Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Atlantic Cod - Flemish Cap
Fact Sheet Title  Fact Sheet
Stocks management recommendations 2023
Atlantic Cod - Flemish Cap
Fact Sheet Citation  
Cod in Div. 3M
Owned byNorthwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) – ownership
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Species List:
Species Ref: en - Atlantic cod, fr - Morue de l'Atlantique, es - Bacalao del Atlántico, zh - 大西洋鳕, ru - Треска атлантическая
ident Block Atlantic Cod - Flemish Cap
Aq Res
Biological Stock: Yes         Value: Regional
Management unit: Yes        Reference year: 2022
Aq Res State Trend
Aq Res State Trend
Aq Res State Trend Aq Res State Trend
Aq Res State TrendModerate Fishing MortalityModerate fishing mortalityGreen
Aq Res State TrendIntermediate Stock SizeIntermediate abundance

SSB declined rapidly since 2017 but has remained stable during the last 3 years and is estimated to be above Blim. Since 2013, recruitment has varied at intermediate levels, much lower than those observed in 2011-2012. Fishing mortality has remained below Flim since the fishery reopened in 2010. F has generally decreased since 2019 and in 2022 is below Flim with a high probability.
Habitat Bio
Climatic Zone: Temperate.   Bottom Type: Unspecified.   Depth Zone: Slope - Deepslope (500 m - 1000 m).   Horizontal Dist: Oceanic.   Vertical Dist: Demersal/Benthic.  

Geo Dist
Geo Dist: High Seas Purely

Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Regional

Water Area Overview
Aq Res Struct
Biological Stock: Yes


Cod is caught in directed trawl and longline fisheries and as bycatch in the directed redfish fishery by trawlers. The fishery is regulated by quota. New technical regulations were introduced in 2021, in particular a closure of the directed fishery in the first quarter as well as sorting grids to protect juveniles.

Recent catch estimates and TACs (000 t) are as follows:

Effects of the fishery on the ecosystem

The impact of bottom fishing activities on major VMEs in the NRA was last assessed in 2021. The risk of Significant Adverse Impacts (SAIs) on sponge and large gorgonian VMEs was assessed to be low, while this risk for sea pen VMEs has been assessed as intermediate. The risks of SAIs on small gorgonian, black coral, bryozoan and sea squirt VMEs were assessed as high. A number of areas in the Flemish Cap (3M) EPU have been closed to fishing to protect VMEs.

3M cod is included in the piscivores guild of the Flemish Cap (3M) Ecosystem Production Unit (EPU). Other NAFO managed stocks in this guild and EPU are 3M redfish and 2+3KLMNOPs Greenland halibut. The Catch/TCI is below the 2TCI ecosystem reference point (3M Piscivore Catch2022/TCI=0.98) indicating a low risk of ecosystem overfishing.
Bio Assess
Ref Point
Blim = SSB2007 Median = 14 755 tonnes of spawning biomass (Scientific Council, 2023).
Flim = F30%SPR Median = 0.157 (Scientific Council, 2023)


Stochastic projections of the stock dynamics from 2023 to the start of 2025 were conducted. Fbar is the mean of the F at ages 3-5 and is used as the indicator of overall fishing mortality; Fsq is the status quo F, calculated as the mean of the last three years Fbar (2020-2022).

The results indicate that the total biomass and SSB are likely to increase or remain stable by the start of 2025 in all scenarios except with F=Flim. The probability of SSB being below Blim is very low (≤1%) in all the scenarios. The probability of SSB in 2025 being above that in 2023 ranges between 14% and 100%, depending on the scenario (Tables 1 and 2).

Under all scenarios except F= Flim, the probability of Fbar exceeding Flim is less than or equal to 2% in 2024.
Assess Models
Analytical assessment

A Bayesian SCAA model, introduced at the 2018 benchmark, was used as the basis for the assessment of this stock with data from 1988 to 2022.

The next full assessment for this stock will be in 2024.

Fishing Mortality



Human impact

Mainly fishery related mortality. Other sources (e.g. pollution, shipping, oil-industry) are undocumented.

Biological and environmental interactions

Redfish, shrimp and smaller cod are important prey items for cod. Recent studies indicate strong trophic interactions between these species in the Flemish Cap.

The Flemish Cap (3M) Ecosystem Production Unit (EPU) has not experienced sustained reductions in overall productivity observed in other EPUs. With the exception of a short-lived increase in 2005-2009, total EPU biomass has remained fairly stable over time despite the changes in individual stocks.
Management unit: Yes


Recommendation for 2024

Catches up to 3/4 Flim are projected to result in a very low probability (≤10%) of the stock going below Blim and of fishing mortality exceeding Flim in 2024. All fishing scenarios with fishing mortality less than 2/3 Flim are projected to promote growth in SSB.

SC therefore advises that exploitation should not exceed 2/3 Flim in 2024.

No explicit management plan or management objectives have been defined by the Commission. Convention General Principles are applied (NAFO GC Doc. 07-04).

Stock definition for management purposes

The cod stock in Flemish Cap (NAFO Div. 3M) is considered to be a distinct population.
Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Scientific Council Documents SCS Doc. 23/05REV, 23/06, 23/08, 23/13 and SCR Doc. 23/03, 23/04, 23/09. Click to open
Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). 2023. Report of the Scientific Council Meeting, 2 – 15 June, 2023. NAFO SCS Doc. 23/18. Click to open
Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). 2008. Resolution on the Interpretation and Implementation of the Convention on the Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries. 30th Annual Meeting – September 2008. NAFO/GC Doc. 08/3. Click to open
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