Since the early 1960s, cod populations off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador have declined by more than 97 per cent (courtesy: D O'Keefe)
The study, appearing today in the journal Science, was compiled by researchers who examined 153 fish and invertebrate stocks from around the world.
The researchers say most fish species are tough enough to recover within a decade if swift action is taken to ease pressure on depleted stocks.
But when you don't act rapidly, not only does it result in a much longer recovery time, it's not a sure bet that a recovery will even happen.
Jeff Hutchings, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University and a study author, says this may explain why cod hasn't bounced back.
It's been more than 20 years since Ottawa declared a moratorium on the commercial cod fishery, a once thriving Atlantic Canadian industry.
Hutchings says the study suggests that recovery is quite unlikely now for cod because of a failure to act when we could have.
Since the early 1960's, cod populations off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador have declined by more than 97 per cent and are now at historically low levels, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The study looked at fish species including herring and yellowtail founder whose populations had declined below their maximum sustainable yield, which is set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.