Atlantic cod was listed as a vulnerable species in 1996. In the early 1990’s many cod populations collapsed in areas where commercial fishing was intense. The collapse is attributed to overfishing, and specifically to the commercial fishing of older/larger cod which resulted in a smaller population of fertile females and the harvesting of young fish before they have had a chance to mature and reproduce. The prosperity that fishermen enjoyed prior to the collapse lured many into the commercial fisheries and as a result the cod population was negatively affected.
Some efforts have been made to help certain cod populations rebound. Moratoriums and fishing regulations were placed in regions of Canada but were unsuccessful in maintaining or increasing population size. The main deterrent in properly managing cod stocks relates to the geographic range which the cod occupy. Cod are found throughout the waters of the Atlantic, and since these are international waters it makes it difficult for any one region to impose certain regulations. Research shows that populations can easily fall below the “Safe Biological Limits,” which represent the number of fish needed to maintain a proper population. Biologists argue that regulation alone will not be enough to keep the cod population at a sustainable level, but it is a start. Suggestions such as no-catch zones in areas of spawning and along migration routes may be helpful if enacted. As cod stocks move towards critically low levels, it is apparent that serious conservation efforts must be put into place to prevent the devastation of this important fish species. (Campbell, 2005; Wildscreen and U.K. Charity, 2004)