Achieving a sustainable fishery

Seafood ranks as Norway’s second-largest export industry. To maintain this sector, the country must manage its marine natural resources sustainably and keep its seas clean and productive.

Fishing has been a key source of income and culture along the Norwegian coast for centuries. Very favourable natural conditions, good management and able personnel make Norway the European leader in this sector.

   Seafood (including aquaculture) comes second only to petroleum among Norwegian exports. And extensive seas, a long coast and many fjords put the country in a good position to continue reaping rich marine harvests.

Maintaining stocks

The goal of Norwegian fisheries management is to maintain seafood stocks and the natural dynamics of the ecosystem in order to ensure sustainable resource utilisation.

   Advice from national and international marine scientists on administering stocks represents the most important information basis for this work. That involves proposals for fishing quotas.

   Norway’s fish resources are currently in good shape. Nevertheless, some species – such as the spiny dogfish ­– have been placed on the “red list” of overfished stocks.

   Unfortunately, moreover, not enough is known about population developments for a number of important commercial species fished by Norway.

   A sustainable fishery must ensure that all species in the food chain, including seabirds and marine mammals who live on fish caught commercially, secure the nourishment they need.

   Read more here about species on Norway’s red list.

Normal quantity

Historically, the annual catch from Norway’s sea areas has varied from year to year. According to figures from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, the national fishing fleet landed 2.3 million tonnes of fish and shellfish in 2015.

   This was virtually unchanged from 2014 and a normal quantity for Norway. The number of Norwegian fishing vessels and fishermen has declined in recent years, while catches have risen.

   The Marine Resources Act (in Norwegian only) forms the cornerstone of the national fishing industry and the management of these assets.

   In addition, the Environment.no website provides graphical presentations of the quantities fished by species, and total catches and their value since 2001.

International collaboration

Management of Norwegian marine resources must be viewed in both national and international perspectives, because Norway does not have sole jurisdiction over its stocks of wild fish.

   More than 90 per cent of these populations are shared with other countries, primarily Russia in the far north and the EU in the North Sea and the Skagerrak.

   This means that agreements on sharing resources and quotas must be negotiated on an annual basis. Norway nevertheless has full jurisdiction over fish and other natural resources in its economic zone, which was established in 1977.

Overfishing problems

The fisheries directorate points out that overfishing is unfortunately more the rule than the exception in global terms, while fish discards also amount to a large but unknown quantity.

   Moreover, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing represents a major problem all over the world.

Regional allocations

Norway belongs to various regional fishery commissions which work to allocate fish resources, administer international waters and combat IUU fishing.

   The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) regulates activity in the international part of these waters. Other bodies include the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

   Advice from marine scientists again makes an important contribution to international fishing negotiations in these and other venues.

Looking ahead

Maintaining a sustainable management of fish resources will remain the most important job for Norway’s fisheries administration in the time to come.

   Less damaging fishing equipment and bottom trawls need to be developed. Fishing with bottom trawls affects seabed communities – sessile organisms such as corals, sponges and sea pens, in particular, can be damaged or crushed.

   Catching species other than those being fished for is unavoidable. But regulations on selective equipment and closure of fishing grounds can reduce such bycatches.

Principles for fishery management

The fisheries directorate identifies five key principles for sustainable Norwegian fisheries management:

  • —   research and reliable statistics
  • —   protected marine areas
  • —   selective equipment
  • —   banning discards
  • —   maintaining good control of fishing activity and sales.