Norwegian fisheries in the Svalbard zone since 1980. Regulations, profitability and warming waters affect landings
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPolar Science 2016 10.1016/j.polar.2016.02.001
The Svalbard archipelago in the High Arctic is influenced by cold Arctic water masses from the north-east and the warm West Spitsbergen Current flowing northwards along its western coast. The eastern waters and the fjords are normally frozen during the winter months, while the coastal waters west of the archipelago remain open. Norwegian fishers have been harvesting from Svalbard waters for decades and detailed records of catches exists from 1980 onwards. We analyze the catch records from the Svalbard zone (approximately ICES area IIb). The large fishery for capelin in summer yielding annual catches up to 737 000 tons was closed by a Norwegian fishery regulation in the mid nineteen nineties. Demersal fisheries have been continuous, and the results clearly indicate a northward trend in landings of Northeast Arctic cod, haddock, ling and Atlantic halibut. Fisheries of Northern shrimp have been more variable and shown no clear geographic trends. A “gold rush” fishery for scallops north of Svalbard lasted for about 10 years (1986–1995) only, and ended due to low profitably. These results are discussed in relation to the possibility of further northward extension of fisheries subjected to climate change.