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Cod drying racks in Lofoten Islands (M. Brubaker)

The perfect climate - In the last edition, I wrote about farming in an area of Norway facing the longest drought since 2018. In this edition, we turn to northern Norway and a look at the importance of climate to local fishing economies and traditions. Above the Arctic Circle, on Norway’s west coast there is an archipelago called the Lofoten Islands, famous for dramatic scenery and the method of drying fish that is particular to this region. Despite the Arctic location, the Lofoten Islands have a very mild climate, just the right conditions for drying fish year round. The temperature and winds are perfect for preserving fish—no salt, smoking or packaging required. Walking through the town of Svolvaer we were amazed to see the scale of the industry, with huge racks lining the shore with tens of thousands of dried cod ready to be shipped to customers throughout Europe. Other places in Norway have tried to do this, but only here with a thousand year cod fishing history, have the right conditions persisted. You can eat the fish dry if you like, or soak in water for a few days and it rehydrates to near its original form.

Dry fish is also an important food in other parts of the Arctic. In Alaska, dry fish is a traditional subsistence food typically prepared on outdoor racks during the summer. Whereas in the south, a warm and wetter climate requires smoking fish, in northern Alaska cool and breezy conditions are perfect for drying and the finished fish is eaten right off the skin or dipped in seal oil. But the drying weather is not as reliable as it once was. In 2012, we started receiving LEO Network posts about problems with fish drying. Instances when conditions were too warm or too wet, resulted in spoiling and lost harvest. Some people were compelled to other methods, drying meat indoors, using dehydrators or smoking fish. Increasing numbers of insects was another problem, requiring the racks to be covered with nets to keep the flies off.

None of these problems were apparent in Svolvaer, as far as we could tell. But climate change is already causing other problems in the Lofoten Islands that are common to Alaska, warming ocean temperatures, increasingly stormy weather, and a northward migration of fish.

The Lofoten Islands are notable for another reason, their stance on off-shore development of petroleum. In 2017, the Lofoten Declaration was signed by over 600 organizations calling for the phase-out of petroleum and a transition to a low-carbon economy. It was this declaration that was credited with starting the government of Norway on a path to divest from petroleum exploration and development.

Norway is making real progress on their climate change goals. See article on Norway’s electric purchases this year, well along on the transition to 100% BEV by 2025. These are important steps and a model for how we can help the Lofoten Islands and other northern regions to enjoy dry fish for years to come. Mike Brubaker, Editor

Salo, Southwest Finland, Finland
News / June 21, 2023

The sale of fishing permits has been suspended for two sites where water temperatures have risen to critically high levels, especially for salmon.

Read article on News



British Columbia, Canada
CBC / June 12, 2023

A group of Indigenous communities from Alaska and B.C. has declared a state of emergency related to Pacific salmon populations, and says First Nations need to be more involved in managing traditional resources. 

Read article on CBC



Gulf of Alaska, Northeast Pacific Ocean
Kayla Desroches, KMXT / KTOO / March 13, 2018

A disaster declaration could make the fishery eligible for federal relief funds, although who specifically would receive money would be figured out later. 

Read article on KTOO



Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
BBC News / June 16, 2023

Environment agency Sepa said every part of the country had now reached some level of water scarcity. The weather conditions could last until early July and followed a drier than usual winter and spring. In May, Scotland only received 44% of its long-term average rainfall.

Read article on BBC News



Kotzebue, Alaska, United States
Desiree Hagen, KOTZ - Kotzebue / Alaska Public Media / June 1, 2023

Following a thaw slump, the water becomes cloudy and full of sediment, potentially suffocating the eggs of spawning sheefish. Scientists are concerned that permafrost thaw could lead to declines in the sheefish population, a staple food for many Alaskans.

Read article on Alaska Public Media



Nordre Leirvåg - Bjarkøy, Harstad, Troms and Finnmark, Norway
Kari Anne Skoglund, Børge Hoseth / NRK / June 1, 2023

Kjell Arvid Andersen thought the birds were behaved strangely. Then he and his neighbors found over 30 dead birds.

Read article on NRK



Norway
Mark Kane / InsideEVs /

In May, 11,865 new passenger plug-in cars were registered in Norway (up 21% year-over-year), which is about 88.9% of the total volume.

Read article on InsideEVs



The Northern Climate Observer is published by the Center for Climate and Health. We track news coverage from across the circumpolar north and provide readers with a curated roundup of climate change related events. Thank you for reading our newsletter and for paying attention to our changing world.

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Northern Climate Observer

The Northern Climate Observer is published weekly by the Center for Climate and Health. We track news from across the circumpolar north and provide readers with a curated roundup of climate change related events.

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