Fishery

The female lumpfish fishery is the only fishery in Iceland that is exclusivly managed through controls on fishing effort (number of boats, length of nets, number of fishing days) rather than a total allowable catch (TAC). This makes managing the fishery more challenging as advice on total catch needs to be translated into a limit on effort. As the lumpfish fishery consists exclusivly of small boats <15m (Figure 1), with a single gear type (gillnets) and targets a single species, management through effort controls has so far been successful. The issuing of TAC advice was fully implemented in 2013 and since then, 4 of the 6 years has been below the recommended TAC.

Figure 1. A typical boat used for fishing lumpfish.

The fishery occurs mainly in north and west coast with little fishing activity in the south (Figure 2). There are seven management areas for Lumpfish in Iceland and each boat must select an area before fishing can begin. The boat is not allowed to fish in another area after fishing has begun. Area B which consists of Breiðafjörður is divided into sub-areas with the inner area opening in later than the other areas to reduce the bycatch of eider ducks (Somateria mollissima).

Figure 2. Main fishing areas for lumpfish highlighted in red. The seven management areas are shown.

Each lumpfish boat can only fish for lumpfish for a limited number of consecutive days per year. This is set annually by the manager of the fishery and is usually between 32 and 60 days. The number of days begins to count down on the day the boats lays it nets. They then must cease fishing for lumpfish after the designated number of days. Lumpfish are caught using gillnets and each boat is allowed to use a maximum of 7500 m. These are set on the bottom at depths of 5-50 m and and retrieved after 2-4 days when the fish are removed, the nets cleaned of any seaweed and redeployed.

Female lumpfish are also fished in Norway, Greenland, Canada, Denmark and Sweden. In terms of landings, Iceland and Greenland currently have the largest fishery, accounting for more than 95% of the worldwide landings (Figure 3). The fishery in Canada began in the 1970s and accounted for a substantial proportion of worldwide landings during the 1990s, but the population appears to be depleted and landings are very low. In Norway, the fishery accounted for about 10-15% of worldwide landings in the 90s but the fishery has dwindled due to low prices. The fishery in Denmark and Sweden has always been small, making up only a small percentage of worldwide landings.

Figure 3. Proportion of landings of lumpfish roe landed by country between 1976 and 2016.