The first-hand value of fisheries by the Norwegian fishing fleet adjusted for inflation, has increased 60% over the past 20 years

New sea sharing rules will impact both Norwegian fishing and processing sectors as it will limit the supply of raw materials claims industry

Norwegian fishermen claim that new sea sharing rules will make it more difficult for larger boats to fish all year round, and in turn this will lead to less raw materials.

Last autumn, Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries, commissioned by the Ministry of Trade and Fisheries, conducted a hearing on coastal cod and sea sharing in fishing for cod north of 62 degrees north. The Directorate of Fisheries proposed that vessels over 21 metres should not be allowed to fish for cod, haddock or whiting within the baseline north of 62 degrees, and that vessels over 28 metres should not be allowed to fish within four nautical miles of the baseline in the same area.

The new regulations mean that fishing vessels will no longer be able to exercise their annual fishing as they have traditionally done.

“For us who operate in this fleet group, it will now be much more difficult to operate year-round fishing. We will now take the entire quota in Vesterålen and drop traveling north in the autumn,” says Ted Robin Endresen, of the fishing company Øksnes Kystfiske.

Endresen currently operates three vessels in the large coastal group. Now he is considering acquiring a smaller vessel to satisfy the regulations.

“We have to adapt and change the operation of the larger vessels, and in addition we have to consider whether we should get one that is under 21 metres. Most people will probably adapt to the regulations, and then it becomes a question of what one actually achieves with this measure,” says Endresen.

He points out that it is also to a large extent the same caps that are used in fishing on both the smaller and larger boats.

Endresen says, “The nets are the same size, and the rope is the same thickness, so in relation to the fishing there will not be any major changes, apart from the fact that it will be less efficient and that the boats will have to make more trips with the same amount of catch.”

Tom Grande is a co-owner of Øksnes Kystfiske is now heading north towards Finnmark to fish for cod, whiting and haddock. He shares Endresen’s uneasiness about the consequences of the new rules.

“In Finnmark, a large part of the haddock fishing takes place inside the baseline, so there is no doubt that this will lead to challenges for both the fleet and the land-based industry. The result will be that there will be more so-called “paragraph boats”. These are vessels that are adapted to the length requirements in the regulations, but which are not particularly favourable otherwise,” says Grande.

The proposal for sea sharing is primarily a measure to reduce competition and conflict between small and larger vessels. This was sent out for consultation in December 2022, with a consultation deadline of 31 January 2023. At the same time, a consultation was sent out with measures to reduce fishing pressure on coastal cod. Here, the hearing deadline was 30 April. The Ministry has not yet made its recommendation on this.

Norwegian fishing organisation, Fiskebåt has, through the hearings, warned against negative consequences of sea division.

“It is a shame, but completely understandable that fishermen who are being pressured from their traditional fishing grounds take action and adapt. If the result of sea sharing is that more people build smaller vessels, it will be exactly the same quotas that will be fished along the coast. It will be a step backwards for the climate and environment, efficiency and profitability,” says Espen Jacobsen, Head of Department at Fiskebåt.

He also points out that there may be consequences for the convenience on board, and that there will be a more concentrated seasonal fishing than we see today, something that will have a severe impact on the land-based industry.

“Today’s combination vessels in the large coastal group make it easier to handle variations in quotas and catches, and ensure stable year-round jobs,” says Jacobsen.

He points out that the coastal fleet largely has two legs to stand on, where they can fish both within the whitefish sector and pelagic. And it is precisely to be able to carry out pelagic fishing that parts of the fleet have been built larger. Today, the larger coastal fleet has to transport its pelagic catches over greater distances, which requires the vessels to be larger.

“The only advantage of switching to smaller vessels is that they can participate in the open greenland halibut fishery and can carry out pelagic fishing within the fjord lines,” says Jacobsen.

The fishing industry on land and thus several coastal communities risk less access to raw materials. According to one report by the analysis company Capia AS in January, it is shown that several of the coastal communities in Finnmark get large parts of their raw material from the larger coastal fleet.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Fisheries, the new measures will come into force as soon as the Directorate of Fisheries is allowed to change the regulations. The Directorate of Fisheries, the Institute of Marine Research and other relevant actors will then evaluate the scheme.

“We assume that the scheme will be thoroughly evaluated. If it turns out that it has the unfortunate consequences that we have pointed out, we expect that this will be changed,” says Jacobsen.

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Sea sharing regulation will impact Norwegian fishing and processing

by editor time to read: 8 min