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Any ship in a strike

Greenland firm to assist in Iceland fish survey

By taking part in the annual capelin count, Polar Seafood is advancing the cause of science. It may also be helping its own cause when it comes time to dish out quotas
Surveying blind (Photo: Polar Seafood)

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When Icelandic fisheries authorities begin their annual survey of capelin stocks later tomorrow, they will, for the first time, be enlisting the help of a commercial fishing vessel.

Each January, scientists with Hafrannsóknastofnun, the country’s maritime-research institute, take to the seas to assess the population of capelin, a small fish that is both an important commercial stock and a vital source of food for a number of species of larger fish, such as cod.

For the past several decades, the survey, conducted primarily off the south-west coast of the country prior to the spring spawning season, has involved one or two research vessels. Involving a third, according to Hafrannsóknastofnun, will allow the survey to cover more ground, faster.

SEE RELATED: Fishing, it’s not just an industry, it’s our lifeblood

Initially, Hafrannsóknastofnun had planned on using an Icelandic fishing vessel, but a nationwide fishing strike forced scientists to look elsewhere.

One call went to Pinngortitaleriffik, Greenland’s natural-resources research institute. Given the short notice, it was unable to help out this year, though it reckons it will be able to take part next year.

Instead, Polar Seafood, a Nuuk-based firm, will be making one of its ships available for the study. The Polar Amaroq is reportedly well-suited to the task, thanks to its advanced sonar equipment and its on-board lab, where the five Icelandic scientists can conduct their work.

SEE RELATED: Cod-awful

The two Icelandic vessels, the Arni Fridriksson and Bjarni Sæmundsson, are expected to leave port tomorrow. Bad weather in the waters east of Iceland, where Polar Amaroq is to work, will likely delay the start of the surveying there.

In May, Ices, an international marine-research outfit, issued an initial assessment recommending that no capelin be caught during the 2016-2017 season, due to a low number of spawning stock.

Studies this autumn suggested this is still the case, but, if the January survey indicates otherwise, fishing may resume.

Henrik Leth, Polar Seafood’s managing director, said the company was happy to make a vessel available, but he expected the company would learn more about capelin migration patterns. In addition to helping his firm locate fish more easily, the information would be useful to Greenlandic officials during fisheries negotiations with Iceland and Norway.

Teach a company to fish and you feed its appetite for a bigger quota.