Kåre Heggebø, chairman of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association has warned the fishing industry is facing an uncertain and vulnerable situation. Photo: Odd Kristian Dahle/Fiskebåt
Norwegian Fishermen’s Association Leader Addresses Key Challenges and Priorities at National Convention
In an insightful opening speech at the 49th national convention of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, leader Kåre Heggebø addressed a myriad of challenges facing the industry, highlighting critical issues and advocating for sustainable solutions.
The convention began on a sombre note, remembering colleagues lost at sea, particularly noting the tragic sinking of the Peik, where the former leader Reidar Nilsen and his son lost their lives. A minute of silence was observed in their memory.
Heggebø provided a comprehensive overview of the global landscape, from navigating the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic to the profound impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The escalating energy prices, particularly bunker prices, were identified as a significant challenge affecting various fleet groups, with coastal trawlers facing particular hardships.
In his speech he said, “We are in a very uncertain and vulnerable situation, where the world is changing rapidly. Risks have increased, and the consequences also affect our industry.”
Economic concerns were also brought to the forefront, with Heggebø discussing the implications of rising inflation, interest rates, and the depreciation of the Norwegian krone. He emphasised the need for stable market access and expressed concerns about potential import protection measures negatively impacting the industry.
Heggebø said, “In the current situation, we believe it is entirely wrong to tighten Norway’s import protection because there is a real risk that this will be met with countermeasures targeted at fish and seafood.”
Turning to the crucial issue of quotas, Heggebø raised alarm about declining stocks in cod, haddock, herring, mackerel, shrimp, and king crab. He emphasized the need for more research to address inadequate recruitment and questioned recent quota advice, particularly advocating for a critical review of survey methodologies. He said:
“Some of the recent quota advice also raises significant questions. The advice for a 40% quota reduction for shrimp in the North Sea and Skagerrak is based on assumptions that are challenging to understand. We also question the advice for cod in the North Sea. The same applies to blue whiting and saithe. Our observations and experiences from the sea poorly align with the advice from marine scientists, and we believe a critical review of survey coverage and methodology is necessary.”
International agreements were deemed insufficient, with challenges in reaching agreements on major pelagic stocks exacerbated by complexities arising from Brexit. Heggebø commended Norwegian authorities for their negotiation efforts but expressed worries about access to fishing zones becoming a bargaining chip. The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association leader stated:
“It is also worrisome that access to zones increasingly seems to be used as a bargaining chip. This reduces predictability and may also entail less efficient fishing with more energy consumption than necessary. Unfortunately, this development is entirely opposite to what both Norwegian authorities and we in the industry have advocated – that we should not create obstacles to each other to fish the quotas we have agreed upon, especially for shared stocks. This should be entirely unnecessary, especially when we face significant challenges in reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.”
Climate change and environmental sustainability were at the forefront, with the Fishermen’s Association acknowledging the industry’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Heggebø stressed the industry’s dependence on new technology and alternative energy carriers, calling for targeted schemes to promote innovation, saying:
“We are concerned that the increase in the CO2 tax hits the fishing fleet hard, and it is crucial that the compensation scheme is strengthened accordingly. Otherwise, the Norwegian fishing fleet will lose competitiveness, and several fisheries may simply have to be phased out. At the same time, the situation is such that foreign vessels do not have to pay the CO2 tax and therefore have entirely different conditions. The fishing fleet must contribute to the green shift, but there must also be a balance. It would be senseless if fish were replaced by other foods with higher carbon emissions.”
The complex issues related to ocean areas, including offshore wind development, were also addressed. Heggebø asserted the Association’s clear position against developing wind farms in crucial fishing areas and emphasized the need for better knowledge of the consequences.
In relation to the issue off offshore wind developments, Heggebø said “This is an issue that generates considerable engagement among our members, and the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association has a very clear position. Not least, we have contributed significantly to achieving what seems to be broad agreement that offshore wind farms should not be developed in crucial spawning or fishing areas or compromise seafood safety.”
Within traditional fisheries policy, the leader discussed the longstanding issue of quota system simplification, urging the government to provide stable framework conditions. Enforcement, specifically regarding electronic reporting and tracking, was highlighted as a concern, with Heggebø advocating for a balanced approach and a simplified reporting requirement for the smallest fishing fleet.
In concluding his speech, Heggebø underscored the industry’s commitment to contributing to the green shift while maintaining a diversified fleet along the entire coast. The convention is expected to delve deeper into these challenges, with the hope of shaping policies that ensure the sustainability and prosperity of the Norwegian fishing industry.