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This article presents the main conclusions of a PhD project
which was carried out by the author at the Centre for Mar-
itime and Regional Studies from July 2002 to July 2005.
The project combined fisheries history with the methods
of fisheries biology in an attempt to understand long-term
changes in the North Sea ecosystem and their impact on
the coastal community. The article argues that a new inter-
disciplinary approach to the history of fishing, called ma-
rine environmental history, can increase our understanding
of the major changes which marine ecosystems have been
undergoing for centuries. Marine environmental history can
also increase our understanding of the significance of the
marine environment for the historical development of the
coastal community.
The article presents the results of a case study of North
Sea fishing for cod and ling in the second half of the nine-
teenth century. The surprising result of the study is that
rather than cod, ling was the most important commercial
species for a significant number of Swedish fishermen who
fished in the Skagerrak and the north-eastern and north-
ern North Sea. Ling surpassed cod in importance for the
fishermen and often governed their choice of fishing sites.
There was presumably a significant population of ling in
the 1800s. The population presumably declined in the long
term, perhaps because of overfishing. The history of the
Swedish fisheries shows the potential in combining histori-
cal and biological studies, and demonstrates that one of the
most important fish in the 1800s has been forgotten because
it is no longer a target for a big fishery.
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