Pelagic Division


rough waters

Photo: Alice Benoit-Cattin

Staff in the pelagic division concentrate on the biology of the water column above the seafloor and all the way to the surface.  Therefore, the various studies span a wide range of subject matter from the largest animals in existence all the way to zooplankton (planktonic animals) that is barely visible to the naked eye.

Zooplankton plays a critical role in the marine environment, part of which is their importance as prey for all fish stocks at the early stages of their life. Pelagic fish stocks and baleen whales subsist almost entirely on zooplankton, though some species feed on other prey for part of the year. Studies of zooplankton aim to improve the biological understanding of different species as well as to describe the species composition of the various marine regions and variations in this composition and animal density. In addition, new methods are in constant development to better use sonar to measure the larger krill species (euphausids).

Those studies focused on pelagic fish species are the most extensive in the division. The most emphasis is placed on monitoring capelin, summer-spawning herring, Norwegian-Icelandic spring-spawning herring, blue whiting, mackerel, and lumpfish, but there are also critical studies of tuna and mesopelagic fish (ex. lanternfish and Mueller’s pearlside). The largest projects aim to estimate the size and fishing tolerance of the fish stocks, but also to improve our understanding of their biology, distribution, and migrations. Furthermore, some studies focus on the interactions between fish species and their connections with zooplankton and marine mammals.

Studies of marine mammals are also comprehensive and, as with fish stocks, the main projects are estimation of stock size and population trends in the various mammals found in Icelandic waters, including all whale species and the two seal species that bear their young in Iceland. At the same time, there are studies of the biology, migrations, and behavior of marine mammals.

Many of the pelagic division’s projects also try to describe the environmental processes that are in constant change such as ocean warming. Staff in this division work closely with staff of other divisions who are experts in other relevant fields of study.

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