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Changing ocean temperatures, circulation patterns affecting young Atlantic cod food supply
Date:6/20/2013

abitats in the ecosystem (1-4 C, 34-39 F) have either stayed the same or increased slightly during the study period 1982-2011. This discontinuity is attributed to changes in circulation in the northern Gulf of Maine associated with the Labrador Current.

Atlantic cod off the Northeast U.S. are managed as two stock units, the more northerly in the Gulf of Maine and the more southerly on and around Georges Bank. There are upward of ten known spawning populations within these two stocks, and the very young fish that they produce are found in specific larval development areas. Two zooplankton species that serve as food for Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) larvae are Pseudocalanus spp, and Centropages typicus. The former is associated with winter-spawning cod, and the latter with spring-spawning cod.

The researchers developed indices of zooplankton and cod abundance in six index areas, relating larval feeding and development areas to associated areas where adults reside. They found that Pseudocalanus spp has declined in abundance on parts of Georges Bank and in the eastern Gulf of Maine, areas where cod have been less abundant in recent years. Centropages typicus declined in abundance in the eastern Gulf of Maine as well. The areas where these zooplankton species have declined are spatially discrete and are related to the change in core thermal habitat of the ecosystem.

The abundance of zooplankton species is measured by the NEFSC's Ecosystem Monitoring Program (EcoMon), which conducts shelf-wide bimonthly surveys of the ecosystem. Data and observations from the NEFSC's spring bottom trawl surveys were also analyzed.

Although the researchers concentrated on Atlantic cod recruitment success and population trends, many of the zooplankton species examined are important as prey for early life stages of other fish species and marine mammals. These zooplankton species are important within the Northeast Shelf ecosystem, and can serve as mod
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Contact: Shelley Dawicki
shelley.dawicki@noaa.gov
508-495-2378
NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Source:Eurekalert

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