It has been claimed that without a fisheries agreement with the UK, Norway can reap in mackerel profits
At best, Norwegian mackerel fishermen may be able to fish for mackerel for up to NOK 1.4 billion (€137m/£117m) more in value than what has laid the foundation for the Norwegian mackerel quota for a number of years. The catch value may approach four billion this year. Last year, Norwegian fishermen delivered mackerel for almost NOK 2.8 billion (€273m/£235m).
The reason is this:
While until last year there was an annual agreement between the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands, Norway has had a share of 22.5 percent of the total quota (TAC). This is the total amount of mackerel that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommends fishing.
This year, all countries have agreed to follow the advice that a total of 853,000 tonnes of mackerel should be fished, but the distribution is nowhere near finding out and agreeing on.
Without an agreement – new opportunities
This means that Norway is no longer bound by an agreement that has given a, in part, poor share of the total quota measured on the basis of the important principle of zone affiliation to mackerel. The zone affiliation relays about the amount and time the mackerel can be found in the zones of the individual coastal states.
Here, Norway scores significantly higher than what can be read from the distribution of mackerel that has been until now.
It emerges from an overview presented by Ann Kristin Westberg at a webinar on mackerel and North Sea herring that the Pelagic Association arranged digitally on Thursday. Westberg has been the Norwegian negotiating leader in the annual international mackerel negotiations for a number of years.
57 percent Norwegian last year
The overview shows that the Norwegian zone affiliation to the mackerel has been very strong, especially in recent years. Last year, Norway boasted a zone affiliation of 57 per cent for mackerel divided into NØS (Norwegian Economic Zone), the Jan Mayen Zone and the Fisheries Protection Zone.
Zone affiliation varies from year to year, especially for mackerel, and it is therefore several years that must be taken into account. In addition, historic fishing is part of the criteria for what should be the real Norwegian mackerel share of the total quota.
Assessing 30–35 percent
The Norwegian authorities are now in the think tank to find out what share they will take from the TAC on mackerel and will make a decision in the near future. At the meeting, Westberg presented two current alternatives of 30 and 35 percent, which in both cases will mean a huge boost to the mackerel quotas for Norwegian vessels.
“Zone affiliation is a complicated concept, but we have an idea of where in the landscape we should be,” said Ann Kristin Westberg in the meeting with the pelagic industry on Thursday.
It was precisely the lack of opening for fishing in each other’s zones that meant that there was no fisheries agreement between Norway and the UK this year.
In recent years, for convenience, Norway has fished so much in the EU zone, now the British zone, that the UK demanded huge compensation for Norway access to the British zone for fishing mackerel this year.
Almost four billion
If Norway sets a share of 35 per cent mackerel of the total quota for Norwegian fishermen this year, this means a total catch income from mackerel of NOK 3.88 billion (€371m/£319m), based on an average price of NOK 13 (€1.27/£1.09) per kilo as it was last year.
In that case, there is almost NOK 1.4 million (€136.7/£117.6m) more in catch revenues for mackerel this year than there would have been if the coastal states had used blueprints on the distribution agreement that is now not relevant.
Should the Norwegian authorities invest in a share of 30 per cent, there will be more than NOK 800 million (€78m/£67m) more in catch income from mackerel, which is not small money either.
On 16 March, an agreement was reached on the management of the common stocks in the North Sea between Norway, the EU and the United Kingdom.
In addition to the tripartite agreement, Norway and the EU have entered into two-party agreements on the North Sea and Skagerrak, as well as the neighbourhood agreement on Sweden.
Thus, Norway and the EU agree on access to fishing in each other’s zones and quota exchange.
Norway is without a bilateral fisheries agreement for 2021 with the United Kingdom.
Source: Source: Norwegian Fishermen’s Association
There are some uncertain variables in the mackerel budget for the year:
At the moment, the biggest uncertainty is whether Norway will be able to fish a quota of 255,000 or 298,000 tonnes due to the mackerel’s changed migration pattern and behavior in its continuous search for food.
The second is the price of mackerel and the quality of the mackerel that can be fished. The best mackerel market, which Norway handles in Japan and several Asian countries, may not buy Norwegian mackerel that has been fished outside the weeks the mackerel is at its best. Norwegian boats may have to fish outside the best weeks for the mackerel from mid-September until October.
A third uncertainty is the mackerel price and how it can be affected by pandemics and other threats that the Norwegian mackerel business does not control.
There is also a possibility that the quota for mackerel from this year’s quota, which can be transferred to next year (the flex quota), can be increased, which will be decided in consultation with the industry after the total quota has been set, Westberg stated at the seminar.
The industry puts quality first
Kyrre Dale in the industry organization Seafood Norway also announced that a rigging of the price of mackerel must be considered based on the quality of the mackerel as the country’s, at an a or b level. He warned against compromising too much on the quality of the mackerel to be landed in Norway this year.
“We have 90 percent and more market share in the best countries in Asia, and must take care of this market. Therefore, it will be important to stimulate fishing in the Norwegian zone after 15 September so that we can continue to deliver to the best markets we have.
“We have to go round with the fleet to see how we will dispose of this year’s quota. If we do not now deliver the best quality, we will be quickly replaced. It can be difficult to get customers back if they start trading with others. A good dialogue between industry and the fleet is especially important this year because we must protect the good reputation of Norwegian mackerel and avoid “on and off” towards markets,” says Dale.