Most of the commercial fish stocks found in the Barents Sea stocks are at or above the long-term mean level. The exception is Sebastes norvegicus. In addition, the abundance of blue whiting in the Barents Sea is at present very low, but for this stock only a minor part of the younger age groups and negligible parts of the mature stock are found in the Barents Sea.
Possible development of some fish, shellfish and sea mammal stocks (near future)
Concerning shellfish, the shrimp abundance is at a high level. The abundance and distribution area of snow crab is increasing.
Based on the current abundance and age structure of the main commercial stocks, the following lines of development are possible:
The haddock stock is expected to decrease from the current level level irrespective of the strong 2016 year class, as the 2018-2020 year classes are all weak or very weak. For cod and Greenland halibut, a slight decrease in total abundance is expected in the next couple of years, while the S. mentella stock is expected to stay at the present level.
The abundance of young herring in the southwestern Barents Sea in 2020 was high. However, most of this herring was from the strong 2016-year class. Thus, the abundance of herring is expected to decrease from 2020 to 2021 as this year class has now left the Barents Sea. The capelin stock is increasing due to a strong 2019-year class, and the abundance of 0-group capelin in 2020 gives promise for a further increase. Polar cod abundance reached a level close to the all-time high in 2020 due to a very strong 2019 year class. High abundance of these important food items for cod, capelin and polar cod, indicates that the trend in decreased size at age for cod in recent years may be reversed, although the abundance of young cod and haddock (year classes 2019-2020), which is important food for older cod, is at a low level.
Shrimp abundance is expected to stay high in the next couple of years. The westward expansion of snow crab leads to higher overlap between cod and snow crab and thus predation by cod on snow crab may slow down the rate of increase of the snow crab stock.
The populations of marine mammals change slowly and are thus likely to stay at the current level in the near future.