Northern Atlantic fisheries have experienced a series of environmental shifts in recent decades, involving collapse or large fluctuations of the dominant fish assemblages. Over roughly the same period, many fisheries-dependent human communities have lost population, while their countries as a whole were growing. Population loss tends to increase with the degree of fisheries dependence, among communities and sub-national regions of Newfoundland, Iceland and Norway. A close look at Norway, where municipality-level data are most extensive, suggests that population declines reflect not only outmigration, but also changes in fishing-community birth rates. Multiple regression using 1990 and 1980 census data for 454 municipalities finds that fisheries dependence exerts a significant negative effect on population, even after controlling for six other predictors including unemployment and income. The general pattern of changes seen in northern Atlantic fishing communities resembles those identified by migration research elsewhere. Fishing communities are unusual among contemporary first-world societies, however, in that rapid and large-scale environmental shifts appear to be among the forces driving population change.



Publication Date

Summer 1998

Journal Title

Human Ecology Review


Society for Human Ecology

Document Type



© Society for Human Ecology

Included in

Sociology Commons