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The Atlantic cod is one of the major predator in the Barents Sea estimated to consume over 5 million tonnes of fish in 2017. In a recent paper (Holt et al. 2019) we explore the diet of this species using a unique dataset encompassing 33 years of cod stomach sampling by Russian and Norwegian scientists. This time-series is the most comprehensive available cod diet dataset to date and is crucial in helping to answer ecologically important questions on what cod eat and why it matters for predator-prey and food-web dynamics in the Barents Sea ecosystem.
Where the fish are spawning is of tremendous importance for the population (see our post) but also for the industry relying on it, especially since harvesting is often concentrated on fish that aggregate for to spawn. Climate change and harvesting are known to strongly affect the fish population with effect on the spawning location. In a recent paper (Langangen et al. Global Change Biology) we explore the question: “who is the culprit of spawning location change: Climate or fishing?”
Many heavily fished fish stocks are dominated by young and small fish. The reason is simple: the chance to reach old age is small. If the fisheries selectively target large fish, the dominance of young and small fish becomes even larger. Such skewed age and size distributions can make the fish populations more sensitive to detrimental effects of oil spills.
Spawning time and location are important factors affecting the reproductive cycle for migratory fish by potentially affecting offspring survival and growth. We examine this relationships by using a drift model for early life stages (eggs to age 1) of the Northeast Arctic cod combined with empirical estimates of spatial variation in mortality at two different life stages (Langangen et al. 2016).
Growing evidence suggests that the telomeres’ length (a non-coding DNA sequence localized at the end of the chromosomes) is related to individual breeding performances and survival rates in several species.
In this study we assessed the chances of recovery of the Baltic Sea cod stock and conclude that it will never come back to the status it had more than three decades ago and that the economic losses associated to this new baseline amount to 120 million euros per year.
Many marine fishes experience tremendous mortality during their first months of life. Understanding the causes of this mortality and why it varies from year to year has challenged fisheries ecologists for more than a century. Part of the difficulty comes from the fact that many fishes have free-floating larvae. It is therefore difficult to follow a group of fish larvae over time in the field and investigate which factors cause mortality.
Since Hjort’s ground-breaking work, it is admitted that the survival from the egg to the first reproduction is an essential factor affecting the dynamics of fish populations (see post). Human activities around spawning ground may have an effect on the mortality of the younger age. One of such potentially risky activity is oil exploitation which is on the increase in the northern areas.
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian oceanographer and biologist Johan Hjort’s ground-breaking work, Fluctuations in the great fisheries of northern Europe, viewed in the light of biological research. This anniversary was commemorated with a special issue of ICES Journal of Marine Science.
Understanding the interaction between species is particularly actual in marine systems where ecosystem approach of management is desirable. This is particularly the case in high latitude systems such as the Barents Sea where climate change effect is supposed to be the strongest.
Mortality of pelagic eggs and larvae of marine fish is often assumed to be constant both in space and time due to lacking information. This may, however, be a gross oversimplification, as early life stages are likely to experience large variations in mortality both in time and space.