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Modelling the spatial demography of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) on the European continental shelf

Andrews, Jessica M. and Gurney, William S.C. and Heath, Michael R. and Gallego, Alejandro and O'Brien, Carl M. and Darby, Christopher and Tyldesley, Graham (2006) Modelling the spatial demography of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) on the European continental shelf. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 63 (5). pp. 1027-1048. ISSN 1205-7533

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Abstract

Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) stocks across the North Atlantic have been subject to intense fishing pressure during the 20th century, and some stocks have suffered well-documented collapses. On the European shelf, cod are widely but heterogeneously distributed and are caught as part of a multispecies trawl fishery. There is a growing body of evidence that this stock is composed of substocks with potentially distinct demographic properties. As a first step towards the development of management methodologies that reflect this spatial and biological complexity, we present a spatially and physiologically explicit model describing the demography and distribution of cod on the European shelf. The computational efficiency of our implementation enables numerical parameter optimization, thus facilitating formal statistical tests of structural hypotheses. We use these methods to fit model variants embodying a variety of hypotheses about the movements of settled fish to a data set including spatial distribution information derived from International Bottom Trawl Surveys. The best-fit model emerging from this study is then used to investigate the potential effects of long-term application of a series of regional fishing closure policies.