International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Icelandic Waters ecoregion – Fisheries overview

posted on 2024-01-25, 08:02 authored by ICESICES

· Fisheries management measures for major stocks (e.g. cod, haddock, saithe, and herring) have resulted in decreased fishing pressure – close to or at FMSY or HRMSY – and increased SSBs for the past two decades. 

· There has been an overall reduction in fishing effort since 1991 for all fisheries, except those using handlines where it has increased. The decrease in trawl effort is likely to have reduced pressure on benthic habitats.

· Three pelagic fisheries have seen increased effort and landings due to changes in migration patterns which have been linked to prey availability, oceanographic conditions, and stock abundance: a blue whiting fishery, which started in the late 1990s, the fishery of Atlantic mackerel which commenced in mid-2000, and the Norwegian spring-spawning herring fishery which recommenced at the turn of the century.

· Fishing grounds of several other species (e.g. haddock, anglerfish, ling, lemon sole, and witch) have extended to the northern part of the ecoregion due to species redistribution as a result of increased water temperature.

· Several species, including Atlantic halibut, spotted wolfish, Norway lobster, and northern shrimp, have shown substantial decreases in stock sizes associated with reasons such as high fishing pressure and reduced stock productivity. The directed fisheries for Atlantic halibut and Norway lobster are currently prohibited.

· Most of the demersal species are caught in mixed fisheries. The degree of mixing depends on the main target – for example, most cod are caught in fisheries targeting cod. Several species that are subjected to TACs are mainly taken as bycatch, including spotted wolffish, Atlantic halibut, Norway redfish, and anglerfish. Pelagic fisheries are highly targeted with little bycatch of other species.

· Legislation to recommence hunting of fin and minke whales was passed in 2009. However, catches are not made every year.

· The highest cumulative multiannual bycatch rate of protected, endangered and threatened species was recorded in set gillnets. At species level, the highest seabird bycatch rates were observed for guillemot and common eider, and highest marine mammal bycatch rates for harbour porpoise and harbour seal. 

· The summer feeding grounds of capelin have moved out from the Icelandic Waters ecoregion to the Greenland Sea ecoregion. While this does not directly affect the Icelandic capelin fishery which occurs in the winter it may indirectly impact the distribution and growth of predator stocks on which other fisheries depend.


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee

  • ACOM
  • FRSG


ICES Advice: Fisheries overviews

Recommended citation

ICES. 2022. Icelandic Waters ecosystem – Fisheries overview. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2022. ICES Advice 2022, section 11.2.