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Accelerated extractions of North Atlantic cod and herring, 1520–1790
Holm, P.; Nicholls, J.; Hayes, P.W; Ivinson, J.; Allaire, B. (2022). Accelerated extractions of North Atlantic cod and herring, 1520–1790. Fish Fish. 23(1): 54-72.
In: Fish and Fisheries. Blackwell Science: Oxford. ISSN 1467-2960; e-ISSN 1467-2979, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    life below water, marine environmental history, per capita consumption, pre-industrial fisheries, shifting baselines

Authors  Top 
  • Holm, P., more
  • Nicholls, J.
  • Hayes, P.W
  • Ivinson, J.
  • Allaire, B.

    We propose the concept of Accelerated Marine Extraction to signify two periods when rapidly increasing cod (Gadus morhua, Gadidae) and herring (Clupea harengus, Clupeidae) fisheries, c.1540–1600 and c. 1730–1790, exceeded human demographic growth. Total landings vastly exceeded previous assessments and more than doubled between 1520 and 1620 from about 220,000 metric tonnes (t) to 460,000 t. Supplies of cod and herring to the European market peaked in 1788 at more than 1 million t before the unrest connected with the French Revolution brought many fisheries to a temporary halt. Accelerated Marine Extractions increased European food security at times of human demographic growth by almost doubling the supplies of fish protein per capita. While herring was the most important species by 1520, cod dominated through the period 1540–1790, and the trajectories of cod and herring extractions differed significantly. Cod landings increased almost ten-fold between 1520 and 1790, driven by strong and sustained landings in the Northwest Atlantic. Herring landings remained stable through the 16th century but declined severely through the next 150 years. However, from 1750, herring landings quadrupled, largely because of Swedish west coast fisheries. The results fundamentally shift our understanding of the scale of Atlantic fisheries in the past and underline the role of marine resources for European societies.

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