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COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Atlantic Cod in Canada

Special Significance of the Species

Given its historical and contemporary importance to society, few species have been of greater significance in Canada.  After the short-lived Viking-based settlements on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula in the late tenth century, it was cod that brought the first Europeans to Newfoundland waters in the late fifteenth century, an economic venture that spawned one of the first permanent settlements in British North America (1612; Cupids, Newfoundland).  Until the early 1990s, Atlantic cod was the economic mainstay for Newfoundland and Labrador, as it was for a large part of the population in the Maritimes and along Quebec’s north shore and Gaspé Peninsula.  From a biological perspective, the Atlantic cod, which numbered approximately 2.5 billion spawning individuals as recently as the early 1960s (see Figure 12), was one of the dominant species of the marine food web in the Northwest Atlantic.