Comparative ecology of widely distributed pelagic fish species in the North Atlantic: implications for modelling climate and fisheries impacts

This paper reviews the current knowledge on the ecology of widely distributed pelagic fish stocks in the North Atlantic basin with emphasis on their role in the food web and the factors determining their relationship with the environment. We consider herring (Clupea harengus), mackerel (Scomber scombrus), capelin (Mallotus villosus), blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou), and horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus), which have distributions extending beyond the continental shelf and predominantly occur on both sides of the North Atlantic. We also include albacore (Thunnus alalunga), bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), swordfish (Xiphias gladius), and blue marlin (Makaira nigricans), which, by contrast, show large-scale migrations at the basin scale. We focus on the links between life history processes and the environment, horizontal and vertical distribution, spatial structure and trophic role. Many of these species carry out extensive migrations from spawning grounds to nursery and feeding areas. Large oceanographic features such as the North Atlantic subpolar gyre play an important role in determining spatial distributions and driving variations in stock size. Given the large biomasses of especially the smaller species considered here, these stocks can exert significant top-down pressures on the food web and are important in supporting higher trophic levels. The review reveals commonalities and differences between the ecology of widely distributed pelagic fish in the NE and NW Atlantic basins, identifies knowledge gaps and modelling needs that the EURO-BASIN project attempts to address.