Former marine scientist Jens Christian Holst warns again of the ecological effects of a huge mackerel stock.ARKIVFOTO: EINAR LINDBÆK
Former marine scientist Jens Christian Holst warns again of the ecological effects of a huge mackerel stock.ARKIVFOTO: EINAR LINDBÆK

It is time to cooperate, Sissel

Former HI researcher Jens Christian Holst claims there are major mistakes in the norwegian marine research institute's management consultancy today. He invites the director of the marine research institute, Sissel Rogne, to a meeting discussing his concerns.


Hi Sissel,

After your speech during the mackerel session at the Havblikk conference in Midsund in July, you came over to me after I had provoked you by my comment to your speech. The provocation was made in order to engage with you after Torfinn Gangstad and I had tried to meet with you in connection with Pelagisk Dugnad the spring of 2016. I also sent you a direct email just before Christmas 2016 asking for the same, all with no result.

 Our chat in Midsund developed constructively. We discussed accuracy, precision and the general quality of the management advice given by The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) on pelagic fish stocks and sea lice. In your speech you stressed that you cared very much about the quality of the work carried out by the IMR, and I got the strong impression that you are committed to the IMR delivering the best possible management advice, based on the best possible data. 

To me this was an ideal start to the talk and review of available empery which I feel we should have had since you became the director of IMR at the start of 2016. 10 minutes into our discussion you put forward your hand and said «We have to talk!» with a firm voice. This statement was sealed with a handshake. Then we shared some emails, in which you amongst other things,  said you would find a date for the meeting after August 23rd. I came back to you with some suitable dates for me. After this I have heard nothing from you despite me coming back to you two more times.

You probably wonder what my agenda is? From January 1972 when I spent a day at the IMR together with the scientists, including a visit on the then new RV G.O. Sars, I've had a close and loyal relationship with the IMR. Later, from my experiences as a young scientist at the IMR, I decided my loyalty was going to be with the good name and reputation of the IMR, not with changing directors. 

The fishermen claiming that the mackerel stock today is severely underestimated have a good case

In my work in the controversial field between wild salmon, sea lice and ecosystembased management I discovered from around 2005 what I will characterise as grave errors in the management advice on sea lice and later in the management advice around quotas on the pelagic fish stocks in the Norwegian Sea. For the sea lice the problem was that we overestimated the significance of the sea lice as a mortality factor for seaward migration smolts of salmon, for the pelagic stocks the problem was that ICES produced single stock quota advice -  and that some of the pelagic stocks were severely underestimated.

This last observation was the reason why I could enter as an advisor for the pelagic fishermen in Pelagic Dugnad (Pelagic Cooperation) in 2014. As I saw it the fishermen had a very good case when they claimed the Norwegian spring spawning herring stock (NSSH) was underestimated. The ICES quota advice for 2017 shows this was a correct evaluation. The advice was about doubled, up to 646 thousand tonnes from 2016, instead of becoming zero tonnes which was predicted by the IMR to the fishermen in April 2014, and which led to the establishment of Pelagic Dugnad. Correspondingly, I am of the opinion that the fishermen claiming that the mackerel stock today is severely underestimated have a good case, and that this have grave ecologic consequences, which will be important to correct. Amongst other things, I find it very probable the mackerel being a major factor in the recruitment failure, which has been observed in the NSSSH stock since 2004 - with no signs of improvement so far. And also in the collapses in the coastal sprats , the coastal sand eel, the wild salmon, in several sea bird stocks and so on.

Since 2005 I have warned strongly about these errors. I have done this in different ways

My background for claiming there are errors in the sea lice management advice lies, amongst other, is that I took the initiative and carried a central role in the development and execution of the salmon smolt trawling in the fjords from 1998 to about 2004. In July 2001 my colleagues and I drew dramatic conclusions about the sea lice effects on the salmon stocks ending up in a press release from the IMR, saying that 95 percent of the out-migrating salmon smolt from the Sognefjord was with a large probability already dead. The catches the year after proved this prediction very wrong. The fisheries for one year old salmon in Sogn was as normal compared to neighbouring years classes and also to the observed individual growth of the fishes in the ocean. Then more data arrived indicating corresponding errors. 

Since 2005 I have warned strongly about these errors. I have done this in different ways, last in emails to science director Geir Lasse Taranger this spring, and in 28th June this year. Still without any effect at all. Searching my name on and, you will find various articles documenting the story back to the start.

I wish to meet you because I think if you review the empery and listen to my professional arguments you will see that there are large errors in the IMR's management advice today, both in sea lice and pelagic management in the Norwegian Sea.

 Since we spoke in Midsund new data has arrived in both fields further strengthening the graveness of the situation. As I see it, you as the director of the IMR has the main responsibility of the quality of the management advice given by the IMR. It will be strongly in your interest that these advices are as good as possible. As it has had no effect going to the scientists and science directors with my concerns I am left with no option but to come to you. And when you didn't keep the dealwe made in Midsund I now have to contact you in this unconventional way.

This letter has been written in close cooperation with herring skipper Torfinn Gangstad , herring master Jan Andreas Johansen from Ålesund and Jan Melseth, chairman of Sunnmøre Elveeisrlag. We hereby invite you to a close and trustingly cooperation from now on. We suggest you soon as possible take the initiative to a meeting with us at the IMR, where amongst other, these points will be part of the agenda:

  • The establishment of a group to evaluate the quality of various sides of the IMR's management advice, in particular:
  • Ecosystembased management
  • Pelagic stocks estimation
  • Thinning the mackerel stock
  • Sea lice
  • Long term analysis on salmon production and sea lice
  • The core density model
  • The groups composition, resources and mandate
  • Various

This is an untraditional way to hand over an offer about constructive cooperation. But you must trust that it is a sincere and well-meant offer from all four of us. So I look forward to an invitation where we can meet you at the IMR for a positive and constructive chat as soon as possible. Let us start there, look forward and discuss possible routes forward.

Norway can get the world's best ecosystembased oceanic management in the future but it will to a large degree depend on you and that you take grips at the IMR and in ICES. I guarantee you the expedite support from the people along the coast and within time more and more people along our rivers.

Best regards, Jens Christian Holst



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