“New research by scientists at the University of Iceland’s Research Centre of the Westfjords and their colleagues has revealed that the trophic niche of the Atlantic cod in Icelandic coastal regions remained stable for centuries, but changed in the 19th century alongside intensified fishing. It is likely that this reflects changes to both the age and size of the cod stocks, but also changes to marine food webs as populations fall due to extensive fishing and food chains shorten. The research was reported in Scientific Reports, a respected journal from the publishers of Nature. According to the authors of the study, the results underline the importance of conserving different migratory cod in Icelandic coastal regions, for example to boost the population’s resilience to environmental changes.
The research team included Guðbjörg Ásta Ólafsdóttir, biologist and director of the UI Research Centre of the Westfjords, and Ragnar Edvardsson, archaeologist at the Research Centre, along with their colleagues in Canada and Norway.
Guðbjörg Ásta and Ragnar have worked together for many years on interdisciplinary research into fish bones, particularly cod, that they have excavated from ancient fishing stations in the Westfjords. The oldest bones are 1000 years old. “The main aim of the research is to understand how changes in fishing and the marine environment have affected fish populations over the centuries. Using a data series spanning several centuries, we can establish a kind of baseline and try to estimate how extensive human exploitation could have affected marine ecosystems,” explains Guðbjörg Ásta. “