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Life in the Northern seas

The North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans are teeming with life - as a great food resource that we live on and care for...

Despite the cold and harsh climate in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, the sea is teeming with life. Under the water surface, a lush environment unfolds, and the area is home to a rich abundance of natural resources.

In the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans overall, nearly 1,100 species of fish are known. About 600 are pelagic, while the rest are demersal. In the sea around Greenland alone, more than 250 different fish species are found, together with shellfish, mussels, 15 species of whales and dolphins, and six species of seals and walrus.

Water temperature

Characteristic of the species living in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions is that they are well-adapted to harsh weather conditions and cold temperatures. Nevertheless, small fluctuations in temperature take place over time, and even very small changes, below 1˚C, have a high impact on the climate and marine life.

Cod or prawns?

In the new millennium, Atlantic cod have returned to Greenlandic waters in large number, due to the slight temperature increase. At the same time, prawn stocks are seen to be moving further north, towards colder waters.

Fishery management

The North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans contribute approx. 11 % of global marine catches each year. These oceans’ total catch in 2012 was 10 million tonnes, of which 8 million tonnes were caught in the Northeast Atlantic (FAO 27) and 2 million tonnes were caught in the Northwest Atlantic (FAO 21), including the Arctic Ocean. Despite the large number of species in these areas, today’s commercial fishing is focused on relatively few, renowned species.

Characteristic of the area is that fisheries are well-supervised and regulated, and efforts are being made to improve the data and management of the fisheries that have not yet achieved sustainability certifications, for instance from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

See also

Read more about Fishery