The Faroe Plateau Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) is characterized by its subarctic climate. Surrounding the Faroe Islands in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, it is a high latitude extreme environment in which temperature, currents, tides and seasonal oscillations affect productivity. The Faroe Plateau is a very defined and geographically uniform LME. The islands have a relatively broad shelf and are surrounded by a persistent tidal front that separates shelf water from the open ocean. The circulation of water masses is anticyclonic, with a branch of the North Atlantic Drift current flowing north. Climate is the primary force driving the LME, with intensive fishing as the secondary driving force.
Climate (e.g. temperature) is the primary force driving the LME. Currents, tides and seasonal oscillations affect productivity. The shallow parts of the shelf are well mixed by extreme tidal currents and no stratification occurs during the summer. The Faroe Plateau LME is considered a Category II, moderately high productivity (150-300 gC/m2-yr) ecosystem according to SeaWiFS global primary productivity estimates. Primary productivity and phytoplankton biomass is very low during the winter, but increases during spring and summer. The shelf has neritic phytoplankton and zooplankton communities, somewhat separated from the offshore areas while receiving variable influence from the offshore environment. The shelf production of plankton is the basis for production in the higher trophic levels in the LME. The ecosystem has many trophic levels. Plankton production, fish recruitment, seabird recruitment and growth, and ultimately fish landings, are interannually variable. The LME also serves as an important feeding ground for pilot whales and other marine mammals. Monitoring data show simultaneous fluctuations at several trophic levels in the ecosystem.
Fish and Fisheries
Climatic variability has a major impact on fish landings. Commercial stocks in this LME include cod, herring and capelin. The fisheries catch in this LME has a boom and bust profile. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 10-year trend shows 30,000 tons in 1990, 120,000 tons in 1992, and 30,000 tons in 1999. The average catch is 100,000 tons. The most important species group in terms of shelf catches are pelagic fishes, representing on average 52% of the total catch, and cods, hakes and haddocks, representing more than 30% of the catch. There was a peak capelin catch in 1992-1993, but this catch decreased subsequently. The long-term average landings of cod fluctuate between 20,000 and 40,000 tons. Landings of haddock fluctuate between 15,000 and 25,000 tons. In the early 1990s, cod and haddock landings reached the lowest values ever recorded. Since that dramatic drop, they have increased again. Cod and haddock do not always fluctuate simultaneously, due to different reproductive strategies for the two species. Other important species are the sand eel and the Norway pout. The Norway pout is not caught commercially but serves as a food supply for fish, seabirds and gray seals. A marked increase in fishing effort has not resulted in an increase in fish landings. The University of British Columbia Fisheries Center has detailed fish catch statistics for this LME. A graphical representation of the FAO data is provided below.
Pollution and Ecosystem Health
Climate is the primary force driving this LME. The LME provides important feeding habitats. Fisheries are totally dependent on a sound and healthy marine ecosystem. A systematic monitoring of environmental parameters of the Faroe Shelf LME was initiated in the early 1990s.
In 1998, the Faroe Islands had an estimated population of 44,000. The population is almost totally dependent on fisheries and on fish farming, which began in the 1980s. The potential for petroleum production is being explored in areas close to the Faroe Islands, and between the Faroe and Shetland Islands.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark. Denmark is a major fishing nation that is attempting to integrate fisheries and environmental policies. An ecosystem approach was used officially for the first time in 1995 at the international level with the Convention on Biological Diversity. The OSPAR Convention contains a number of supporting legislative and policy instruments regarding the Northeast Atlantic. Denmark participates in ICES (International Commission for Exploration of the Sea). The area between the Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands in the Faroe-Shetland Channel may be rich in petroleum resources, and is disputed by the United Kingdom and Denmark.
Articles and LME Volumes
- FAO, 2003. Trends in oceanic captures and clustering of large marine ecosystems—2 studies based on the FAO capture database. FAO fisheries technical paper 435. 71 pages. FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture-Large Marine Ecosystems.
- Gaard, E., B. Hansen, B. Olsen and J. Reinert, 2002. Ecological Features and Recent Trends in the Physical Environment, Plankton, Fish Stocks, and Seabirds in the Faroe Shelf Ecosystem. In K. Sherman and H.R. Skjoldal, eds. Large Marine Ecosystems of the North Atlantic—Changing states and Sustainability. Elseviers. 245-265. ISBN: 0444510117
- Gaard, E., 2000. Seasonal abundance and development of Calanus finmarchicus in relation to phytoplankton and hydrography on the Faroe shelf. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 57:1605-1618.
- Hansen, B., 1992. Residual and tidal currents on the Faroe Plateau. ICES CM. 1992/C:12, 18 p.
- Hansen, B., A. Kristiansen and J. Reinert, 1990. Cod and haddock in Faroese waters and possible climate influences on them. ICES C.M. 1990/G:33, 23 p.
- ICES 1999. Report of the north-western working group. ICES CM 1999/ACFM:17. 329 p.
- Jakupsstovu, S.H. and J. Reinert, 1994. Fluctuations in the Faroe Plateau stock. In: J. Jakobsson, O.S. Astthorsson, R.J.H. Beverton, B. Bjoernsson, N. Daan, K.T. Frank, J. Meincke, B.Rothschild, S. Sundby, S. Tilseth (eds). Cod and climate change. Proceedings of a symposium held in Reykjavik, 23-27 August, 1993. ICES Marine Science Symposia. Vol. 198, 194-211.
- NOAA. 1991. Report of the ad hoc Committee on Large Marine Ecosystems. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/NEC-92, 19p.
- Olsen, B., 1994. Faroe Islands. P. 18, 100 and 111. In: G.L. Hunt (ed). Report of the study on seabird/fish interactions. ICES C.M. 1994/L:3:1-119.
- Report of the Advisory Committee for Fisheries Management. In ICES Annual Report, 81st Statutory Meeting. 1993. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Dublin, Ireland.
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