Pan-Arctic fishing is highly diverse in terms of its purposes, species biology, productivity, economic and strategic importance, and ways of judgment. This ranges from full industrial fishing to community-based craft, sport and subsistence fishing. The nature of the Arctic ecosystems in the region varies from highly productive in terms of fishing production to relatively barren. Gear types vary, but offshore trawling, coastal and freshwater gillnet fishing are the most common. Legal-based fishing is more prominent in Canada and the American Arctic than in European jurisdictions, for example for indigenous peoples.
The main species harvested in freshwater environments tend to be from a few taxa, mainly Salvelinus spp. And from the Coregonidae family, marine taxa are more diverse. Compared to northern temperate fishing, Arctic fishing has an impressive variation across longitudes. Some jurisdictions only support small-scale subsistence fishing, others include the greatest efficiency among industrial fishermen. Scientific assessment approaches are quite diverse, ranging from capture-based indicators to sophisticated, fully age-structured population models.
The irregular nature of Arctic environments has a powerful impact on the life cycles of species. So much so that geographically extensive migrations between critical habitats for breeding, growth, spawning or calving and overwintering are undertaken by many taxa. While marine taxa are more diverse, they are dominated by marine mammals at the top of the food chain and as a food source for humans. It is important in guiding fishing policy in much of the Arctic region.
Although Iceland lies just below the Arctic Circle, EEZ occupies 758,000 km 2 and extends to the North Pole. It is adjacent to Greenland waters in the west, Norwegian Sea and Faroese waters in the north and east. Fishing is critical to the Icelandic economy. The country is one of the first to claim a 200 nm economic zone, and the total number of landings for a population of 323,000 in 2014 was 1017 tons. Fisheries exports represent 41% of total export value, with fisheries and related industries accounting for 25% of GDP in 2014. By far the most economically important component of fisheries is cod stock, representing more than a third of the value. The proportion of seafood exported and the 2015–2016 quota of 239,000 tons is almost one tonne of cod per Icelander.
The extensive EEZ ensures that many stocks are largely or entirely in Icelandic waters. The main exception is mixed pelagic fishing in the east. And from the edges of stocks in the Norwegian Sea NSS catches herring, mackerel and blue haddock and Icelandic herring stock. Ocean redfish especially S. mentella and S. norvegicus reach international waters and are regulated by NEAF. Although there is disagreement about the number of biological stocks, this is divided into several species and two species. ICES’s recommendation is to avoid the disproportionate rate of use of any component. Other major fishing types are on cod, haddock and capelin. Greenland flounder, ocean worm, halibut, shrimp, and lobster are also caught.
The fishing sector reflects the importance of fishing as a source of employment by allocating part of the total quota to this sector, in addition to large boats, encouraging small vessels (<15 m) to participate in commercial fishing. The main gears used for underwater fishing are bottom trawls, long ropes, nets and Danish purseins, mid-water trawls and purse-seines are the main pelagic gears. Depending on the stock biology and data availability, a wide variety of stock assessment methods are used, from detailed analytical modeling to qualitative measures for some red fish stocks. For most stocks, a TAC is determined based on an MSY approach or an open HCR. An escapement strategy is used for the capelin. In addition to the stocks described in the Norwegian Sea section, valuation models are used for the major Icelandic stocks and they are as follows:
• ADAPT type models are used for Icelandic herring stock and haddock. Cod is evaluated using a statistical age-catching model (implemented in the AD model builder).
• Capelin uses a short-term prediction model to project from survey estimates to RCC, taking into account catch from cod, haddock and saithe. Thus, 95% of the final SSB is likely to be above Blim.
• Greenland halibut, Baysean surplus production model is used. The GADGET age and length structured model is to provide assessment for golden red fish (S. norvegicus), defense tooth (Brosme brosme) and ling (Molva molva), where the ability to directly use length data is valuable.
• Other redfish (multiple S. mentella stocks) are evaluated using qualitative or questionnaire-based methods in the absence of more reliable data.
Future in Arctic Fishing
Potential and actual effects of climate change
Climate change has the deepest impact on the water ecosystems of the Arctic. It has already been noted that the spectrum of demersal species in the Barents Sea has shifted north in recent years as perennial sea ice is less and less. There is a northward shift in Barents Sea stocks. In the Canadian Archipelago, animals such as seals and Arctic cod have their ice-based ecology shifting further north and their overall population size is lower. Access to the middle offshore fishing grounds is increased with unknown consequences in terms of harvest and management. Some species will increase growth and colonization and there will be an increase in the abundance of species native to more temperate regions.
Using data limited and traffic light approaches
Traditional assessment methodologies that depend on full-scale fishing and have fishery-dependent criteria may not be possible for most small and large-scale artisanal fishing in the Arctic. However, much research has been conducted in the area of data limited fisheries assessment. These methodologies can be well suited to areas where demographic features are difficult to sample for detailed time series and other metrics. It is also for community-based fisheries where traditional ecological knowledge can surpass knowledge based on scientific data collection approaches. The traffic light approach using the sum of relatively soft indicator series may be more effective than conventional methods for stock assessment.
Development and implementation of advanced population models
For regions with large-scale industrial fishing, such as the Barents Sea, the continued development of population models in the future will certainly take place. Population models likely include both fishing and stock statistics, but also environmental factors. Bayesian approaches to stock valuation are likely to increase in importance in order to benefit from previous knowledge and to offer managers multiple options.
Development and implementation of ecosystem models
Ecosystem models such as ECOPATH-ECOSYM can mature gradually so that they can be used in the development of annual quotas, taking into account environmental conditions as well as stock and fisheries. The inclusion of ecosystem-based models will be important for predicting the effects of climate change on productivity and should be part of the fisheries manager’s toolkit.
Ecosystems, fishing, and stock assessment are highly variable in the Arctic region. Understanding Arctic fishing is as complex as any part of the world, if not more. As understanding becomes clearer with greater integration of scientific and traditional ecological knowledge, there are major advances tailored to the Arctic fishing assessment.
Author: Ozlem Guvenc Agaoglu