Size distribution of Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) in the North Pacific Ocean over 6 millennia

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Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

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In this paper, we compile estimates of cod size distributions based on zooarchaeological data and contemporary length-frequency data to look at variability in size composition through time across the North Pacific, from the northern Kuril Islands through the Aleutian Islands to southeast Alaska. The results suggest that a strong longitudinal trend in cod size has remained consistent over time, with the largest cod found to the west. We find that five of nine sites show that overall cod length and distribution of the largest fish remain relatively unchanged. Two sites where we find truncation of the length distributions—or loss of the largest fish—are places where the modern fisheries have the longest history and have been most intense, suggesting a potential for anthropogenic impacts on these local populations. We acknowledge two limitations in these data: (1) there are differences in selectivity between the ancient and modern fisheries; and (2) seasonal variability in fish availability was observed to be an important explanatory variable in the modern data set, but the season of harvest is poorly understood for the ancient collections. Therefore, while differences observed between the two data sets suggest possible anthropogenic influence on the size structure of Pacific cod, they are not conclusive.


This article was originally published in Quaternary Research. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Quaternary Research


Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2020