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The Irish Sea Cod Recovery Plan: Some Lessons Learned

Ciaran J. Kelly, Edward A. Codling, Emer Rogan

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Abstract Historically, cod has been one of the most important fish stocks in the North Atlantic. Recent stock collapses have been attributed to overfishing, and in February 2000 the European Commission established a closed area in the Irish Sea as part of a general recovery plan. The recovery plan was further revised and implemented between 2001 and 2005. However, the recovery plan has not provided the expected benefit, and the stock is still thought to be below the safe limit of Blim = 6000 t. We use stochastic simulations to investigate possible stock trajectories over a seven-year period from 1999 to 2005 under various scenarios of fishing mortality. Comparing the results of simulations with reality, it is clear that more drastic action is required if the stock is to recover in the medium term. The recovery plan was not explicitly designed to deal with uncertainty in the system, and this, we believe, resulted in the failure to meet the recovery plan objectives.