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Assessment of the Georges Bank Atlantic cod stock for 2005
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  • Description:
    This report presents an updated analytical assessment of the status of the Georges Bank Atlantic cod Gadus morhua stock (NAFO Division 5Z and Subarea 6) for the period 1978-2004 based on analysis of USA and Canadian commercial landings data and research vessel survey data through 2004. Estimates of 2004 fishing mortality and spawning stock biomass, 2005 beginning year stock size, and the precision of the fishing mortality and spawning stock biomass estimates are presented. Total commercial landings of Georges Bank cod in 2004 were estimated at a record low 4,583 mt, a 42% decrease from the 7,963 mt landed in 2003. The USA fleet landed 76% of the total, and the Canadian fleet landed the remaining 24%. Fishery-independent surveys conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center show similar trends in both biomass and numbers of cod since 1982. The 2004 indices remain below the long term average. Autumn recruitment indices of age 1 cod have been below the time series average since 1989 and among the lowest in the time series. Spawning stock biomass declined from about 93,000 mt in 1980 to a record low of 17,340 mt in 1995, and had increased to 30,000 mt by 2001 primarily due to the growth of the 1996 and 1998 year classes. The 2004 estimate of SSB was 22,564 mt, a decrease of 25% from 2001. Fishing mortality doubled between 1979 and 1985, increased to a record high of 1.5 (72% exploitation rate) in 1994, and has since declined to 0.24 (19% exploitation rate) in 2004. The 2004 year class (10.4 million age 1 fish) was strong, but below the time series average (14.7 million age 1 fish). The 2003 year class (21.2 million age 1 fish), however, is the first above average year class since 1989. This year class, and continued low exploitation with minimal discarding, offer a realistic opportunity for the stock to recover toward the SSBMSY of 217,000 mt.

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