Future harvest of living resources in the Arctic Ocean north of the Nordic and Barents Seas: A review of possibilities and constraints

Global warming drives changes in oceanographic conditions in the Arctic Ocean and the adjacent continental slopes. This may result in favourable conditions for increased biological production in waters at the northern continental shelves. However, production in the central Arctic Ocean will continue to be limited by the amount of light and by vertical stratification reducing nutrient availability. Upwelling conditions due to topography and inflowing warm and nutrient rich Atlantic Water may result in high production in areas along the shelf breaks. This may particularly influence distribution and abundance of sea mammals, as can be seen from analysis of historical records of hunting. The species composition and biomass of plankton, fish and shellfish may be influenced by acidification due to increased carbon dioxide uptake in the water, thereby reducing the survival of some species. Northwards shift in the distribution of commercial species of fish and shellfish is observed in the Barents Sea, especially in the summer period, and is related to increased inflow of Atlantic Water and reduced ice cover. This implies a northward extension of boreal species and potential displacement of lipid-rich Arctic zooplankton, altering the distribution of organisms that depend on such prey. However, euphausiid stocks expanding northward into the Arctic Ocean may be a valuable food resource as they may benefit from increases in Arctic phytoplankton production and rising water temperatures. Even though no scenario modelling or other prediction analyses have been made, both scientific ecosystem surveys in the northern areas, as well as the fisheries show indications of a recent northern expansion of mackerel (Scomber scombrus), cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and capelin (Mallotus villosus). These stocks are found as far north as the shelf-break north of Svalbard. Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), redfish (Sebastes spp.) and shrimp (Pandalus borealis) are also present in the slope waters between the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. It is assumed that cod and haddock have reached their northernmost limit, whereas capelin and redfish have potential to expand their distribution further into the Arctic Ocean. Common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) may also be able to expand their distribution into the Arctic Ocean. The abundance and distribution of other species may change as well – to what degree is unknown.

Haug T., Bogstad B., Chierici M., Gjøsæter H., Hallfredsson E. H., Høines A. S., Hoel A. H., Ingvaldsen R. B., Jørgensen L. L., Knutsen T., Loeng H., Naustvoll L.-J., Røttingen I. & Sunnanå K., 2017. Future harvest of living resources in the Arctic Ocean north of the Nordic and Barents Seas: A review of possibilities and constraints. Fisheries Research 188:38–57. Article.

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