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Icelandic spawning cod stock largest in 40 years, thanks to responsible fisheries management

By Staff

  • Bouncing back Responsible fisheries management has allowed the spawning stock of cod to bounce back from its historic lows in the early 1990s, caused by decades of overfishing. The stock is estimated to have grown threefold since its nadir. Photo/GVA 

Research by the Icelandic Marine Research Institute shows that the cod population around Iceland continues to do very well. The spawning stock of cod is currently larger than it has been at any time in the past 40 years. The reason, the Marine Research Institute argues, is that the cod catch by Icelandic fisheries has been limited in recent years, allowing the population to grow. The average size of cod in the catch of Icelandic waters has also grown in recent years, reaching the long term (1955-2015) average.

Read more: The Icelandic cod population at historic highs: Quota to be increased

The total landings of Icelandic cod reached a maximum in the early 1960s, when 500-600,000 tons were caught annually. Since then the catch has declined gradually, reaching a minimum of 150-175,000 tons in 2007-2008. The reason for the smaller annual catch was the shrinking size of the cod stock, which had declined from a post-war maximum of 2.5 million tons in the early 50s (slightly smaller than the estimated stock size of 3 million tons, prior to large scale industrial exploitation in the 20th century) to as little as 550,000 tons in the early 1990s.

With the help of a quota system, introduced in the 1980s, the fish catch has been limited, allowing the population to gradually rebound. The current size of the cod stock is estimated to be 1.2 million tons.

Read more: Global climate change likely reason for dramatic increase in numbers of whales in Icelandic waters

In light of this favorable condition of the cod stock the Marine Research Institute recommends that next year’s fish catch will be increased by 5,000 tons from to this year’s catch of 239,000 tons to 244,000 tons in 2016/2017. While significantly smaller than the caught in the beginning of the 1960s, the recommended catch for next year is a huge increase from the 150-175,000 tons which were caught in 2007-2008.

The Marine Research Institute notes that most other commercial fish stocks around Iceland are in good shape, thanks to responsible fisheries management in recent years.

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