Climate change spurs mackerel migration to Greenland

Fish now accounts for a quarter of the island’s export income

Just a few years ago, the mackerel had never been seen in the waters off Greenland before. But today, the island’s fishing industry is hauling in the tasty fish in exuberant numbers.

In 2011, the first sightings of Atlantic mackerel were registered in Greenlandic waters, and within just a few years, the fish was making up a quarter of the island’s export income.

“The mackerel’s arrival in Greenland is the most extreme example of how climate change can impact the economy of an entire nation,” said Teunis Jansen, a senior researcher with DTU Aqua and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

“We have mapped the occurrence of mackerel in Greenland, and we more or less found them everywhere in the mid-summer. We found the largest quantities in warmer waters at a temperature of more than 8.5 degrees C.”

READ MORE: Research identifies huge potential solution in deep-sea fishing but warns of environmental risks

No protection in place
Jansen is behind the first study of mackerel in Greenland’s waters and his findings were recently published in the noted journal Ecological Applications.

The mackerel is one of the most fished species in the world and is critical to the industry in Denmark, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Iceland. From a financial standpoint, the fish is the most important species in the entire EU.

But the fish is not partial to waters colder than 6 degrees – it dies in water under 2 degrees – and it’s never been considered an Arctic fish … until now.

The mackerel, a speedy fish that often swims in large schools, is found in waters from Spain to northern Norway. It can be caught all year round because there are no restrictions, which leads to it being over-fished by most nations in Europe.




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