Report Updates Status of
White Hake, Redfish, and
Gulf of Maine Cod
Chief of Research Communications
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Woods Hole, Mass. -- The public review workshop report of the 33rd meeting of the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC), is now available online. The report summarizes findings of the scientific body convened regularly by NOAA Fisheries since 1985 to peer-review fish stock status analyses and produce scientific advice used by fishery managers in the Northeast. NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency with responsibility for the nation's marine fisheries.
The report updates the status of three species stocks: Gulf of Maine cod, Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank white hake, and Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank Acadian redfish.
Gulf of Maine cod
The spawning stock biomass (weight of fish in the stock that are large enough to spawn), although still quite low, nearly doubled between 1998 and 2001 (from 21.8 million pounds to 50.7 million pounds). This is largely owing to growth of the fish born in 1998 (9.5 million fish), a larger "year class" than any since 1992 (averaging 3.8 million fish from 1993 to 1997). The spawning stock is expected to increase in 2002 if harvests remain low. Scientists also noted that the fishery removed around half of the adult cod population in the Gulf of Maine every year between 1993 and 2000, and that discards (fish caught but not landed) likely exceeded landings in 1999 and accounted for more than one-third of the catch in 2000.
Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank white hake
The report documents a good 1998 year class (3.5 million), only the second strong influx of new fish since 1989. Landings of white hake have been relatively low in recent years (about 6 million pounds on average from 1996 to 2000), mirroring a total stock biomass among the lowest on record (11.1 million pounds on average from 1996 to 2000). Scientists noted that red and white hake are easily mistaken for one another at small sizes and that there is considerable discard of white hake, thus data for larger fish is the most reliable at present.
Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank Acadian redfish
The report documents a long-awaited improvement in redfish, a group of slow-growing ocean perch that supported a robust fishery beginning in the 1930s. Over the next decade, landings and total stock size declined dramatically, leveling off at very low numbers. The stock produced the largest year class in 30 years in 1992 (327.5 million fish) followed by some moderately strong year classes during the 1990s. Spawning stock biomass has been well over the 30-year mean in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Commercial landings are well below the mean for the 1934-2000 time period.