Mixing and migration of overwintering Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) stocks near the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence

S. E. Campana*, G. A. Chouinard, J. M. Hanson, A. Fréchet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Millions of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) migrate distances of up to 500 km each fall to aggregate together in a small overwintering area off eastern Canada. Synoptic research vessel surveys carried out each January between 1994 and 1997 documented dense aggregations of cod along both flanks of the Laurentian Channel in each year, with estimated biomasses exceeding 100 000 metric tons. Using the trace element composition of the otolith ("otolith elemental fingerprint") as a natural tag, we found members of four populations to be present on the overwintering grounds in significant numbers, yet large-scale mixing among the populations was minimal. Individual trawl samples were often composed of a single population, suggesting that population integrity was maintained at a scale of <20 km. Cod from the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence dominated the population composition along the southern flank of the Channel, while cod from the northern Gulf dominated the northern flank; the distributions of both of these populations extended well to the east of their summer habitats and were remarkably similar across years. There was no evidence of large-scale mixing across the Channel. In light of the substantive migration of northern Gulf cod into the management area for the southern Newfoundland population, fishing effort off southern Newfoundland has the potential to reduce the size of the northern Gulf population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1881
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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