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Icelandic Reserch Company Investigate Pelagic Fish Stock

07 January 2014

ICELAND - One of the most extensive research projects undertaken by the Icelandic research company Matís over the last few years, has revolved around the herring stock in the North Atlantic.

Participating in the project along with Matís are the Icelandic Marine Research Institute, the Faroe Marine Research Institute, the University of the Faroe Islands, the Herring Processing plant at Neskaupstaður, the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway and DTU Food in Lyngby, Denmark.

The title of the project is 'Multidisciplinary research into herring stock in the north-eastern Atlantic' and the title explains Matís' approach to the project. It will include specialists from many fields of study, including genetics, chemistry, food science and engineering, to name but a few.

Herring stocks in the area are at once region-bound and migratory. This means that a catch could be of mixed stock depending on location and time of year. Anna Kristín Daníelsdóttir, division director for the Food Safety, Environment and Genetics division said that companies are interested in the gathering of information relating to the nature of the stocks and their behavior where the processing properties of the herring vary from stock to stock.

“This is a diverse project wherein we are observing the number of stock units in the north-eastern Atlantic, using genetics to determine population structure, as well as the degree of differing stock units in a given catch when fishing and then draw a link between its genetic information and processing properties and chemical content.

"In so doing we hope to find answers to (among other things) the question of what percentage of a catch is from the same stock, whether different processing properties are related to the stock of the catch or whether there are other factors to be considered, such as environmental conditions. Based on this information the producers can determine which properties will be acquired based on the area and timing of the fishing,” said Anna Kristín. Work began on the project in the year 2009.

Other pelagic species in this area also present a worthy subject for study for the same reason and Anna Kristín names the blue whiting, the capelin and the mackerel as examples, which have, in a short time, become important species for Iceland's fisheries. The plan is for this investigation to lay the groundwork for another, larger European project wherein these and other species will be researched.

“The project is in this way an example of the development of many international research projects conducted here at Matís. They often begin here in Iceland, and then move into a Nordic forum through cooperation with other Scandinavian countries before widening even further in scope and turning into larger projects with support from the nations of the European Union. In this case we hope to widen the scope of our research according to how the behavior of fish stock is changing along with the weather patterns. The mackerel is an example of this and it is important for the research to have access to all those European nations that fish for mackerel,” said Anna Kristín.

"Around the end of 2011 a grant from the NORA fund was approved specifically to study the mackerel. We are hoping then to research fish stock that we know migrate around large areas of the ocean and move in and out of national borders even as their migration patterns are changing,” said Anna Kristín.

In addition to the aforementioned fish species, plans also exist to study how salmon travels through the deep sea as much of their behavior deep underwater is unknown. These investigations may answer several questions that have long sat in the minds of marine biologists.

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