A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA finds that Atlantic Cod cod stocks have reached the lowest level ever.
Russ Brown, with the NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, says after researchers observed declining cod stocks in 2011, counts during the last fishing season showed cod populations continue to slide.
"All three of the bottom trawl surveys have all reached record low levels, and our estimate of spawning stock biomass coming out of the stock assessment has also reached record low levels," says Brown.
Spawning stock, or fish that are mature enough to reproduce are at 3 or 4 percent of NOAA’s target population, down from 15 to 18 percent in 2011.
In response to the falling cod population, the catch limits in beleaguered fishery were cut by 77 percent for the 2013-2014 fishing season. But even before catch limits were cut last year, the cod caught by New Hampshire fisherman had slid from 556 tons in 2010 to 329 in 2012.
Brown says it’s not clear if the reason for the slide is over-fishing, or something else. "We could see that this stock is just shifting to another level of productivity, either due to environmental variation or possibly climate change," he says.
The report will be presented to regulators in the coming weeks and must still be peer-reviewed.