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Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops”
Using Archaeofaunas to Construct Long-Term Time Series of Atlantic and Pacific Cod Populations
Matthew W. Betts, Archaeology and History Division, Canadian Museum of Civilization Herbert D. G. Maschner, Department of Anthropology, Idaho State University Donald S. Clark, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, St. Andrews Biological Station, New Brunswick

Overexploitation of the marine ecosystem and its impact on commercial sustainability are watershed issues in modern science. Responding to Pauly’s (1995) concept of the “shifting baseline,” where benchmark parameters for a healthy population can degrade through time, fisheries researchers have recently attempted to incorporate a long-term perspective into the analysis of fish stocks (Swain et al. 2003; Swain, Sinclair, and Hanson 2007; Willis and Birks 2006; Worm et al. 2006, see papers in Starkey, Holm, and Barnard 2008). The goal of such research is often to (1) determine a “benchmark” or “natural” ecosystem or population state (e.g., Jackson 2001), and (2) introduce management policies that will establish and maintain this “preindustrial” equilibrium condition (see Lyman 2006 for discussion). Such research is typically based on the longest time-series records available, which for oceanic fisheries data currently extends about fifty to sixty years into the past (e.g., Barot et al. 2004; Clark and Perley 2006; Thompson et al. 2007; Thompson, Dorn, and Nichol 2006). These “modern” data are obviously heavily biased—nearly all are derived from fish populations that have been under extreme exploitation pressure for more than a century (and often more) and are responding to a half-decade-long episode of unprecedented climate change. Recognizing these biases, and responding to Pauly’s (2005) “shifting baselines syndrome,” researchers have turned to historical documents such as ships’ and merchants’ logs to extend our understanding of fish populations hundreds of years into the past (e.g.,



McKenzie 2008; Rosenberg et al. 2005). Unfortunately, these studies often suggest that baselines shifted even further back than historical records can track; some of the earliest records from North America indicate that fish stocks were already heavily altered by exploitation pressure hundreds of years ago (e.g., Rosenberg et al. 2005:86). Therefore, though critical for understanding the history of fish populations, historical documents are unlikely to provide the types of “unbiased” population and ecosystem data fisheries managers require. Further, the types of detailed population measures (e.g., size or age of individuals) necessary for comparison with modern data are often absent from these records. Realizing the limitations of modern datasets and historical records, researchers are beginning to turn to paleoecological data to create preindustrial baselines of fish populations (e.g., Finney et al. 2002; Jackson 2001; Jackson et al. 2001; Maschner et al. 2008). Zooarchaeologists have been tracking fluctuations in the taxonomic abundance and average size of fish for some time (Amorosi et al. 1996; Amorosi, McGovern, and Perdikaris 1994; Butler 2000; Butler and Delacorte 2004; Kenchington and Kenchington 1993; Leach and Davidson 2001; Leach, Davidson, and Horwood 1997; Rojo 1986, 1987, 1990; Spiess and Lewis 2001; Wheeler and Jones 1989), and are beginning to adapt this research to the service of conservation biology (e.g., Carder, Reitz, and Crock 2007; Jackson et al. 2001; Maschner et al. 2008; papers in this volume). These works reveal the potential for archaeofaunas to provide the types of deep time-series population data so crucial to an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Many types of proxy measures currently used by fisheries researchers can be reconstructed from archaeologically derived fish bones: size, length at age, fecundity (based on size relationships), DNA profiles, and isotopic signatures are all potential candidates for reconstruction from well-preserved fish bone. In this paper we reconstruct size-based indicators (see definition below) of shifts in fish populations from the archaeological record and discuss methodological issues surrounding the integration of these datasets with modern fisheries records. To highlight the effectiveness of a multiregional approach, we present two very different case studies from opposite sides of the North American continent—Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) populations from the western Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) populations from the Gulf of Maine (GOM). Current records show that cod in both regions vary in size on an interdecadal cycle, in response to both environmental shifts and exploitation pressure. Our intent is to track long-term centennial- and millennial-scale shifts in these two very different populations and to assess changes in their structure within the context of contrasting climate cycles and exploitation histories. In the process, we demonstrate the importance of paleofisheries research for understanding modern fisheries data.

Size-Based Indicators and Sustainability
Size is an important metric in fisheries management research. Fish grow throughout their life span and most life history traits in fish stocks are correlated with size (Reiss 1989). Size also constrains energy assimilation; as a result, changes in fish size may be correlated with environmental change (Shin et al. 2005:392) and have been linked to changes

Mean length may decrease because of a drop in the abundance of large fish. Sinclair. Maschner et al. Proponents of the metric suggest. 2007.g. such as a decrease in oceanic productivity. The response of an average metric. In fact.and long-term changes in fish size are strongly linked to exploitation pressure. or constraints on food. are “statistics summarizing the size distribution of fish assemblages and populations” (Shin et al. Bellail et al. While age can be reconstructed from fish remains (providing the opportunity to construct length at age metrics). that it provides a robust quantifiable indication of changes in populations. heavy exploitation has been demonstrated to force evolutionary changes reflected in smaller size at age and age/size at maturation (for cod. the largest island in a small archipelago southwest of the Alaska Peninsula. Environmental effects. see also Bianchi et al. 2005:392). interruption of spawning. and especially of the combined changes in large and small individuals (e. 1999. as fewer juveniles are recruited into the population. and must be conducted by thoroughly weighing available data against length frequencies to adequately assess causality. 2003. Swain. Rochet 1998. 2002). in this case mean fork length. Shin et al. 2005). Sinclair. Fishing is size selective and modern trawl and net fishing techniques tend to remove larger fish from populations. separated from the mainland peninsula by about 50 km of open water. With this paper we intend to both introduce these problems and provide some possible solutions. 2005:384). may actually result in an increase in the mean length of a fish population. Interest in mean length is a relatively recent phenomenon (Shin et al. Sinclair. The point of this discussion is that interpreting changes in size-based indicators in fish populations is challenging. 2008). to changes in population structure is complicated and must involve a careful consideration of many possible factors.. may also negatively affect large fish (Shin et al. most of which is rocky intertidal. Decreased fecundity. Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 173 in trophic structure (Jennings et al. Sanak has about 92 km of shoreline. it is often difficult to associate a length and an age to the same element—a problem that would greatly reduce sample sizes. Short. Size-based indicators. a reduction in mean length might be caused by an increase in recruitment. the consequence of exploitation pressure by size-maximizing gear types (e. and metrics such as mean length. however. Swain. or SBIs. Spatial and Temporal Aspects of the Archaeofaunal Samples The Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod samples were recovered from Sanak Island. They have increasingly been a focus of modern fisheries research. 2005: Table 1). 2000. Swain. mean length at age. One useful way to think of the problem is to visualize the impact of different size and age cohorts on mean population length. We utilize mean length (fork length) as a population parameter primarily because it is easily reconstructed from faunal remains and it can be linked easily to fecundity levels (e. and Hanson 2007). and maximum length have been used to assess modern fish populations (Babcock et al.g. Gedamke and Hoenig 2006. The island is located at the edge of the continental shelf. Trippel 1995). and empirical studies reporting temporal and spatial trends are not numerous. .. where more small fish enter the system due to increased fecundity (linked to survivorship of large fish). and Hanson 2007). and Hanson 2007.g. consult Andersen et al. Alternatively.. due to a loss of large fish.

.” Based on radiocarbon assays. 2550 cal bc to cal ad 1540 (see Table 11. The faunal samples themselves are derived from single stratigraphic units (in a shell matrix).174 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES Table 11. and all are associated with large shell midden deposits. and we note that none of the age ranges for the samples overlap (thus avoiding the possibility of chronological redundancy. located on North Haven Island in outer Penobscot Bay.1. For the Gulf of Maine. A with significant shell midden deposits developing after ca. stratigraphy. or pooled means from multiple assays. Bourque (1995:13) describes Turner Farm as “one of the largest and deepest Fox Island sites. samples are from the Turner Farm site. the assemblages described in this paper are not presented with absolute dates. Bourque divided the history of the site into several occupations. All dates utilized in the figures in this paper represent the mean of single radiocarbon assays.” whose “deposits preserve what is probably the longest and most complex cultural sequence on the Gulf of Maine coast.1). The assemblages described herein were recovered from eight discrete archaeological contexts spanning the period ca. and artifact types. The “occupations” span the period 2400 cal bc to approximately cal ad 350 (Bourque. and all dates were provided by AMS (accelerator mass spectrometer) determinations on wood charcoal. but instead have been aggregated into four “occupations” that each represent a broad chronological range and multiple stratigraphic units. While stratigraphic control of the excavation was excellent. and the site itself is positioned on a terrace system above a gravel beach. Therefore. Radiocarbon dates from Sanak Island AHRS site number 49-XFP 111 111 054 036 061 058 056 Upper 056 Lower 110 110 Radiocarbon date 4025±35 BP 4040±35 BP 3410±50 BP 2645±35 BP 2480±35 BP 2070±35 BP 1540±45 BP 1005±50 BP 395±35 BP 385±40 BP Calibrated date range (2 sigma) 2630 BC–2460 BC 2670 BC–24670 BC 1880 BC–1680 BC 900 BC–770 BC 770 BC–410 BC 180 BC–AD 20 AD AD AD Material dated Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Wood charcoal Lab number CAMS-127700 CMAS-127699 BETA-194363 CMAS-127688 CAMS-110666 CAMS-110660 CAMS-110658 CAMS-110659 CAMS-110686 CAMS-110681 Calibrated mean date 2545 BC 2570 BC 1750 BC 840 BC 595 BC 80 BC AD AD AD AD 420–AD 620 890–AD 1170 520 1030 1540 1540 1440–AD 1640 1440 AD–AD 1640 Note: The stratigraphy for site 036 is complex. North Haven is the second largest island in the Fox Island group. see Table 11.1). and recent radiocarbon assays may revise the dating of the site. ­ rchaeological evidence suggests that Sanak has been inhabited for nearly 6000 years. which he numbered sequentially from oldest to latest. a sampling and analysis issue common in zooarchaeology. 4500 years ago. absolute dating of the reported faunal assemblages is complicated by a lack of stratigraphic separation during the analysis of the faunal material (see description in Spiess and Lewis 2001). All sites are located adjacent to rocky intertidal zones.

at the minimum. In the following case studies. a size consistent with most modern longline gear. preserved. 2001). (2005:390) have noted. Each occupation can be envisioned as a discrete chronological (and therefore analytical) entity. We do this primarily because of the potential stratigraphic mixing of fish assemblages that may have occurred as a result of repeated tilling (e. Johnson. Below we discuss differences in gear type. In this paper. and recovered. 2001. The issues are not dissimilar to comparing modern records from different studies—as Shin et al.g. Johnson. Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 175 Johnson. Bourque. and Occupation 4 (ca.. Jackson et al. recovery methods. Ivory and bone fishhook barbs recovered from levels directly linked to the Sanak Island faunal samples indicate that prehistoric Aleut hooks would have been comparable in size to a range of modern hooks approximately 3. The radiocarbon sequence is documented exhaustively by Bourque (1995) and others (Jackson et al. and Nichol 2006). and location. these same factors are crucial when comparing archaeofaunal-derived proxy measures and those derived from modern fish populations. Occupation 2 (ca. and hence we do not repeat those data here. seasonality. Bourque. Instead of confounding the issue. Occupation 3 (ca. sampling location. and its subsequent comparability to modern records with their own unique sampling histories. The radiocarbon dating from Turner Farm is currently being reevaluated by the excavators (e. Dorn. These relate to the way in which the archaeological sample was created. Spiess and Lewis 2001). Size-Based Indicators and Comparability with Modern Samples There are several potential obstacles to integrating archaeological data with modern fishing records. is designed to take a specific size range of individuals from a population. There is some indication in the fisheries literature that longline gear may subtly select . cal ad 350). and a related zooarchaeological consideration.g. we chose modern samples taken with hook-based gear types that best approximate the jigging technology used by prehistoric groups. Bourque. gear types that select for a similar range of sizes. whether modern or ancient. though we note the duration of each occupation is not the same. cal 2150 bc). and Steneck 2008:168). we omit the “plow zone” assemblage (Occupation 5) from the length-frequency analysis. and Steneck (2008:169).. 2400 cal bc). and Steneck 2008. stratigraphic associations. we use mean dates recently published by Bourque.5 to 6 cm in length.” Not surprisingly. Gear Type All fishing gear..g. When comparing length distributions or developing size/ length sequences. and artifact assemblages: Occupation 1 (ca. fisheries researchers interested in comparing SBIs must control for differences caused by the “gear used. it is imperative that the samples being compared were obtained with similar gear types or. cal 1600 bc). time. For the Gulf of Alaska we used a modern sample taken with longline gear with baited circle hooks (Thompson. Johnson. and Steneck 2008). and in contrast to recently published work (e. Johnson. and Steneck 2008:168). which are based on radiocarbon dates.

Shimada and Kimura 1994). near the Bay of Fundy). It was collected from North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) subregion 4Xr. similar to the marine environment that surrounds Turner Farm. and Nichol 2006:170). and (3) salmon element representation (i. see Hoffman. Recovery Zooarchaeologists have known for some time that recovery methods are size selective and can significantly skew taxonomic representation of fish (James 1997). see Mayo and O’Brien 2007:5). In Atlantic cod. Czederpiltz. size and age cohorts are known to be spatially heterogeneous. jigs. All faunal assemblages were derived from sites on the eastern coast of Sanak Island. Halliday 2002:72. Veniaminov 1984).0 cm in length (Bourque 1995: Figures 5. and all were associated with sheltered bays with rocky intertidal coastlines. Dorn. a house type described ethnographically as primarily a fall and winter structure (Ponomarev and Glotov 1988. Here we utilized a modern sample taken with handlines that used baited “J” hooks. a size range similar to “J” hooks used by modern handliners. We determined the seasonality of the shell midden deposits by (1) their association with semisubterranean houses. Dorn. Halliday 2002). Sinclair 1992). The Turner Farm assemblages likely represent year-round occupations. and Partlow 2000).176 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES for a smaller size range than handlines (i. lack of cranial elements..e. (2) the presence of migratory birds. and Nichol 2006). We compared these assemblages with modern fisheries data derived from fall and winter (September to December) cod surveys conducted in 2005 (Thompson. where we assume much of the cod in the Sanak middens originated. a fisheries management region located 100 km northwest of the mouth of Penobscot Bay. which only stage in the area in the fall months. from June to October. a possibility we address directly in our analyses below. This difference in gear type does not affect the GOM sample. Seasonality is more difficult to assess for the Gulf of Maine samples. but analysis of cod vertebrae annuli (Spiess and Lewis 2001:88) indicate they were universally harvested during the summer and early fall. Clark and Green 1991. This is a nearshore location at the head of a bay (the northwestern tip of the Nova Scotia peninsula. and therefore sampling location may affect the mean size of the population (Beacham 1982.5 and 6. Our comparative modern sample from the Gulf of Maine is primarily derived from excursions during the normal fixed-gear fishing season from June to December (for discussion of seasonal fish harvesting in the GOM.e.26 and 7. We controlled for seasonality in the GOA by choosing only archaeological samples that were derived from fall and winter shell midden deposits associated with semisubterranean house ruins. Due to the potential . Sampling Location and Seasonality Cod in both the GOA and the GOM are seasonal migrators and spawners (Robichaud and Rose 2004.. Bone fishhooks recovered from Turner Farm range in size between 2. The modern longline samples were derived from nearshore waters (25–140 fathoms) that mimic the shelf ecosystem that surrounds Sanak Island (Thompson.13).

Rojo 1986. which clearly demonstrates the success of hand picking in the recovery of large quantities of fish much smaller than Atlantic cod. and rays varied substantially between the two mesh sizes. the Turner Farm samples pose a particular challenge. Cannon (1999) notes the importance of assessing the impact of specimen sizes on the recovery of animal remains. have been used by zooarchaeologists for decades (Wheeler and Jones 1989). such as cod. are unknown. Bourque (1995:21–31) suggests this method may have actually increased the recovery of fish bones. we consider the recovery methods used at Turner Farm to have relatively little impact on the size distribution of cod collected from its middens. Analytical Methods Reconstructing the length of live fish from their bones is a relatively simple process involving allometric regression. Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 177 to select for larger fish. which were fragile and susceptible to crushing in shell-laden screens. although its effects on larger taxa. or “specimen. cod element. It is therefore a scientific irony that regression formulae for cod. such as winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) and sculpin (Cottidae). have only recently been created (see Orchard 2001. since these are often very large. That the Turner Farm fauna was meticulously recovered by hand sampling has been noted (Bourque 1995. ribs. Spiess and Lewis 2001:7). coarser recovery methods will potentially also skew length frequencies reconstructed from archaeofaunal assemblages (Nagaoka 2005). Whitridge (2001). because screening protocols were not consistently utilized in the collection of fauna from any of the excavated strata. Accurate regression formulae for commercially important fish. indicated that careful hand picking can result in adequate recovery of many northern fish taxa. In his discussion of screening methods. In his comparison of fish remains from across arctic sites. This likely biased the recovery of smaller fish taxa (Spiess and Lewis 2001:7). Specifically. We tested the efficacy of this mesh size by dual screening bulk-sampled deposits through both 8 mm and 3 mm mesh and comparing the recovered cod remains. as long as the regression formulae exist for the taxon under study. there was no difference in the recovery of cod trunk and caudal vertebrae or the majority of cranial elements (see methods below). 2002). following Cannon (1999). This was not unexpected. All of the Sanak Island samples were screened through 8 mm mesh. and indeed we draw attention to the taxonomic diversity of the Turner Farm sample. In fact. perhaps the most historically important commercial fish. While the quantity of spines. In cases of potential ambiguity between the identification of walleye pollock (Theragra .” sizes are so large in the Gulf of Alaska that 8 mm mesh appears to recover most of their preserved elements. For the Sanak Island sample. he suggests that a “hand-picked” zooarchaeological sample can be adequate if specimen sizes are large. such as salmonids. cod were identified using ichthyofaunal reference collections at the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. 1987. 1990. In regards to recovery. Given the average specimen size of Atlantic cod bones. 2003.

The second pattern observable in Figure 11.01). to 112 in the GOM handline sample. and are based on the maximum diameter of the centra of trunk (abdominal) vertebrae. and perhaps crucially. First. Results We present the mean length (with associated standard errors) for each of the Gulf of Alaska and Gulf of Maine assemblages in Figures 11.1. again notable by its contrast to the Turner Farm sequence. The two figures are very different. In each case. If the latter. Sample sizes ranged from 3308 individuals in the GOA longline sample. respectively. but a drastic decline in mean length in the modern era. see Maschner et al. It is uncertain if this cyclical oscillation is simply an artifact of the relatively uneven chronological resolution or a result of real differences in mean length. which we obtained from Orchard (2001. Unlike the GOA sequence. we chose not to include that questionable element in our study. The largest sequential change in length is only 7. lengths were recorded as frequencies in size “bins. suggesting significant contrasts in the population histories of Atlantic and Pacific cod. is that mean lengths appear to vary minimally. during Occupations 1–4. and the maximum range of variability over the entire 4500-year sequence is only 9 cm. T-tests indicate that all precontact means are significantly different from the modern mean (p < 0.6 cm. this can only be elucidated by comparison to an external context of reference (see below). precontact mean length varies in a cyclical fashion of increasing and then decreasing size. the modern mean length of Pacific cod in the Sanak Island sequence appears to fall within the range of precontact variability. In contrast to the GOA sequence. in apparent multicentennial cycles.05.2.” and we utilized procedures described in Gedamke and Hoenig (2006:485) to convert these data to mean lengths. Our length reconstructions are based on the following measurements: (1) the maximum length of the ascending process of premaxillae and (2) the anterior-posterior ­ length of the centra of abdominal (trunk) vertebrae. T-tests reveal that the modern mean is not significantly different from five of the precontact assemblages (p < 0. Sample sizes for each of the Turner Farm occupations ranged between 33 and 117 elements (see Spiess and Lewis 2001: Table 3–55). 2008 for a complete presentation of the dataset). Sam­ ple sizes for the Sanak assemblages ranged from a low of 10 to a high of 507 elements (see Maschner et al. Lastly. In fact. We chose these elements because they were abundant and consistently had the best preserved anatomical landmarks with corresponding regression formulae. The modern mean lengths utilized in this study are based on length frequency data generated during modern fisheries surveys taken in 2005 (GOA). Perhaps most noticeable is the gradual and significant increase in mean size over the first 5000 years of . by scrutinizing their individual structures we can highlight these differences. 2008 for details). The Sanak Island sequence is notable in three aspects.1 and 11. and between the years 2000 and 2007 (GOM). the GOM sequence suggests a significant increase in cod size over the Late Holocene.178 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES chalcogramma) and Pacific cod. We reanalyzed these data using regression equations created by Rojo (1987) from Atlantic cod harvested in the northern GOM. 2003). The GOM measurement data are derived from Spiess and Lewis’s (2001:89) account of the Turner Farm fauna.

1. Reconstructed mean Atlantic cod fork lengths from the Gulf of Maine (Turner Farm). . 1000 950 Mean Fork Length (mm) 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 TF1 TF2 TF3 TF4 Modern Occupational Periods Figure 11. Dates are presented as calibrated means.2. 1000 950 Mean Fork Length (mm) Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 179 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 2550 BC 1750 BC 840 BC 595 BC 80 BC 520 AD 1030 AD 1540 AD 2005 AD Mean Calibrated Date Figure 11. for ranges please consult Table 11. Reconstructed mean Pacific cod fork lengths from the Gulf of Alaska (Sanak Island).1.

indicating that cod did not change their trophic position significantly. and especially when viewed from the perspective of hypothesized increasing human population levels (and therefore human exploitation) over time (Bourque 1995. Handlining. and magnitude of this trend are intriguing. was first experimented with in the GOM in the late 1800s. The duration. Bourque. Johnson. Bourque. and type of gear emphasized between these two industries. and by 1880. The graphs imply a significant contrast in the exploitation histories of these two stocks. but fishermen were constrained in their use of the technology—they were unable to efficiently preserve the large amounts of fish caught using the technique. where small groups of individuals handlined cod from small vessels. but over time. 294 million pounds of cod were landed. Johnson. using a line with a single baited hook. Bourque. adjacent Georges Bank became equally important. Massachusetts alone supported 5000 fishermen and about 800 vessels (Lear 1998:52). Yet when comparing this sequence to carbon isotopes from modern cod. The traditional center of this fishery was initially inshore. in Lear 1998).180 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES the sequence (Occupations 1–4). or jigging. Barot et al. . which we suggest could impact both the size and numbers of cod.. intensity. was the only technique used to catch Atlantic cod for nearly 250 years. the town of Gloucester. supported “no less than 50 vessels” (Babson 1860. In the early 1850s larger vessels began using “bultow. was essentially the same as fishing practices used by Indigenous inhabitants of the GOM. especially when one views it in light of the relatively stable interdecadal records of the modern era. In the discussion that follows we assume that heavily exploited populations should experience a reduction in mean size.g. the otter trawl. Histories of Exploitation Perhaps the most obvious contrast in the two graphs is the difference in the position of the end points of each series. direction. By 1624. 2004). despite their increasing size through time. when merchants in Bristol first began sponsoring fishing excursions to the area. focused on the Gulf of Maine and the nearshore Scotian Shelf. though vastly amplified in scale and intensity (see Barsh 2002). and it will therefore be informative to explore the differences in the historical length. Massachusetts. composed of a long fishing line with several hundred baited hooks spaced at intervals towed behind a moving vessel. see discussion in Jackson et al. 2001). and Steneck attribute this to a major ecosystem change (from a kelp/sea grass–dominated ecosystem to a phytoplankton-based ecosystem). and just a hundred years later. which we expect marks the reaction of cod to modern commercial exploitation. as larger fish are removed from the population and as sustained exploitation pressure forces a reduction in length at age and age at maturation (e. This method. and Steneck (2008:177) noted a significant change (from a δ13C value of –13 percent to –17 percent).” or longline gear. the largest catch in the history of the New England fishery (Lear 1998:60). A far more efficient gear type. cod has been intensively exploited in commercial quantities since the early seventeenth century. This technology greatly increased catch rates. Johnson. In the Gulf of Maine. and Steneck (2008) suggest that carbon isotopes from Turner Farm cod bones change little over this prehistoric part of the sequence.

g. These data. landings are made with otter trawls (Mayo and O’Brien 2006:5). 3–55). 2005). data suggest that the mean length of cod for the stock represented by the Terrance Bay wreck (NAFO fishery region 4VsW) have been historically smaller than 4X cod (e. Yet. it seems clear that longlining must have had a major impact on cod stocks (see data in Rosenberg et al.1 cm. however. a period that witnessed the widespread adoption of both longlining and trawling. presumably a result of the increased fishing effort due to the use of longlines. Jackson et al. landings increased throughout the late nineteenth century. Thus. it is difficult to assess the point at which mean cod lengths began to react to the pressures of industrial fishing. and Steneck (2008. Not surprisingly.g. historical documents record the impact that industrial fishing operations had on local cod. Canadian fishermen at this time moved to ban the use of longlines. (2001:631). see also Jackson et al. Before the mid-nineteenth century. Without adequate faunal remains from the early historical period. well within the range of prehistoric variation for Turner Farm (Kenchington and Kenchington 1993:339). a ship that sank off the central Scotian coast. Johnson. 2005:86). indicates that the mean length of cod in the 1750s was 89. Mayo and O’Brien 2006:5. 2005:87). during the early days of the longline fishery. If the Terrance Bay data are applicable. Bourque. cal ad 1600) makes it difficult to determine if this sample represents a response of cod stocks to a traditional Aboriginal fishery or a commercial European one.S. An eighteenth-century length-frequency sample from the Terrance Bay wreck. and by 1994. Given the historical evidence. a clear reduction in catch per unit effort has been identified from these records (Rosenberg et al. the major shift must have occurred between the mid-eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. while cod stocks were clearly responding to some form of exploitation pressure. Between 1882 and 1859. at least as measured as a reduction in mean length. Johnson. Today approximately 65 percent of U. pers. After 1850. 69 percent of all groundfish caught in the GOM was by otter trawl. GOM fishermen were already noting a decline in the numbers of fish caught (Rosenberg et al. comm. taken from ships’ logs and merchant accounts. . Wallace 2007). and Steneck 2008:180). Nevertheless. few historical data from the GOM indicate how Atlantic cod may have reacted to increasing commercial exploitation pressure. Although size differences have been observed between cod stocks in the GOM and adjacent waters (e. and by 1930 otter trawling accounted for 59 percent of the total GOM catch. although we stress that the age of this context (ca.. By 1935. the very large size of the cod in the Terrance Bay wreck implies that overexploitation. Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 181 This problem was solved with the introduction of shipboard freezing systems in the 1920s. 2001) indicate that cod populations may have already declined significantly in both size and number as early as the seventeenth century. suggest that by 1852.. These contact-era changes are difficult to interpret because they are based on very small cod bone assemblages from mixed plow zone deposits (Spiess and Lewis 2001: Tables 3–53. Beacham 1982. which they considered responsible for the declines in cod (Lear 1998:60). it accounted for approximately 85 percent of the total GOM catch (Claesson. speculate that it was the development of otter trawls in the 1920s that precipitated much of the decline in both the numbers and size of Atlantic cod. Clark and Green 1991).. Furthermore. was not evident in the 1750s. compare Beacham [1982] with data presented below). these data may imply that even a traditional handline fishery had a significant impact on local cod populations (Bourque. 2008.

After 1975. settled in the Shumagin and Sanak islands. The well-documented 1975 oceanic regime shift (Benson and Trites 2002. The first major difference between the GOM and GOA fisheries is that the GOA industry has a much shorter history. when trawling was the dominant gear type in use. between 1942 and 1975 the commercial fishery was all but defunct. though larger schooners also employed longlines. Yang 2004) corresponds with the return of large numbers of Pacific cod and the cod fishing industry. Commercial cod fishing began in the eastern Aleutians in the 1870s. when Scandinavian fishermen. after 1915 cod catches began to decline. a size that has characterized the stock for much of the last sixty years (Figure 11. Biomass estimates for Atlantic cod calculated from historical records suggest that the current biomass of cod in the GOM and Scotian Shelf regions are only 4 percent of that in 1852 (Rosenberg et al.182 1000 950 900 Mean Fork Length (mm) 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 500 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES 1940's 1950's 1960's Decade 1980's 1990's 2000's Figure 11. We note that by 1852. Our data suggest that modern Atlantic cod lengths are on average 27. The relationship between this reduction in size and Atlantic cod abundance is clear. taking over one million fish each year (Shields 2001:20).3. By 1915.3 cm. at least seventeen shore stations were operating in the region.3). The potential impacts that these gear types may have had on the Atlantic fishery may be best explored by contrasting this history with the world’s other great cod fishery in the North Pacific. Although specific data on catch rates are not available. What we do know is that by 1940. This was predominately a shore-based handline fishery. 2005:88). while bottom trawling . the industry primarily employed longlines and cod pots. and by 1930 shore stations began to close. Modern mean Atlantic cod fork lengths from the Gulf of Maine (NAFO Region 4Xr). It is unfortunate that we have so little data that allow us to gauge the exact response of the fishery to the introduction of bottom trawling. The situation worsened. Word of the productive waters grew. and soon schooners from ports in the United States and Canada sailed to the region to fish. cod had already been intensively exploited in the GOM for over 250 years.7 cm shorter than they were for much of the last 5000 years. seeking more productive fishing grounds. the average length of handlined cod in the study area had fallen to 61. with the obvious exception of the 1980s stock crash.

in stark contrast to the GOM cod fishery. Mason and Jordan 1993. Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 183 has had a relatively limited penetration into the industry. as we demonstrate below. D’Arrigo et al. Hu et al. storminess. The zooarchaeological record provides the means to assess climate impacts on fish stocks under preindustrial exploitation pressure. Certain threshold decisions involving the use of specific catch-maximizing gear types. and Hanson 2007). . we can find no evidence for exploitation effects on cod in the Gulf of Alaska based on SBIs. involving the cumulative weight of centuries of exploitation pressure and increasing fishing effort. a primary goal of the paper is to expose the potential for tracking climate impacts on fish stocks using a deeptime perspective. Given the vast differences in the GOM and GOA sequences. The comparatively large decline in the size of Atlantic cod in the modern era was caused by sustained fishing pressure and the removal of large fish from the ecosystem. For the Gulf of Alaska. While this seems implausible in an era of global fisheries crises (e. Mann and Hamilton 1995. That this exploitation history is associated with a modern size profile within the range of prehistoric variability is significant. such as a reduction in length at age and age at maturation. most notably the longline and otter trawl. Polovina 2005). Thompson. From a marine ecosystem perspective. Mann 2001. and by its peak in 2002. and Barclay 2001. may have had significant impacts on the fishery. Recent bans have further reduced the trawl catch to even lower levels. 2003. another consequence of the “shifting baselines syndrome” (Pauly 1995). Dorn. 2001. Wiles.g. and Peteet 1985. Correlations with Climate While the bulk of the analysis to this point has focused on the use of the archaeological record to understand the impact of fishing pressure on fish size. Drinkwater 2005). these perturbations may be referred to as macro-level regime shifts (Benson and Trites 2002..g. Swain et al. bottom trawling accounted for only 50 percent of the total groundfish catch in the GOA (Enticknap 2002:2)..2) of changing climate based on proxy records of prehistoric atmospheric and sea surface temperature. Loso et al. Heusser. Jordan and Krumhardt 2003. We have not attempted to develop a climate model for the Turner Farm sequence—the lack of temporal resolution in the dating of the Turner Farm samples makes this type of analysis unproductive. Our analysis suggests this was a long historical process. A major obstacle to these types of analyses is that they are in essence measuring the response of already-stressed fish stocks to short-term climate fluctuations. we believe that the contrasting histories can serve as case studies for long-term management scenarios. and productivity (Calkin. this should perhaps not be unexpected: We know from modern management records that Gulf of Alaska cod populations are both healthy and not being overexploited (Thompson et al. 2006. Worm et al. 2007. 2006). Swain. Recent fisheries literature has tracked the impacts of climate on heavily exploited fish populations (e. These latter processes are still ongoing in the Gulf of Maine (Barot et al. 2001. Heusser. Put simply. However. Jackson et al. 2005. Finney et al. Sinclair. there are other means to track environmental impacts on these samples. we created a model (Table 11. Misarti 2007). and Nichol 2006). 2002. The reduction in size may reflect evolutionary changes caused by fishing pressure. Trawling never reached the intensity that it did in the Atlantic. 2004.

2008. and that these shifts in population abundances will be . 2005:392). During cooler and more productive regimes (Chavez et al. the trends appear to suggest an increase in mean cod length with warm regimes. during the modern era. this is exactly what we expect if climate shifts are affecting cod populations. Figure 11. we propose that this latter increase may in fact reflect a stock response to global warming.184 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES Table 11. and therefore climate. We draw attention to the correspondence between size and the Medieval Warm period (cal ad 900–1250) and the Little Ice Age (cal ad 1250–1850). respectively. We test this hypothesis by comparing prehistoric cod lengths to their relative abundance. If so. when cod increase and then decrease in size. with the increase in the number of young individuals in the population.2.4 displays the GOA climate model projected against our Sanak Island Pacific cod length sequence. A visual inspection clearly indicates significant correspondence between climate and cod size. Here our assumption is that cod abundance will also fluctuate with oceanic productivity. then the response is similar to the increase in mean size that occurred during the Medieval Warm period and other warm regimes in the past. 2003). Furthermore. especially after the Neoglacial period. Yet ecologically. That cold and productive regimes are associated with a drop in mean fish size may initially seem counterintuitive. Given the analysis above. rather than a response to exploitation pressure (Maschner et al. Paleoclimate model for Gulf of Alaska and Sanak Archipelago Period Early Holocene Date range 7000–4200 cal BC 4200–2550 cal BC 2550–1200 cal BC Neoglacial 1200–100 cal BC 100 BC–cal AD 300 Pre-Medieval Warm period cal AD 300–900 Medieval Warm period Little Ice Age Modern era cal AD 900–1250 cal AD 1250–1850 cal AD 1850–present day Cold Warm and dry Cold and wet Very warm Cool and wet (increased storminess) Warm Approximate climate conditions Cool and dry Warm and wet Cool and wet Note: Lightly shaded boxes represent periods of cooler and stormier environments. fecundity should increase. 2008). This correspondence implies that mean cod length is tracking ecologically forced changes in cod population structure in the GOA. and a decrease in mean cod length with cold and stormy regimes. which are generally more productive. while the darkly shaded boxes represent warmer and generally less productive environments. and so should cod abundance due to increased recruitment. Maschner et al. We also note the slight increase in cod length at the end of the sequence. Yang 2004). it supports the proposition that modern global warming may be a complicating factor in developing management policies for Pacific cod (Benson and Trites 2002. In general. mean size should decrease (Shin et al.

Hexagrammidae (greenling). they incorporate size-based caloric relationships. Grayson 2001. Lyman 2008). 1999. Janetski 1997). Broughton 1994. We prefer abundance indices because not only do they track changes in relative frequency.1. We utilize Scorpaeniformes for the following reasons: (1) when aggregated. and therefore the AI captures variability in multiple groundfish species. fish in the order Scorpaeniformes). storminess. Dates are presented as calibrated means. 1000 950 Mean Fork Length (mm) 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 -3000 -2500 Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 185 -2000 -1500 -1000 -500 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 Mean Calibrated Date Figure 11. including Sebastes sp. for ranges please consult Table 11. (rockfish). the prey model suggests that when the abundance of cod. discernable from midden faunas. Betts and Friesen 2006. but when the comparative taxa are generally smaller in body size. using the following formula: AI = NISP Pacific cod/NISP Pacific cod + NISP Scorpaeniformes. and ocean circulation that drive ocean productivity. a high-ranked fish. Gulf of Alaska mean lengths with climate reconstruction. We calculated an abundance index for Sanak cod using Scorpaeniformes order fish in the denominator. More importantly. larger numbers of the . which can be used to speculate about changes in return rates (e. In the analysis that follows. In the calculation of such relative abundance indices. the taxa in Scorpaeniformes are the second most abundant behind cod in the middens. Cannon 2000. declines. We believe we avoid these problems because the Scorpaeniformes taxon used here is actually composed of multiple fish taxa.4. rather than shifts in the taxon of interest (Pacific cod). Butler 2000. The lightly shaded boxes represent periods of cooler and stormier environments. Hildebrandt and Jones 1992. 1997. The shaded boxes represent periods of significant changes in air temperature. which tend to be caught as bycatch when fishing for cod. while the darkly shaded boxes represent warmer and generally less productive environments.. and (2) because they are groundfish.g. and Cottidae (sculpin). one must always consider the problem of “closed arrays” (Grayson 1984. we utilize an abundance index to track fluctuations in the relative abundance of cod. which are generally more productive. sea surface temperature. or the possibility that the bivariate proportional measure we are using is actually tracking shifts in the frequencies of the comparison taxa (in this case.

That is. cod populations increase.4 0.6 0. and when mean size decreases.5. but mean length will decline because of the large numbers of juveniles in the population. abundance decreases.8 0. and not fishing effort. Cod fecundity increases dramatically with size (Karp 1982). lower-ranked (bycatch) fish in Scorpaeniformes would be harvested to mitigate any shortfalls (assuming a goal of constant returns). younger fish will tend to dominate the harvest.2 0 2550 BC 1750 BC 840 BC Mean Calibrated Date 595 BC 80 BC 520 AD 1030 AD 1540 AD Figure 11. so while fish may live longer and grow larger under good conditions. the increased fecundity of the large fish leads to proportionally larger increases in juveniles. when mean size increases. This is exactly the correlation we expect. theoretically. these relationships would amplify the magnitude of changes in the abundance index. be linked to a concomitant shift in cod abundance. Gulf of Alaska (Sanak Island) mean lengths compared to cod abundance index. Therefore any decline or increase in Scorpaeniformes should. .2 1 Cod/Scorpaenidae Index 0. abundance increases. but not its direction. when productivity increases during cold regimes.5). we see that abundance trends are inversely correlated with size trends (Figure 11. When we compare shifting cod lengths to their associated cod–Scorpaeniformes AI. These smaller. Because of how the index is calculated.186 1000 950 Mean Fork Length (mm) THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 2550 BC 1750 BC 840 BC 595 BC 80 BC 520 AD 1030 AD 1540 AD Mean Calibrated Date 1.

4 0.2 1 Cod/Sculpin Index 0. the abundance index declines. Jackson et al. the reduction in mean size is caused by increased fecundity and more juveniles in the population. We note that the impact of precommercial human predation on Atlantic cod stocks in the GOM is currently debated (e.6 0.2 0 TF1 TF2 Occupational Period TF3 TF4 Figure 11. Johnson. How might these relationships inform us about climate impacts on the Turner Farm sequence? A comparison of a similar abundance index for the Turner Farm samples (again utilizing Scorpaeniformes in the denominator) suggests a similar relationship as that noted in the GOA (Figure 11. and specifically that our size reconstruction here is tracking natural changes in cod populations rather than increased exploitation pressure. Gulf of Maine (Turner Farm) mean lengths compared to cod abundance index. 2001). 1000 950 Mean Fork Length (mm) 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 187 TF1 TF2 Occupational Period TF3 TF4 1. this suggests that Atlantic cod responded to climate regime shifts in the same manner as Pacific cod. the reduction is caused by sustained removal of large fish from the population. As mean size increases. In the case of climate.6. In the overfishing scenario.. Bourque. Barsh 2002. This climate-based effect on mean size is quite different from what we might expect from sustained overfishing. The data we .6).8 0. and Steneck 2008. with concomitant evolutionary changes in the size at age and age at maturation.g. To us.

appears to be related to an “oceanic regime shift” that occurred during the same period (Benson and Trites 2002. Stephens et al. multicentennial cycles that appear to correspond to climate shifts (see Finney et al. 2002 for a similar conclusion about salmon in the Gulf of Alaska). Management decisions based on little more than half a century of data will not provide the temporal depth necessary to adequately assess the modern state of fish populations. and previously unknown. Johnson. atxidaq. the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet words for Atlantic cod. 2001). mean “the fish we wait for” and “the fish there isn’t enough of. which appear to have experienced both a progressive shift toward increasing mean length and decreasing abundance (which may be linked to climate) prior to the historic era. For many areas of the world. That such oceanic shifts may have abruptly influenced the numbers of cod in the North Pacific may be evident in the Aleut language.” From the Gulf of Maine. Despite these differences. before commercial exploitation. As discussed above. in both sequences cod abundance and mean cod size fluctuated. Our analysis indicates that precontact-period cod populations in the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of Alaska were variable and exhibit clear. The contrasts in the histories of cod exploitation in the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of Alaska are striking. despite significant commercial exploitation in the modern era. These Indigenous names expose the implicit traditional ecological knowledge about fish populations imbedded in Aboriginal languages.188 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NORTH PACIFIC FISHERIES have presented suggest that climate may also have had significant impacts on the abundance of prehistoric cod populations. followed by their sudden return in 1975. While we can find no evidence for exploitation impacts on fish lengths . literally translates as “the fish that stops. we believe our sequences indicate that Pacific cod populations in the Gulf of Alaska are resilient and have maintained a relatively constant and largely self-correcting length (and therefore fecundity and age) structure over some 4500 years. peju and nuhkomeq. More specifically. This linguistic evidence also implies some uncertainty in cod populations. This is not the case for the Gulf of Maine cod stocks. and further reinforce our identification of variability in precommercial cod stocks. Conclusions The population histories presented above represent a 5000-plus-year relationship between humans and cod in the Northern Hemisphere. The perturbations in the numbers and size of cod are intriguing given the historical evidence for the periodic disappearance and sudden reappearance of cod in the GOA during the historic period. and Steneck 2008). followed by a profound impact by modern overexploitation (although see Bourque. the significant decline in cod abundance in the GOA in the 1930s and 1940s. The shifting baseline syndrome (Pauly 1995) can only be adequately addressed by developing a preindustrial baseline that extends beyond the origins of the commercial fishery. sometimes considerably. The Aleut word for cod. These climate-linked variations in cod populations under subsistence-level exploitation pressure should be taken into account when analyzing modern stock trends and developing management policies (see Drinkwater [2005] for an analysis of the impact of recent climate change on cod). this can only be achieved by probing the archaeological record for appropriate proxy data.” respectively.

the cumulative historical weight of 400 years of increasing fishing efforts resulted in the severely stunted size profile that currently characterizes Atlantic cod in the GOM. In short. 2005). 2003. In the Gulf of Alaska. 2001). Clearly.. By integrating zooarchaeological. and this was likely a complicating factor in the recent decline in cod. Yet we also note that our data suggest cod stocks responded dramatically to changing climate. Bourque. Our study had two primary goals: (1) to provide preindustrial benchmarks of cod populations and (2) to integrate these baselines in meaningful ways with modern fisheries management data. Viewed from this perspective. Ultimately. Johnson. Jackson et al. as long as fishing effort is closely monitored and fishing mortality restricted to moderate levels. These processes are still ongoing in the Gulf of Maine (see Barot et al. Jackson et al. While bottom trawling was likely a significant factor in the changes in the GOM cod stock. and Steneck 2008. the contrast in the use of certain gear types clearly raises questions. in a comparative and historically contextualized approach.g. This is an interesting hypothesis considering the relative lack of penetration of otter trawling in the GOA and its correspondence with a cod length structure within the range of precommercial variation. (2001:631) speculate that it was the rapid development of an otter trawl fishery after the 1920s. 350 years the commercial cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine finally managed to exert so much fishing effort and inflict so much mortality that cod stocks were devastated. Swain.. and modern data we possess the ability to document the absolute magnitude of the changes that can occur in a heavily exploited fish stock. Jackson et al. this appears to have occurred through a combination of a fortunate historical coincidence (i. Nevertheless. The ultimate aim of our bicoastal study was to provide solutions to the shifting baseline problem that affects modern fisheries management (e. we believe our analysis exposes the detrimental effect of the cumulative weight of fishing pressure—the sustained increases in fishing effort over decades and centuries—on cod stocks. and indeed that significant fishing pressure can be sustained by cod stocks without fundamentally altering their length structure. the adoption of bottom trawling in the Gulf of Maine was the straw that broke the camel’s back.. Sinclair. Pauly 1995) by integrating archaeofaunal data with modern population measures. as clearly reflected in the stunted modern size profile unlike anything seen in the previous 4500 years of human-cod interactions. . and perhaps as early as the seventeenth century (e. the drastic decline in cod length at the end of the GOM sequence is almost certainly a response to overexploitation (Clark and Perley 2006. that precipitated much of the declines in both the numbers and size of Atlantic cod. 2004. we believe our comparison highlights the fact that management successes are possible. the final blow in a gradual assault of more efficient gear types and increasing fishing effort that can be traced historically to at least the early 1850s with the adoption of commercial longline gear (Rosenberg et al.g. Zooarchaeology of the “Fish That Stops” 189 in the GOA. such as a reduction in length at age and age at maturation. 2001) with the start of the commercial European handline fishery. historical. over a period of ca. Jackson 2001.e. the late penetration of commercial fishing) and the effectiveness of recent management policies. and Hanson 2007). Swain et al. Modern fisheries research suggests that this may reflect evolutionary changes caused by fishing pressure. and the increase in fishing effort that entails.

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