By Erik Berg, head of mission
On its expedition to study cod populations, the “Johan Hjort” covered the area from Malangen in the north to the southwest of Røst in the south, as well as Vestfjorden. The highest population densities of cod were registered in Røstbanken, off Moskenesøy, as well as at the far end of the Lofoten archipelago in the area Værøy-Røst-Skomvær.
There may be a combination of reasons for what appears to be a greater than expected increase in the breeding population. One factor is that a larger proportion of the area’s fish are sexually mature than last year.
The distribution of cod was mostly the same as has been observed over the past 4-5 years, but dense populations were observed over a larger area this year.
Acoustic surveys revealed that 7 and 9 year-old cod (around 90 and 75 cm long) dominated throughout the area. Both of these cohorts are very large, and also dominate catches. Quite a lot of five-year-old fish (the 2004 cohort) were also observed during the voyage. This is a large cohort, which in 1-2 years will enter the breeding population.
We again observed few cod in Vestfjorden itself this year, which has been the case since 2003. The cod that were observed in Vestfjorden were found in Austnesfjorden and Henningsværstraumen.
In addition to the “Johan Hjort”, “Falkungen” has also taken samples of commercial catches in Vestfjorden. Samples from the Stamsund area and eastwards through Lofoten, including the “Henningsvær box”, showed that the majority of the cod in the area was coastal cod.
We want to emphasise that these are preliminary estimates. The data from this expedition will be combined with that of the winter expedition, and then be used as input for the annual population estimate done by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).