Resource

Calanus finmarchicus

– A NATURAL RESOURCE

Calanus finmarchicus is a huge biological resource. The annual production in the North Atlantic is many times higher than the total biomass of all fish species in the same area, including cod, herring and mackerel.

This small species, only 3-5 mm long, was first described by a Norwegian bishop, J.E. Gunnerus in 1770. Bishop Gunnerus was known as a universal talent and was one of founders of Royal Norwegian Society of Science and Letters. He collected the first samples of Calanus finmarchicus in 1767, but it was termed Monoculus finmarchicus, probably because they were collected south of Hammerfest in Finnmark County, Norway. The species has since been known under various names, but it was during the 19th century the name Calanus finmarchicus was established.

Calanus finmarchicus is a copepod of the genus Calanus with a one-year life cycle and is a huge marine biological resource. Stock assessment indicates a total, annual new production of approx. 290 mill tons in the Norwegian Sea. It is one of the most ecologically important species in the marine ecosystem due to its role in the marine food web or energy chain. It is generally recognized in ecological theory that only between 10-15 % of the energy is being incorporated as biomass is transferred upwards from one trophic level to the next in the marine ecosystem. The highest biomass is found at the base of the food pyramid. Between zooplankton and humans, there is a 1000 times energy loss through the food chain. Consequently, it makes sense to harvest at lower trophic level, utilizing the biomass that otherwise is ‘lost’.

Calanus finmarchicus sustainability graph

Calanus finmarchicus is the dominant link between phytoplankton and larvae of many commercial fish stocks, for example cod, haddock, herring and coalfish.  Larvae and juveniles from these species feed on Calanus finmarchicus during early life stages. Due to the excessive abundance, this species is a major key player in the energy transfer between lower and higher trophic levels. The annual production in the North Atlantic is many times higher than the total biomass of all fish species in the same area, including cod, herring and mackerel. As a matter of fact, Calanus finmarchicus contributes to more than 50 % of the total mesozooplankton biomass in the northern North Atlantic (Planque and Batten, 2000).

Biomass and production of selected species graph

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