As the deadline approaches for UK fisheries to leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and become an independent coastal state, a recent meeting in London between Norwegian officials and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries (APPG) discussed how Norway manages their fisheries policy.

The UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) back in 1974 and has been aligned with the regulations of the Common Fisheries Policy since it  was introduced. Since the Brexit vote was passed 2016, the APPG have been looking at alternatives outside of the CFP, and Norway being a neighbouring country and also an independent coastal state in itself, would be a model for the UK to base new policies on. Plus the UK government are also looking to align themselves with Norway for trade and fisheries deals.

Norway itself has never joined the European Community but remains a member of the European Economic Zone and has a trade deal with the EU that Britain is also seeking to achieve from up-and-coming talks.

As an independent coastal state, Norway reserves the right to set their own quotas for stocks fished in their own waters. They also reserve the right to dictate what other nations are licensed to fish in in those waters surrounding the country. 

The UK will also achieve the same independence from the EU in regards to their fishing rights within their 200 mile limit but it is feared by fishermen their that fishing rights will be traded off in exchange for access to lucrative financial markets in the EU and  for more open trade between the two blocks.

Norway is a world-renowned fisheries policy and and the UK is looking to create such a policy through the Fisheries Bill that is currently working it’s way through the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Having a look at the Norwegian Fisheries Policy there is not much difference between it and what the CFP wants to achieve in terms of sustainability of fish stocks but it it sets apart from it’s EU counterpart because it is easier regulated.

In Norway, the fishing industry has cultural significance. It remains a central part of life in the country and takes a higher priority than fishing does for most Member States of the EU. This makes an incredible difference in the approach the Norwegian Government takes towards the fishing community as an industry and on a personal level. In general Norwegian fishermen also tend to respect the regulations of the policy and understand the consequences of damaging fish stocks and the natural environment.

How does fisheries policy work in Norway?

  • Overarching policy. Norway has greater political investment in fisheries than the UK, since fishing is considered both culturally and economically more significant in the country. There are two principal fisheries areas for Norway: cod in the north, and pelagic species such as mackerel and herring in the south. The Norwegian government is currently working on establishing new fisheries policies that involve less ‘red tape’, through small, adaptive changes.

 

  • Norway’s fleet. There are approximately 6,000 fishing vessels in Norway, mostly below 15m in length. As in many countries, employment within the fisheries sector has declined as use of technology and more efficient fishing methods have increased. Norway has regulations in place to ensure a diverse fleet, and distinguishes between pelagic and smaller vessels. Legislation on vessel ownership means that large multinational companies are discouraged, so the fleet is largely representative of Norwegian coastal communities. 

 

  • Quota allocation. Quota is based on recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and fishermen’s organisations decide how to divide it. Quota is distributed depending on vessel length (as well as other factors), and there are regulations in place restricting quota transfer between small and large vessels, to prevent larger vessels from monopolising quota. For the Atlantic cod stock, trawlers tend to get one-third of the total quota, and coastal vessels receive two-thirds.

 

  • A dynamic approach. Norway has responsive fishing regulations, allowing certain fishing areas to be closed and opened at very short notice. This dynamic approach is adapted often, based on new information. There is constant debate between fishers and scientists/managers about fisheries management, but the necessity of this continuous dialogue is accepted by all groups.

 

  • International relationships. Norway’s fisheries agreements are principally with Russia, with the EU treated as a third country. There is no particular agreement in place regarding access to the EU market for fisheries products. Much of the EU fleet’s access to Norwegian waters is due to historical rights, and access rights to the two principal stock areas are negotiated differently. When Norway joined the European Economic Area, fisheries and agriculture were kept separate.

 

  • Discards and bycatch. Norway has had a discard ban in place for at least 30 years, which involves bringing all fish caught to shore with no exceptions. Returns from catch in excess of quota are given to the fishermen’s co-operative, where the money is used to improve fisheries. Fisheries directors define minimum landing size and mesh size, and many vessels make use of various tools and fish-locating technologies to minimise bycatch.

A move towards a Norwegian styled Fisheries policy would give the UK solid grounding for The Fisheries Bill. The Norwegian approach to fisheries has led to a sustainable annual catches. Conservation is a priority for the Norwegian government and this conservation has led to healthier stocks of fish around their coast. 

UK looks towards Norwegian Fisheries Policy post-Brexit

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