Cod and climate: a systems approach for sustainable fisheries management of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in coastal Danish waters

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This study applied the Systems Approach Framework (SAF) to address the issue of declining Atlantic cod fishery in coastal areas. Interviews of 58 fishers from 26 harbours and meetings with national fisheries organisations and managers revealed the perception of an offshore movement of coastal cod. Numerical modelling based on fishing survey data did not substantiate these perceptions in the data-poor coastal waters. However, Data Storage Tag (DST) information combined with bottom sea water temperature data from the spatio-temporal hydrodynamic Baltic Sea Ice-Ocean Model showed changes in potential cod habitat distribution in the Skagerrak-Kattegat and western Baltic from 1979 to 2016. Subsequently, cod habitats were defined in three categories: (i) potentially suitable (T 16 ºC); (ii) episodic (12 < T ≤ 16 °C); and (iii) unsuitable (T > 16 °C). The environmental changes were linked to the socio-economic component of cod fishery. Cod catches (weight and monetary value) were retrieved using logbook information and data from the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS, 2005-2016) and the Automatic Identification System (AIS, 2006-2016). General additive modelling significantly showed the largest proportion of catches took place in the potentially suitable habitat whereas catches were lower in the episodic habitat and rare in the unsuitable habitat. The results of this first large-scale SAF application are highly valuable for adapting existing fisheries management by: (i) providing information on habitat shrinkage for Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) based stock assessments; (ii) adding a spatio-temporal dimension for coastal productivity relative to the vessel-based Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system; and (iii) providing a predictive scenario simulation tool for sustainable management under changing environmental conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)943-958
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Climate change
  • Potential fish habitats
  • Skagerrak-Kattegat
  • Western Baltic
  • Systems approach framework (SAF)
  • Stake holder engagement

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