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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Shallow waters around Svalbard as nursery areas for fish stocks and an index of environmental changes

Alternative title: Grunne farvann rundt Svalbard som oppvekstområder for fiskebestander og indeks over miljøendringer

Awarded: NOK 0.25 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2024 - 2025

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The Arctic is experiencing rising water temperatures over time, which leads to a northward migration of Atlantic species to Arctic waters. Will the shallow waters at Svalbard become more important as nursery areas for the large commercial stocks in the future? This is what the project wants to find out. As a reference for the future, we should know which fish species currently live in the shallow areas around the entire archipelago and monitor this at regular intervals to document any changes in species composition as a result of e.g., climate change, or anthropogenic accidents. This should also be compared with historic fishing activities in the coastal waters of Svalbard. Standardized fyke nets will be used to map the fish fauna in shallow waters between 0- and 15-meters depth. A pilot survey in August-September 2024 will be conducted in an environmentally friendly way by a former traditional fishing boat with sails. The project will combine new knowledge about current fish assemblages with historic documentation gathered and reported by e.g., fisheries consultant, skipper and photographer Thor Iversen (1873- 1953). Documentation and measurement of stranded boats will also tell a story about former commercial fisheries and hunting activities along the Svalbard coastline. The project will invite several Norwegian institutions working at Svalbard, e.g., the Norwegian Polar Institute, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, the Coastguard and Bergen Filmutvikling, the owner of Thor Iversen’s photo and film collection, for a workshop to exchange current knowledge, and plan further field work and projects together.

The fish fauna in shallow areas at Svalbard is little/poorly known, and in literature we only find one corresponding survey, i.e. "Species composition and abundance of the shallow water fish community of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard" (Brand and Fischer 2016) carried out by the Alfred Wegener Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, and geographically limited to Kongsfjorden. The current workshop project hence intends to bring all relevant competence together to present knowledge status and plan and form a joint and regular monitoring survey to better understand how the Svalbard archipelago’s shallow water nursery areas may be linked to the dynamics of the rich fish resources in the Barents Sea, and how such a standardized survey time-series covering the entire archipelago may be used as an environmental monitoring index.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Thematic Areas and Topics

No thematic area or topic related to the project