Ecosystem overviews

Icelandic Waters ecosystem description

​The Icelandic Waters ecoregion covers the shelf and surrounding waters inside the Icelandic exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

​​​​​​The region is located at the junction of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Greenland–Scotland Ridge just south of the Arctic Circle. The ocean and coastal shelves are heavily influenced by oceanic inputs.

In the Icelandic Waters ecoregion, water masses of different origin mix. Relatively warm and saline Atlantic water enters the area, both in the southwest as a branch of the Irminger Current and in the east from the Norwegian Sea and over the Jan Mayen Ridge (figu​re 1). The East Greenland Current carries cold, low salinity water from the Greenland Sea in the north into the Icelandic Waters ecoregion.

The ecoregion is considered to be made up of four key subareas (figure 1) defined by difference in bathymetry, hydrography, and species composition:

  1. Southern shelf: Coastal areas south and west of Iceland (mostly < 500 metres); mainly a mixture of coastal and Atlantic waters

  2. Northern shelf: Banks north and east of Iceland (mostly < 500 metres); mainly a mixture of coastal, Atlantic, and Arctic waters

  3. Southern deep: Off the shelf south and west of Iceland (mostly > 500 metres); mainly Atlantic water.

  4. Northern Deep: Off the shelf north and east of Iceland (mostly > 500 metres); mainly Arctic water

The ecoregion lies within the Icelandic exculsive economic zone (EEZ) and the fisheries are mainly managed by the Icelandic Government, with the fisheries of some stocks being managed by NEAFC and by coastal state agreements. Environmental policy is managed by national agencies, with advice being provided by national agencies, OSPAR, and ICES. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has regulations for the conservation and harvest of whales. Marine mammal issues are also considered in cooperation with the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO).

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​Figure 1: The Icelandic Waters ecoregion, showing EEZs, subareas, and depth contours.

 Figure 2: Catchment area for the Icelandic Waters ecoregion, showing major cities, ports, and ICES areas.

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Icelandic Waters ecosystem description

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