Effects of climate and stocks interactions on the yield of north-east arctic cod. Results from multispecies model run
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A conceptual climate dependent multispecies model for stock interactions and harvesting of herring, capelin and cod in the Norwegian Sea-Barents Sea region has been developed. The concept presupposes that good recruitment of herring and cod is linked to warm ocean climate, which may occur with frequencies of 8 to 10 years. Strong herring year classes overlap the distribution of capelin larvae in 3-4 years causing mass mortality of the capelin fry, and depletion of the capelin stock. At that time the herring is about to leave the Barents Sea, and lack of food in subsequent years reduces the potential yield of cod. Immature cod is the main predator on mature capelin and cannibalism is an important factor in reducing the abundance of juvenile cod when the capelin stock is rebuilding. The model is used in a study of the effects of different fishery management strategies on stocks and yield. Results show that optimum yield of cod is obtained by high fishing mortality on immature cod from the end of a warm period until the spawning stock of capelin is rebuilt In subsequent years the fishing mortality should be reduced until a new warm period occur. This harvesting strategy of cod gives an optimum biomass production of capelin and an optimum potential yield of cod for a spawning stock limit of 200 thousand tonnes. The results are in accordance with the catch history of cod. Prior to the 1970's, the effort of the fishery in the Barents Sea followed to a large extent the abundance of immature cod, resulting in large catches when the stock was abundant. The yearly catches varied from 0.4 to 1.3 mill. tonnes, and the average catches obtained in the two periods 1950-1958 and 1959-1969 are the highest on record. Moreover, the trawlers fished with small meshes in the cod end, discarding considerable quantities of small fish.
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