Lofoten's legendary fishery

Arctic Fisheries Working Group
Published: 24 June 2020

​​The Barents Sea and Lofoten region of the Arctic has a long history of commercial fishery. It is one of the world’s most productive sea areas and a Lofoten export fishery is described in the Icelandic sagas, circa A.D. 870.

Fisheries data has been collected for the area since a grant to study “the Lofoten cod” was issued in 1864. Today, the Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AFWG), ICES longest-running expert group, in existence since 1959, performs assessments to assist in the development of fishing quota advice in the Arctic region of the Barents Sea and the Lofotens.

In the time since AFWG was established, the region has seen many changes. From the introduction of the 200-mile fishing limit to warmer waters and retreating winter ice cover under climate change.

For some Arctic-adapted species this has presented challenges  while species at the northern extreme of their range (including cod) are benefiting from the current moderate warming and are expanding northwards across the Barents Sea.

Throughout this, the aim of AFWG has been to support the development of advice that results in healthy catches and stocks – a healthy stock is far more able to withstand changing environmental conditions than one only slightly above collapse.

Most of our stocks are managed with agreed Harvest Control Rules, which produce moderate fishing pressures leading to high stocks and good catches. Alongside these are longstanding measures such as discard bans, gear restrictions, and area closures.

The advice our assessments lead to also include the impact of variable predation on the stocks - which we have been doing for capelin since 1991.

As the environment and the stocks continue to change, advice and assessments will need to adapt. AFWG is therefore working with the ecosystem monitoring group, Working Group on the Integrated Assessments of the Barents Sea (WGIBAR), to ensure that our science adapts, and that we are able to continue providing advice to support healthy robust fish stocks and fisheries in the Barents Sea and the Lofotens.

The ​​Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AF​​WG) performs assessments of cod, haddock, saithe, redfish, Greenland halibut, and capelin stocks in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea.

Back to ICES Science Highlights: science and advice in a changing Arctic​.​​​​​

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Scientist: Kathrine Michalsen, IMR, Norway. Photo: Knut Korsbrekke, IMR, Norway. Cod name: Unknown.

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Lofoten's legendary fishery

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