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Processes controlling retention of spring-spawned Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the western Gulf of Maine and their relationship to an index of recruitment success



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    1. Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
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    1. School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial Street, Portland, ME 04101, USA
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    1. Department of Fisheries Oceanography, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Blvd, New Bedford, MA 02744, USA
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Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, harvested in US waters are currently managed as a Gulf of Maine stock and as a stock comprising Georges Bank and southern New England populations. Over the past two and a half decades, success of age-1 recruitment to the Gulf of Maine stock has varied by more than an order of magnitude. To investigate the hypothesis that this variation is related to variation in the transport of larval cod to nursery areas, we carried out model simulations of the movement of planktonic eggs and larvae spawned within the western Gulf of Maine during spring spawning events of 1995–2005. Results indicate that the retention of spring-spawned cod, and their transport to areas suitable for early stage juvenile development, is strongly dependent on local wind conditions. Larval cod retention is favored during times of downwelling-favorable winds and is least likely during times of upwelling-favorable winds, during which buoyant eggs and early stage larvae tend to be advected offshore to the Western Maine Coastal Current and subsequently carried out of the Gulf of Maine. Model results also indicate that diel vertical migration of later stage larvae enhances the likelihood of retention within the western Gulf of Maine. Consistent with model results is a strong correlation between age-1 recruitment success to the Gulf of Maine cod stock and the mean northward wind velocity measured in Massachusetts Bay during May. Based on these findings, we propose a wind index for strong recruitment success of age-1 cod to the Gulf of Maine stock.