Modeling Recruitment Dynamics of Atlantic Cod in the Western Gulf of Maine for Improved Fisheries Management

Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) were once broadly distributed throughout the Gulf of Maine (GoM). In recent decades, their abundance has declined considerably and their distribution has largely contracted into the western GoM. Rebuilding the GoM cod stock has been much slower than expected, despite repeated management interventions. This project focuses on modeling of Atlantic cod in the western GoM as a tool for improved fisheries management. The modeling effort will be primarily directed at early life stages: spawning, egg/larval transport and early-stage juvenile settlement. However, to expand the potential application of our work, the early-life-stage model will be incorporated into a spatially-explicit, full-life history model of cod within the western GoM. The principal scientific objective will be to better understand how various environmental factors (i.e., weather and ocean current patterns, seasonal development of stratification, and the distribution of sediment type) influence the early-stage recruitment of cod spawned in the GoM. We will also work towards a number of management objectives: prioritizing the areas and times of cod spawning most deserving of protection, identifying cod juvenile habitat most critical to the early-stage recruitment, and quantitatively assessing the effect of management policy on the cod population in the western GoM.