Capelin Shortage Threatens Cod Population - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Capelin Shortage Threatens Cod Population

Published August 27, 2019

Main photo by
Fréttablaðið/Hari

It looks like a capelin shortage is on the horizon thanks to global warming. Bad news for the cod population.

Björn Birgin, professor of mathematics at the University of California, Santa Barbara spoke on the radio this morning. “It’s a worrying trend,” he said, adding that this type of shortage happened in Canada in the 1990s, which caused their stock of cod to collapse. “They had a capelin strain called the Labrador Newfoundland. Their population collapsed around 1990 and dropped twenty-fold. Two years later, their cod stock collapsed on George’s Bank just south of Labrador.”

He also said that global warming in mainland North America caused the shortage in the 90s. Ice melted, cooling the water where the capelin lived to the point where their population was unsustainable. However, it is difficult to say whether such a shortage will occur in the same way here in Iceland, because conditions at sea are different here than in North America. For one thing, the Icelandic capelin has more room than the Labrador Newfoundland capelin. It is largely a question of how long it takes for them to adapt.

Their recent shortage in Iceland has had various effects, besides threatening the cod population. The puffin population is down, too. Furthermore, municipalities which rely on the capelin for their income have had to tighten their purse strings, and Iceland Airways has partially blamed this shortage for their setbacks. Let’s hope the capelin can adapt.

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