ICES' Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AFWG) performs assessments of cod, haddock, saithe, redfish, Greenland halibut, capelin stocks and anglerfish in ICES areas I and II (Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea) and on its surveys and data sampling going far north as the ice coverage allow.
AFWG assesses the stocks of Northeast Arctic cod, haddock, saithe, and Greenland halibut as well as Barents Sea capelin, Norwegian coastal cod, golden redfish, and beaked redfish and anglerfish in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea (ICES Sub-Areas I and II). Most of the assessments are analytical, but survey-based and trends-based assessments are also used. The survey-based capelin assessment is carried out by a subgroup which meets at the beginning of October immediately after the survey is completed.
AFWG first met in 1959 and is the longest running ICES group still in existence. The group meets in April each year to assess the stocks and provide advice. About 20-25 scientists attend each meeting, mainly from Norway and Russia but also from EU countries and Canada.
The AFWG report (of 500-600 pages) includes a comprehensive chapter on ecosystem considerations. The specific interactions between species and the specific Arctic food-web are analysed and presented, and put into perspective with the hydrographic developments and the climate change in the Arctic. As part of this predation by cod on capelin, haddock and cod (i.e. cannibalism) is included in the assessments of these three stocks.
The advice provided on Northeast Arctic cod, haddock, Greenland halibut, and Barents Sea capelin is used by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission (JNRFC) (more information on www.jointfish.com). The advice for Norwegian Coastal cod, Northeast Arctic saithe and golden redfish is used by Norway, while the advice for beaked redfish is currently used by both JNRFC and NEAFC.
Most stocks assessed by AFWG are at present in good shape, and the Northeast Arctic cod in particular is currently close to its level highest on record (i.e. since 1946). The two exceptions are golden redfish and Norwegian coastal cod, with the former stock being in a very poor situation and the latter showing some signs of recovery.