Scientists at odds over cod’s slow recovery
Two teams of federal scientists are clashing over their interpretations of why Atlantic cod are struggling to recover after the population’s devastating collapse in the early 1990s. The debate raising new questions about the best way to sustain the resource in the future.
Less than a year ago, a study published by Department of Fisheries and Oceans researchers highlighted a promising rebound in the species — for generations an economic main-stay for Atlantic Canada — and blamed the delayed recovery on an explosion in the number of forage fish — prey normally eaten by adult cod — and their ravenous consumption of cod larvae.
That study, published in the journal Nature, concluded that a “predator-prey reversal” meant fish typically preyed on by adult cod — such as herring and capelin — become so numerous they began to wipe out cod larvae and retard the recovery of cod, protected by a fishing moratorium since 1993.
But research published by another team of DFO scientists this week discounts that and suggests that grey seals — targeted for a proposed cull aimed at bolstering cod stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence — may have postponed the cod’s comeback in other Atlantic waters.