The fisheries industry is the backbone of coastal Norway. Fisheries, aquaculture and fish processing provide employment for more than 30 000 people. The annual export value of fish and fish products is around NOK 30 billion, making this one of Norway’s largest export sectors. It is therefore of crucial importance to Norway to ensure sound management of living marine resources.
International management regime
Most of the Norwegian fish catch is taken in the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Together with the fisheries protection zone around Svalbard and the fisheries zone around Jan Mayen, the waters under Norwegian jurisdiction cover about 2 million km2. Most of the fish stocks Norway harvests are shared with other countries. Co-operation on their management is therefore essential. Norway has negotiated a series of agreements with neighbouring countries under which the parties have agreed to meet regularly to decide on management regimes and the distribution of quotas.
The most important of these agreements are with Russia and the EU. In addition, the coastal states of the North East Atlantic have entered into agreements on Norwegian spring-spawning herring and mackerel. Fisheries in the areas outside the national economic zones are managed by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) in co-operation with the coastal states.
The seal stocks in the East Ice are managed by the Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission. The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) is a forum for co-operation on the conservation, management and study of marine mammals in general. Minke whale harvesting is managed unilaterally by Norway, since the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has not been in a position to set quotas for this hunt since 1982.
The overriding goal of Norwegian management of living marine resources is to ensure their sustainable use, i.e. to ensure that the harvest is adapted to the capacity of the stocks to renew themselves. This is also in accordance with international requirements as set out in agreements including the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention, the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
Traditionally, fish stocks have been managed in a single-species perspective. However, one species may have a considerable impact on a number of other species: for example, both cod and Norwegian spring-spawning herring feed extensively on capelin in the Barents Sea, and whales and seals make heavy inroads into stocks of various fish species and organisms on which they feed. Temperature and other environmental factors also influence the migration and development of different stocks. Nowadays, the ecosystem approach is increasingly being applied to fisheries management. This means that management not only takes into account how harvesting affects fish stocks, but also how the fisheries affect the marine environment in general, and the consequences of changes in the marine environment for living marine resources.
Sustainable management requires knowledge of the size of the stocks in question, their age composition, their distribution, and the environment in which they live. Every year, data from Norwegian scientific surveys and from fishermen are compared with data from other countries and assessed by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES). ICES is the international advisory body for the fisheries authorities in the North Atlantic countries.
In Norway, the leading fisheries research organisation is the Institute of Marine Research. Norwegian marine scientists co-operate closely with researchers from other countries, especially Russia.
Regulation of the fisheries
For most stocks, the total allowable catch (TAC) is allocated through negotiations under international agreements. National regulations therefore mainly deal with how a country’s quotas are to be distributed geographically, through the year and among different groups of fishermen and types of fishing gear.
In Norway, the fishing industry and the fisheries authorities co-operate in the formulation of the regulatory regime. However, the Minister of Fisheries takes the final decisions on management measures.
In Norway, the fisheries legislation is enforced both at sea and when the fish is landed. At sea, the Coast Guard is responsible for inspecting fishing vessels and their catches. Foreign vessels that are fishing in waters under Norwegian jurisdiction are also inspected. Since 1 July 2000, ocean-going vessels have been required to install and use satellite-based tracking equipment that enables the authorities to monitor their activities continually. Norway has agreements on satellite tracking with states that fish in areas under Norwegian fisheries jurisdiction.
The Directorate of Fisheries is responsible for control of the quantities of fish landed and maintains fisheries statistics. Serious cases of under-reporting or other irregularities are referred to the courts.