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Atlanto-Scandian herring in the Jökulfjords?

‘It’s remarkable news and it will be very interesting to see what the Marine Research Institute makes of this herring,’ said skipper Lárus Grímsson of HB Grandi’s pelagic vessel Lundey NS. At the end of last week they fished well on herring in the sheltered waters of the Jökulfjords in the Ísafjördur Deeps, an inlet in the North-West of Iceland. This would not be a great news story in itself, but this herring was found to be around 80% roe- and milt-bearing. This rules out that the fish are Icelandic summer spawning herring and the most likely possibility is that they are Atlanto-Scandian herring.

According to Lárus Grímsson, there have been several reports recently of herring in the Ísafjördur Deeps and two vessels, Faxi RE and Bjarni Ólafsson AK, began searching there last week. Lárus Grímsson says that they were aware of herring all the way to Reykjanes, but not in catchable amounts.

‘We were in the area two days later when the crew of Sædís from Ísafjördur called to let us know they had seen herring marks in Veidileysufjördur. We made our way there and found herring off Lónsfjördur, where we had a 700 tonne shot. It was purely by chance that we saw the herring were roe- and milt-bearing. One of the crew wanted to see if there was feed in the fish, and when he cut one open, he saw the roe. We looked at a lot more fish and found that around 80% are roe- or milt-bearing. The herring have an average weight of 330 grammes, and to my mind this indicates that the Atlanto-Scandian herring are swimming with the Icelandic spring-spawning herring – but what they are doing here and at this time of year is for the scientists to work out.’

He commented that there were a good proportion of very large fish among the catch, up to 450 grammes. After Lundey’s shot, three other vessels, Börkur NK, Súlan EA and Vilhelm Thorsteinsson EA, all found some herring before the fish dispersed.

Lárus Grímsson said that there is every reason to investigate further the herring migration in the Ísafjördur Deeps and that he has heard from local small boat fishermen that a very large herring shoal was found off the village of Hnífsdalur, which it took eight minutes to steam past.


Samples examined today

Fishery scientist Gudmundur Óskarsson commented that they have received samples form Lundey’s catch and these will be examined today.

‘This is unexpected news, but there isn’t much to indicate that this anything other than Atlanto-Scandian herring. There are some remnants of the old Icelandic spring-spawning herring about, but I doubt that the herring in Jökulfjords are from this stock. However, we do have a problem in that we still do not have techniques for genetic identification of herring, in spite of a great deal of work on this that still hasn’t been successful. But identifying the shapes of otoliths has also been used for this,’ said Gudmundur Óskarsson.