The Council is working on a multi-year effort to transition from the current Atlantic cod management units to align with recent findings providing a new understanding of cod science.

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Why the transition plan?

Atlantic cod historically has been assessed as two biological units – Gulf of Maine cod and Georges Bank cod. An interdisciplinary working group led by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which included experts from the U.S. and Canada, concluded that Atlantic cod in U.S. waters is made up of five distinct biological units rather than the previously identified two units.

A Research Track Stock Assessment for Atlantic cod, which was peer reviewed in July 2023, produced four stock assessments for cod, combining two of the five biological units. Western Gulf of Maine/Cape Cod winter spawners and Western Gulf of Maine spring spawners were the two combined units. This resulted in four separate Atlantic cod stock assessments for Eastern Gulf of Maine, Western Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, and Southern New England.

Updated management track stock assessments for the four biological cod stock units will occur in June of 2024. These assessments will be used to determine stock status and catch levels for the fishery beginning with the 2025 fishing year.

The Council must use this new, best scientific information available – that there are four distinct biological cod stock units, not two – and adjust how it manages Atlantic cod.

Approach:

The Council is developing a draft management transition plan informed by discussions among the Recreational Advisory Panel, Groundfish Advisory Panel, and Groundfish Committee.​ The Groundfish Plan Development Team is preparing information and analysis to support the development of the transition plan.

Council staff are synthesizing the past discussions from relevant meetings and workshops into a single document.

Timeline:

The Council is working on the Atlantic Cod Management Transition Plan in two phases:


January-June 2024 – Develop first draft of management transition plan, including a discussion of the type of action necessary for any management changes, either a framework adjustment or a fishery management plan amendment.​

June-September 2024 – Develop second draft of management transition plan, including any management changes needed for the annual framework action under development for implementation on May 1, 2025.​

Phase 1 - Completed in the annual framework adjustment for measures implemented by May 1, 2025​. This will include fishing year 2025 through fishing year 2027 catch limits for four Atlantic cod stock units.

Phase 2 ​- Implemented in a follow-on framework adjustment or amendment with a broader range of measures to consider a longer-term approach​. This action will adopt new management units and may include adjustments to allocations and other additional measures to protect spawning cod.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: What types of management measures is the Council considering in the transition plan?

A: Determining the new management units, addressing allocation issues, and considering potential new measures to protect Atlantic cod spawning are part of the discussion.

Q: What is the difference between a stock unit and a management unit?

A: A stock unit is made up of fish with similar biological characteristics that may be assessed and managed as a discrete entity. A management unit is a geographically delineated fishery resource that is based on particular or jurisdictional boundaries for operational fisheries management and may or may not reflect biological population structure.

Q: Why do we have four stock assessments if scientists determined we have five biological units?

A: Catch and survey data are not available to partition out Western Gulf of Maine data streams for the different winter and spring spawning populations. Therefore, the Western Gulf of Maine/Cape Cod winter spawners and Western Gulf of Maine spring spawners have been combined into one assessment at this time.

Q: Will my allocation for Atlantic cod change?

A: No final decisions on changes to individual allocations for Atlantic cod have been made at this time. The Council will consider how to allocate the four cod stocks to individual permits during the development of the transition plan. The Council is encouraging the public to get involved in ongoing discussions to help inform final decisions on allocations.

Q: How can I get involved?

A: Attend a Workshop: The Council is conducting focused workshops as part of the Atlantic Cod Management Transition Plan to identify challenges and develop alternatives for addressing Atlantic cod management considering the new biological stock units. These workshops will inform the longer-term approach (Phase 2) of the transition plan.

These one-day, in-person-only workshops will inform the longer-term approach (Phase 2) of the transition plan. They will be held in the following locations: