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Cod stock off south N.L. coast is at critical levels, says Fisheries Department

In this Oct. 29, 2015, file photo, a cod to be auctioned sits on ice at the Portland Fish Exchange, in Portland, Maine. Conservartionists and fisheries groups are taking issue with this year's catch limit on Newfoundland's northern cod stock, which federal scientists say is still critically depleted. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Robert F. Bukaty, File.
In this Oct. 29, 2015, file photo, a cod to be auctioned sits on ice at the Portland Fish Exchange, in Portland, Maine. Conservartionists and fisheries groups are taking issue with this year's catch limit on Newfoundland's northern cod stock, which federal scientists say is still critically depleted. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Robert F. Bukaty, File.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – New federal research indicates the cod stock off the southern coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is at critically low levels.

The study, conducted in early November by the federal Fisheries Department, estimates the cod population in the area will likely remain in the critical zone until 2023.

Read more: As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

While fishing mortality rates have decreased, the department says natural mortality rates of cod have been increasing for the last decade.

The Fisheries Department says the estimate of the population of young fish that will contribute to the stock in the future has been below the long-term average since the mid-1990s.

Read more: Conservation group criticizes northern cod quota as ‘irresponsible’

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It says fishing in the zone south of the province should be reduced as much as possible until the cod stock has the chance to rebound.

The department says it will continue conducting research on cod natural mortality.

(The Canadian Press)