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One fish, two fish, old fish, new fish

A search of PLoS ONE publications for the term “fisheries” shows over 700 published on the topic, many measuring or modeling their ecological effects, and today we add another to the collection. But this new addition, published earlier this week, has an interesting twist – it uses archaeological evidence to show fishery establishment in the Baltic by the 15th century.

The researchers analyzed bones of the eastern Baltic cod from medieval sites around the Baltic. The large international team, which included researchers from institutions in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Poland, and Estonia, used the elemental content of the bones to determine where the fish had originally come from. They found that fish from the 13th and 14th centuries had largely been imported to the area, likely from Norway. Then, in the 15th century, and perhaps as early as the late 14th century, the fish appear to have a local origin, indicating that a Baltic fishery had been established, at least 100 years before it was documented in the written record.

There is evidence of other fisheries that were established earlier – for example, the cod imported from Norway came from fisheries developed by the 11th or 12th centuries – but this new report provides an interesting historical and ecological perspective on an issue that is obviously still a major subject of research. Fisheries may go back hundreds of years, but it’s clear that we need to carefully weigh our options to determine what their future should look like.

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