Fisheries change spawning ground distribution of northeast Arctic cod.

Biology Letters 6(2):261 (2010) PMID 19923140 PMCID PMC2865037

Prior to the 1920s, the northeast Arctic (NA) cod were caught at spawning grounds ranging from the southernmost to the northernmost parts of the Norwegian coast, but have for the last 50 yr mainly been caught around the Lofoten archipelago and northwards. The NA cod have their feeding and nursery grounds in the Barents Sea, and migrate south towards the Norwegian coast in the winter to spawn. This study uses commercial fisheries' data from landing ports along the entire Norwegian coast during the period 1866-1969 as evidence of long-term truncation and northerly shift of spawning grounds. Nearly all spawning grounds south of Lofoten have been abandoned, while an increasing proportion of the spawning stock only uses the northernmost areas of the Norwegian coast, Troms and Finnmark. The truncation can hardly be attributed to long-term climatic variations, but may result from an intensive size-selective trawl fishery in the Barents Sea causing a sudden increase in fishing mortality, probably altering the size structure and migratory capacity of the stock.

DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0789