New report maps archipelago fishing since the Viking Age

18 June, 2021

According to a new publication from the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, organized fishing was conducted in Stockholm’s outer archipelago already in the early Middle Ages. It also suggests that herring has never disappeared from the archipelago waters, while cod has been lacking for periods.

Recently, the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment published a report called “Fishing in the Stockholm archipelago during historical times”. It has been based on previously written material and older archaeological studies to map how fishing and fish stocks have developed in the archipelago since the Viking Age.

“The idea has been to compile what we know today about fishing in the area,” says Henrik Svedäng, researcher at the Baltic Sea Centre at Stockholm University.

The report shows that fishing in the Stockholm archipelago has been widespread and well-organized for a very long time.

“Already at the Vasa time, there was a customs station at Blockhusudden where the import of fish to Stockholm was registered. And there was a developed transport system with sailing sump vessels that meant that you had access to fresh fish in most of the Stockholm area, says Henrik Svedäng.

“Herring has been a stable food base”

The sources indicate that herring fishing was mainly conducted seasonally in the outer archipelago in the Middle Ages.

“They didn’t live out there, but sailed out and fished for spring spawning and autumn-spawning herring, and also cod,” says Henrik Svedäng.

According to the report, cod has been missing in the archipelago for some decades, but it does not appear that the herring has disappeared at any time during the time period studied.

– There are no indications of that. Herring has been a stable food base for Roslagen and Stockholm,” says Henrik Svedäng.

Today’s stocks could be lows

Instead, it seems that modern trawl fishing has had a huge impact on stocks.

“It seems that herring stocks are at their worst right now during the time we have been looking at,” says Henrik Svedäng.

The report also covers fishing for other species, such as eel, pike, sprat and perch. The main focus is on the last two centuries, and an interview survey from the 1870s has contributed useful information, according to Henrik Svedäng. .

The Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, which is behind the report, is a collaboration between five Swedish universities. They exist to help authorities and other actors working with maritime issues with scientific expertise.

The full report “Fishing in the Stockholm archipelago during historical times” can be found here.

Reporter: Daniel Hedström
Photo right: Simon Stanford
Photo: Per-Olov Eriksson/N/TT
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