing mortality will decline as the stock progresses lower into the Cautious zone. The management response will vary depending on location of the stock within the Cautious zone, whether the stock is increasing or decreasing, whether the trajectory (growth or decline) is projected to continue, and indications of incoming recruitment to the SSB, for example.
  • When the SSB is below the limit reference point (LRP), the harvest strategy is to be results-driven, and to stay below the FLIM for the Critical zone. Rebuilding to a level above the LRP should be achieved in a reasonable timeframe (1.5 to 2 generations) with a high degree of probability (greater than 75%). The TAC (if appropriate) should be set with a very low (less than 5%) risk of biomass decline, recognizing that this may not always be possible due to the variation in year-class strength.
  • TAC (which may be introduced through fleet quota caps or trip limits)
  • Small fish protocol
  • Gear modifications (e.g. mandatory use of a cod separator panel when fishing with mobile gear in 5Z)
  • Size selectivity through gear restrictions (e.g. mesh and hook size constraints)
  • Bycatch limits when directing for other groundfish
Keep fishing mortality in the lobster fishery moderate (reference levels not yet determined).
  • Mandatory release of cod bycatch
  • Traps fitted with escape vents and biodegradable panels

VIII. Access and allocation

The 4X5Y cod TAC is fully allocated to fleet sectors according to established percentage shares, which are considered stable. Please refer to Section 7 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP.

IX. Shared stewardship

Shared stewardship is achieved through the involvement of stake- and rights-holders in advisory committees and regional science advisory processes. Please see Section 2.6 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP for further details.

X. Compliance

Compliance involves the deployment of fishery officers to air, sea and land patrols, observer coverage on fishing vessels, dockside monitoring (DMP) and remote electronic monitoring (VMS). For details on regional compliance program delivery, current compliance issues and the compliance strategy, see section 8 of the 4VWX5 groundfish IFMP

XI. Plan enhancement, evaluation and performance review

Outcomes from the application of this plan will be reviewed periodically through the Scotia-Fundy Groundfish Advisory Committee and other advisory committees as required, to determine if changes to the plan are warranted. A new scientific assessment of the 4X5Y cod stock is scheduled for the 2018/19 fiscal year, and this rebuilding plan will be reviewed and revised as needed following that assessment.

Based on the most recent stock status update for the 4X5Y cod stock, stock biomass seems to have stabilized at a low level. As a result of the quota reduction in 2015/16, the relative F was the lowest in the time series. The RV survey index increased incrementally from the lowest point in 2014 of 2,786 t to 5,195 t in 2016, before dropping to 3,069 t in 2017. At the current TAC level, fishing mortality is expected to be very low and it is hoped that this will support stock recovery.

A high priority for DFO is to develop a new assessment of fishing mortality for this stock. If F is found to be at a level that impacts rebuilding, further management measures will be needed.

Other sources of mortality for 4X5Y cod such as seal predation are not well understood. In addition, potential impacts of climate change on this stock have not been evaluated. As new knowledge is developed, DFO will seek to incorporate this information into the management of this stock.

The 2014 RV survey index was the lowest on record for this stock, at 2,786 t. That year, a number of potential measures to support rebuilding of the 4X5Y cod stock were discussed by the SFGAC, including reducing natural mortality by reducing predators, prohibiting directed fishing by fixed gear fleets, gear modifications, and additional spawning closures. As a result, DFO reduced the TAC by 50% to 1,650t over 2 years. A subsequent 2-year TAC of 1,650t was also implemented for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 quota years. During the time period of this plan (2017) and/or following the framework assessment planned for 2018/19, if the stock is not seen to be showing signs of recovery relative to the 2014 levels or F is found to be at a level that impacts rebuilding, these measures will be revisited. In particular, a prohibition on directed fishing will be considered and existing bycatch rules will be re-evaluated to ensure that catches are at the lowest possible level.

DFO will also ensure that all significant sources of fishing mortality can be estimated and accounted for. For groundfish fisheries, unreported (and illegal) discards would be the main source of unaccounted fishing mortality. DFO will develop a strategy to estimate illegal discards, which might require increasing at-sea observer coverage or exploring other forms of catch monitoring such as electronic video monitoring.

For LFAs 33-38, Atlantic cod fishing mortality would need to be estimated based on rates of capture estimated from at-sea sampling and quantification or reliable estimation of post-release survival. In some areas, estimates of mortality as a result of illegal retention may also need to be considered. Once estimates are available, reference points and limits will need to be established for the fishery, and the performance of the fishery will need to be monitored against these.

In other commercial fisheries, work will be undertaken to ensure that estimates of bycatch levels are available for fisheries with the potential to impact 4X5Y Atlantic cod. Fishing mortality from bycatch in other fisheries can then be incorporated into the management framework for this stock.

A full accounting of 4X5Y Atlantic cod fishing mortality must also include catches in Aboriginal fisheries and recreational fisheries. DFO is considering the implementation of a marine recreational licence for Atlantic Canada, which would improve data collection from recreational groundfish fisheries. DFO is also working with Aboriginal organizations to improve reporting of catches in food, social, and ceremonial fisheries.

An overview of action items to support the rebuilding of 4X5Y cod can be found in Table 3.

Table 3: Action items to support rebuilding of 4X5Y cod

Issue Action Timeline Lead
New framework assessment Review reference points. 2018/19 Science, Resource Management and SFGAC

Commercial fishing

Review TAC and rebuilding plan following new framework assessment

If the stock is not seen to be showing signs of recovery relative to the 2014 levels or F is found to be at a level that impacts rebuilding, revisit management measures (e.g., consider prohibition on directed fishing, revisit existing bycatch rules).
2018/19 Resource Management and SFGAC
  Maintain cod spawning area closure on Browns Bank. February 1 to June 15 annually Resource Management
Recreational fishing Pending a Ministerial decision, the implementation of a marine recreational licence for Atlantic Canada would greatly improve data collection from recreational groundfish fisheries, including Cod catches.   Resource Management
  The recreational bag limit for groundfish in 4X5Y is 10 per day in the aggregate and the season is open 11 months of the year (closed in January). Subject to consultations with affected stakeholders, the amount of cod permitted as part of that aggregate could be reduced by variation order and the season shortened. 2019 Resource Management
Cod bycatch Introduce regular at-sea sampling in each of LFAs 33-38 with preliminary target of 1% of sea days. Fall 2018 Resource Management and lobster fishing industry
  Provide Science advice on the level of at sea data collections to develop robust estimates of cod bycatch in the lobster fisheries---Note this will be done 1) preliminary based on data at hand and 2) after the bycatch studies are completed from the above bullet.
  1. 2018
  2. 2021
Science
  Include mortality as a result of cod bycatch in non-groundfish fisheries as a source of fishing mortality in future 4X5Y cod stock assessments. Tentatively 2023 Science
  Undertake a program to improve bycatch data collection in the Full Bay inshore scallop fishery. Ongoing Full Bay inshore scallop fleet and Resource Management
Illegal discarding Develop a strategy to estimate illegal discards of cod. 2018-21 Resource Management, Science and C&P
  Seek science advice on the necessary level of at-sea observer coverage or other monitoring to detect discarding in groundfish fisheries. 2018-21 Resource Management and Science

Sources of information

Clark, D.S., and J. Emberley. 2009. Assessment of Cod in Division 4X in 2008. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2009/018.

Clark, D.C., K.J. Clark, and I.V. Andrushchenko. 2011. Precautionary Approach Limit Reference Points for Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) in NAFO Divisions 4X5Yb and 5Zjm. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2011/085: vi + 6p.

COSEWIC. 2003. COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Atlantic Cod Gadus morhua in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xi +76pp.

COSEWIC. 2010. COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Atlantic Cod Gadus morhua in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xi +105pp.

DFO. 2009. Cod on the Southern Scotian Shelf and in the Bay of Fundy (Div. 4X/5Y). DFO. Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2009/015.

DFO. 2011. Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) for the Southern Designatable Unit (NAFO Divs. 4X5Yb and 5Zjm) of Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua). DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Advis. Rep. 2011/034.

DFO. 2015. 2014 4X5Yb Atlantic Cod Stock Status Update. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Resp. 2015/010.

DFO. 2017. 2016 4X5Yb Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) Stock Status Update. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Resp. 2017/024.

Pershing, A.J., Alexander, M.A., Hernandez, C.M., Kerr, L.A., Le Bris, A., Mills, K.E., Nye, J.A., Record, N.R., Scannell, H.A., Scott, J.D., Sherwood, G.D., and Thomas, A.C. 2015. Slow adaptation in the face of rapid warming leads to collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery. Science 350: 809-812.

Pezzack, D.S., Denton, C.M., and Tremblay, M. J. 2014. Overview of By-catch and Discards in the Maritimes Region Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) 27-33 based on Species at Risk Act (SARA) At-sea Sampling 2009-2010. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2014/040. V+27p.

Sameoto, J.A and Glass, A. 2012. An Overview of Discards from the Canadian Inshore Scallop Fishery in SFA 28 and SFA 29 West for 2002 to 2009. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2979:vi+39 p.