Writing in today's edition of Frontier's in Ecology (www.frontiersinecology.org), Census of Marine Life researchers announced the first-ever estimate of cod levels in the 1850s, created using old schooner catch records and observations, coupled with modern modeling tools. And they say their findings have profound implications for contemporary policy makers trying to rebuild fishery "remnants" and restore the marine ecosystem.
"Managing the remnants of the ocean's resources is a critical issue worldwide, but evidence for what constitutes a healthy fish population remains controversial. As we attempt to rebuild these fisheries, our decisions should reflect real and realistic goals for management, not just recently observed catch levels."
150-year perspective challenges 'conventional wisdom'
The researchers say that a 150-year perspective challenges 'conventional wisdom' as to what constitutes a rebuilt cod stock in a productive marine environment.
In recent debates in New England over management of George's Bank and Gulf of Maine cod stocks, for example, many argued that 1980s stock levels should be considered fully rebuilt. However, "this contradicted the evidence of basic cod biology, which suggested that cod stocks would only be rebuilt at higher levels.
"Our historical analyses indicate that recent levels of biomass and catch may grossly under-represent the productive potential of commercially important species."
The researchers emphasize the importance of understanding ecosystem trends and determining baseline levels of marine species that existed prior to the industrialization of
Contact: Terry Collins
Census of Marine Life