Norwegian Fisheries and Oceans Minister Cecilie Myrseth believes the new “People, fish and community” Report sets-out a fairer distribution of fishing quotas. Photo: NFD
Norwegian Fisheries and Oceans Minister Cecilie Myrseth, today, Friday 12 January 2024, presented the Storting report “People, fish and community”, the government’s quota report for predictability and fair distribution.
“The fisheries are of great importance for people, for those who work at sea, those who work in industry on land, and for local communities all along our coast. The fish belong to us all together. The government wants a fairer and more predictable distribution of the fishing quotas, and I am proud to be able to present good options for the future in the quota report that we present today,” says Fisheries and Oceans Minister Cecilie Myrseth.
“The quota report has been an important, but demanding, work that has been going on since we started in government. This is not a revolution, but security for one of our most important industries. A supporting and central premise for the report is that the Marine Resources Act, the Fish Sales Act and the Participant Act remain important pillars in Norwegian fisheries policy, as we announced in the Hurdal Platform,” says Cecilie Myrseth.
The National Audit Office’s recommendations
The National Audit Office published a report in 2020 in which they had examined the quota system in the period 2004–2018. Several of the government’s proposals in this report take care of the National Audit Office’s recommendation on measures to maintain the importance of the smallest coastal fleet for the coastal communities.
“We are proposing several measures that will ensure that the smallest coastal fleet will continue to have a special role in the quota system to safeguard settlement, processing and employment in the coastal districts,” says Myrseth.
The government proposes an increased quota basis for the coastal fleet under 11 metres, a merger scheme for the fleet under 11 metres. In the report, it is also proposed to limit the ownership concentration in the coastal fleet in order to ensure a varied fleet also for the future and to avoid too many quotas being collected in a few hands.
The government has followed up on a clear advice in the hearings to reintroduce the trawl ladder for cod and the herring ladder. These allocation keys favour the smallest and most vulnerable vessel groups at low quotas. We have chosen to take the quota for the open group as a provision “from the top”. The open group is an important recruitment arena to which it is right that both trawl and conventional groups must contribute quotas.
The quota system and changes in the regulations may have affected the geographical quota distribution and where the fish are landed. The changes have therefore had negative consequences for several coastal communities. There have also been fewer small and local fish receptions. The National Audit Office considered that several changes in the quota system had not been sufficiently assessed for impact. This government has ensured that in this report, and we will also do so in our further work.
The National Audit Office also recommended that measures should be considered to limit ownership concentration in the coastal fleet. The government follows this up by proposing to introduce ownership concentration restrictions for the various access groups in the coastal fishing fleet.
The National Audit Office also pointed out that the increased quota prices have made it more difficult to recruit new fishermen. They therefore recommended that the ministry ” register and publish developments in quota prices, and to implement measures that improve recruitment to the fishing profession “. The government proposes to set up a working group to assess and make proposals for this.
Distribution of structural gain
Structural arrangements in the fishing fleet have been important for adapting the fishing fleet to the resource base and thus ensuring profitability for the fishermen and sustainable management of Norwegian fishing resources. Structural quotas make up around half of the quota base in the five most important fisheries. The first structural quotas will expire in 2027.
In the report, the government proposes that the so-called structural gain should be distributed to the remaining vessels in the various quota groups, and no redistribution between vessel groups. The government proposes to distribute full effect to basic quotas, and half effect to remaining structural quotas (Model X).
“The government has chosen a model which has been thoroughly consulted and which has support among important consultation bodies,” says the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Merger arrangement for the smallest coastal fleet
The government will ensure that the smallest group of vessels in the coastal fleet will continue to have a special role in the quota system to safeguard settlement, processing and employment in the coastal districts.
This group has not had access to the structure quota scheme, but the vessel owners have been able to use temporary co-fishing schemes which allow two quotas of cod, haddock and pollock north of 62 degrees north to be fished with one vessel. The Storting has decided that co-fishing between two vessels with the same owners will be discontinued from 2026.
“In order to give the smallest coastal fleet opportunities for profitable development, predictability, renewal and good income opportunities also for a crew of two, we propose that a merger scheme be introduced which allows owners of two vessels to combine the quota base and fish the combined quota on one vessel,” says the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
The proposal applies to fishing for cod, pollock and haddock in the north. The combined quota base can later be split up and returned to two vessels according to the original vessels’ identification numbers.
The seafood industry
The government wants a varied, fish-owned and sustainable fishing fleet to take into account the industry’s need for stable access to raw materials to the greatest extent possible in order to increase the processing of seafood in Norway.
The quota system affects the fishing fleet’s landing pattern, raw material quality and the rest of the value chain.
In addition to the fact that there is a goal of a differentiated fleet structure, it is also important to have a diversity of different fishing industry players along the coast.
The processing committee proposed 32 measures to increase processing in Norway. The government follows up the measures that are directly linked to the quota system.
In addition, the government is also following up on certain proposals for measures on first-hand sales.
“The Fish Sales Act is, and must be, a pillar of fisheries policy as we say in the Hurdal platform. But we must constantly be open to looking at how the first-hand sales and the marketplace can be improved,” says Myrseth.
Green conversion in the fishing fleet
Norwegian wild-caught fish has a low carbon footprint compared to other animal protein sources. At the same time, the emissions from the fishing fleet and from other domestic shipping must be reduced in the coming years if the government’s ambitious goal of halving emissions by 2030 is to be achieved.
As of today, the fishing fleet has few real opportunities for rapid green conversion, but the government will ensure schemes that facilitate a green conversion of the fishing fleet as well as continue the compensation scheme for the CO2 tax in the fishing fleet.
In the report, the government proposes that a working group be set up which, among other things, will assess how to facilitate a vessel design with a smaller climate footprint.
Resource interest in the fishing industry
“The government does not want to tax the resource interest in the fisheries. However, this requires that it returns to the local communities along the coast through activity and employment. The fishermen get to make use of jointly owned natural resources, and society must have value creation in return,” says the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Fiskarlaget – A Good Result
“The first impression is that the government wants to continue central principles in Norwegian fisheries policy and invites a broad political settlement on the new quota notification,” says Kåre Heggebø, leader of the Fiskarlaget.
“We have waited a long time and been excited. Now the message is on the table, and I think we in the industry in many areas feel quite well received by the minister and the government,” says Heggebø.
He points out that for many decades there has been an extensive and broad dialogue between the industry and the authorities about the main lines of fisheries policy.
“On behalf of the Fishermen’s Association, we have asked for a continuation of the long-term and predictable policy that we have had over many years as a common thread in Norwegian fisheries policy. At the same time, it is necessary that a number of unresolved questions must now be answered.
“We are pleased that the government has largely chosen to listen to the advice of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association. The new quota notification essentially means that central principles in the industry are continued, as I see it.”
He says, “Some changes have been proposed, and these are elements that we must go into more deeply in the next few weeks leading up to the hearing at the end of the month and the further political work leading up to Easter.”
“We perceive that very many of our proposals have been listened to,” says Kåre Heggebø. “We take that as a signal that the organisation has been able to arrive at good and agreed solutions. I think it is about the fact that we have a broad and good composition and that we as an organisation represent all parts of the industry.”
Kåre Heggebø says he particularly wants to point to a clarification as important.
“Minister Cecilie Myrseth stated that it is not appropriate to introduce resource interest taxation in fisheries. This is a very important signal to an industry that is experiencing major challenges with falling quotas, high interest rates and unrest around central framework conditions.
“She also points out an expectation that the industry will continue to reinvest in its local communities and into the development of the industry. This has been the Norwegian model and I think the Norwegian fisherman will still be recognised by this – that they are concerned with local and regional ripple effects in the development of the industry.
“We will now thoroughly familiarise ourselves with the report and the proposals that the government has put forward. The Storting’s processing of the report will be decisive for the fishing industry, and we will follow up this work closely.”
Fishing families are the losers in the new quota Fiskebåt
“About 2,000 fishermen and their families who live along the coast will lose a lot of income as a result of the government’s proposal for quota notification. In 2023, they would have lost NOK 50,000 in income, if the government’s policy had been introduced. These are fishermen who live in coastal municipalities and contribute to year-round jobs along the entire coast,” says Christian Halstensen, Chairman of Fiskebåt.
Halstensen points out that both LO, NHO, Norges Fiskarlag and Fiskebåt have made clear recommendations that the politicians must fulfil previous assurances about stability in the distribution of resources between small and larger fishing vessels.
“The government is failing the fishermen who have contributed to creating a profitable and attractive industry. The quota changes that have now been proposed are a historic shift in terms of stable resource distribution. The proposed changes will increase the lines of conflict in the industry,” says Halstensen.
Stability is Key
“With its proposal, the government is failing the broad group of Norwegian fishermen, who have trusted the Labor Party’s assurances about stability in the distribution of resources. A predictable, stable and fair distribution of resources was the foundation of the current structural policy, and the most important success factor in the industry, for both small and larger vessels. Predictable, stable and fair distribution of resources over 30 years has made the industry modern, profitable and attractive, and is the most important premise for continued development in the industry. Predictable framework conditions and trust in political stability are important for all industries, unfortunately the Labor Party no longer delivers,” says Halstensen.
“The fishing fleet has to live with the fluctuations in quotas, market, oil price, interest rate and currency. It is therefore very unfortunate that the political framework conditions are unpredictable, despite promises to the contrary.”
Reduced Value Creation
“The government’s policy will reduce value creation, reduce the number of year-round jobs and contribute to reduced activity along the coast. In particular, the shipbuilding and equipment industry will be affected, but also other service industries. The policy means that the fish – the community’s resources – are not used for the good of the community. They prioritise reduced profitability and value creation over greater contributions to the financing of the welfare society,” says Halstensen.
Preparedness in the North
The ocean-going fleet is also Norway’s leading watchdog furthest north. The trawler fleet is the largest industry in the Arctic. The quota announcement and the government’s fisheries policy will mean reduced legitimacy and presence in the far north.
“Weakening this part of the fishing industry is therefore also a weakening of Norway’s preparedness in the Nordic areas,” says Halstensen.
The National Audit Office
Fisheries Minister Cecilie Myrseth (Ap) has been concerned with the National Audit Office’s criticism of the lack of impact investigations. The criticism hit the Labor Party but was largely unjustified. Now, however, dramatic changes are being proposed where the consequences have not been investigated.
“Consequences we see include loss of jobs at sea, increased seasonal work with foreign labour, loss of year-round jobs on land, need for further structuring or land-based, unfortunate taxation pattern with increased take of coastal cod,” says Halstensen.
Halstensen also sees a danger in the fact that the opportunities to actively meet the green shift have been greatly reduced through the Quota Report.
“Norway will fall behind as a world leader in innovation and development in fisheries and the shipbuilding and equipment industry when the ocean-going fleet’s framework conditions weaken.”
Halstensen notes that Myrseth is inviting a broad agreement on fisheries policy, with that also inviting adjustments to the government’s Quota Notification. He hopes that the Storting can gather around a compromise that does not involve unreasonable and unacceptable changes to the distribution that has been in force for almost 25 years.