A model industry

07 Apr 2015
A good example: Norway's fishing industry is built on strong principles

A good example: Norway's fishing industry is built on strong principles

Norway’s fishing industry is often cited as a good example of how a sector should be run. Adrian Tatum reports on recent developments and changing times.

It would be fair to say that the Norwegian fishing industry has never really had an image problem. When you think of Norway you think of clear, blue sea, clean air and sustainable fishing.  

For the most part, the majority of the above is very much a reality. Norway has come a long way very quickly with its fishing sector. The reason for this is the country’s ability to focus on what is important. Strong ecosystems and fish stocks, constant attention to sustainable fishing and good resource management, as well as safe and healthy seafood, are the main principles on which it has built such a strong and vibrant sector.  

Research
Fisheries Minister, Elisabeth Aspaker has recently called for the industry to prioritise more funding for research. “A seafood industry which is located in high-cost countries, such as Norway, is entirely dependent on research and innovation in order to survive and grow. Therefore, it is important for the Norwegian government to prepare a master plan for marine research,” she said.  

The master plan Ms Aspaker speaks off will build on the Norwegian government’s long-term plan for research, with the marine industries as a focus. “We have to advance our prioritisations of research funding, and ensure that research culminates in innovation and economic development. Whether the research is about modernising the traditional fishing industry, developing a sustainable aquaculture, or developing entirely new industries based on marine raw materials, we want to see innovation and development,” she added.

Norway funds marine research with NOK3.2bn every year, of which NOK2bn comes directly from the government. “Norway needs to build new knowledge-based industries. The marine sector is identified as an industry where Norway can be a leading authority with a potential for increased value creation. Research and development will be essential in order to develop this potential,” said Ms Aspaker.

Norway’s latest plan will form the basis for its priorities in aquaculture research, resource and ecosystem research and research that can form the basis of new, emerging marine industries in the future.

IUU fishing
Norway is also keen to do whatever it can to protect its waters from illegal and unregulated fishing. Norway has lead the way in starting a new international cooperation against financial crime in the fisheries sector, and the North Atlantic Fisheries Intelligence Group was recently founded in Oslo.

Norway, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark and Iceland participate in the working group, which will strive to uncover economic crime in the fishing industry. Under the North Atlantic Fisheries Intelligence Group, authorities within fisheries, customs and tax will work together to strengthen the information exchange on everything from illegal flow of capital to social dumping within the fishing industry.

“To combat illegal and unregulated fishing one must look at the entire chain of industry. The aim is to bring the perpetrators to justice - not just their boats. To become more effective, we must work across both agencies and borders,” said Ms Aspaker.

Discards
The country has also taken a strong stance on discards. As long ago as 1987, long before the recent EU decision on discards and the revised Common Fisheries Policy, Norway was one of the first countries in Europe to implement a ban on discards and there has been a huge investment in resources and effort to adjust the fishing practices of Norwegian vessels as a result.

“The foundation for this policy is quite simply that throwing dead fish over board doesn’t make sense. It is a waste of valuable resources, and undermines the need for precise information about catch levels,” said Ms Aspaker in a speech last year.

“Let me underline that a ban on discards alone is not enough. It has to be part of a larger policy mix where regulations are aimed at the fishing operation itself. We have set limits on bycatches and intermixture of juveniles, and a requirement to change fishing ground if the set limits are exceeded. In the Barents Sea we have since 1984, had a system of real time closure of fishing grounds in place. Also some juvenile areas are closed permanently in addition to seasonal closures,” she added.

Other measures that have been implemented include minimum mesh sizes in nets and mandatory use of selective gear technology. The main objective here is to promote a harvest pattern where recruits and undersized fish are protected, and where unwanted bycatch is minimised.

Exports
All this hard work is paying off for Norway. Last year, for the second year in a row, Norway seafood exports increased, with over NOK68.8bn worth exported during the year, an increase of 12% on 2013 figures. The main market for these exports is Europe, where trade increased by 16% in 2014, worth NOK43bn. Norwegian salmon remains robust and is able to defend its price level in the market.

Norway exported salmon and trout for NOK46.2bn in 2014. The average price achieved for fresh whole salmon was NOK41.06 per kg, a gain of 3.4% on 2013 prices.

Meanwhile, Norway exported codfish worth NOK12bn in 2014, up by 20%; its volume of Norwegian exports of groundfish was up 3% on 2013; and exported clipfish was worth NOK3.7bn, up 19% on 2013 setting a new record for clipfish exports.

Norway exported salmon worth NOK3.3bn in February 2015, representing an increase of 2% or NOK80m year-on-year, according to figures from the Norwegian Seafood Council. Approximately 73,250 tonnes of salmon were exported from Norway in February. This represents an increase of 11% compared to February 2014.

“While we are seeing strong growth in salmon exports to the EU, Asia is also growing strongly. The growth in volume combined with the loss of the Russian market is the main reason for the price drop we’ve seen so far in 2015”, said Paul Aandahl, branch manager for salmon at the Norwegian Seafood Council.

But the country is not relying on past success. According to the Norwegian Seafood Council, although Norway currently doesn’t have a trade agreement with India, there is potential for one in the future.

EU cooperation
One agreement that hasn’t always been simple but seems to work most of the time is Norway’s relationship with the EU. Despite not being a member of the EU, Norway has enjoyed the benefits of a very low tariff on export of whole salmon and also many types of fish products through an EEA agreement.

But in the past Norway has been accused of dumping, causing minimum prices and quota issues. There have also been occasional preventive interventions against Norway’s fishery by EU authorities in EU territorial waters. Norwegian fishermen were banned by EU coast guards from fishing mackerel in EU territorial waters in November 2009, which caused financial damage to Norway’s fishing industry.

Another important joint cooperation between Norway and the EU, which is based on an on-going annual agreement, is the focus on the reduction of discards. The objective is to reduce and finally eradicate discards. Today, a discard ban policy is enforced in the fishing ground in North Sea and Barents Sea through implementation of RTC (Real Time Closure) system. In an RTC system, a sample area of fishing ground is investigated in order to understand if there is high abundance of one species or not.

According to a trilateral agreement among Norway, Denmark and Sweden, Norway is authorised to have fishing operations in the Skagerrak and Kattegat waters. In general, the agreement among these countries allows them to have fishery operations up to four nautical miles from the sea boundary in the area.

Apart from its cooperation with EU countries, Norway has a good cooperation with Russia on fishing operations. They share the stocks of cod, haddock and capelin in the Barents Sea. Norway and the EU do not give quotas to a third country before consulting on mutual stocks. Quotas to a third country are a subject to the discussion between Norway and the third country based on Norway’s quota.

Aquaculture
There has also been much success in the fish farming sector in Norway, which has grown significantly over the last decade. The farming of salmon and rainbow trout is now taking place on over 160 sites all along the Norwegian coast. Aquculture production has now reached over 1.4 million tonnes a year, of which over 99% is salmon and trout and the value is NOK32.3bn.

But with success comes a range of challenges. There have been environmental concerns over sea lice and escaped fish. However, Norway is introducing new rules that will ensure that fish farmers pay for the recapturing efforts of fish that have escaped from farms, including in cases where the fish's owners are not known. This is a first in Norway - under current regulations, farms are only required to finance recapturing efforts if they are identified as the source of the escape.

This will be done through a new independent association, which all fish farms will be required to join. Farms that mark their fish will be exempt from membership fees.

Under the new system, government authorities will be responsible for monitoring escaped farmed salmon in rivers. Fisheries authorities in cooperation with environmental authorities will be responsible for determining which rivers shall be monitored from year to year. It is this monitoring that shall be applied when the number of escaped fish in the rivers are estimated.

Exports account for 95% of the total Norwegian aquaculture production, which ends up in more than 130 different countries. The EU is by far the most important market, the largest volumes going to Denmark and France. The fastest growth in export volume is now seen in the Russian market and other east European countries. Japan and Russia import the largest volume of trout. 

Norway - the facts

A long coastline with wide sea beds and numerous fjords help Norway make benefit of the sea. The fishing industry is the third largest export sector in Norway after oil/gas and metals, and it has 0.4% share of GDP. It also accounts for 4.6 % of the total Norwegian export value. The fishing industry in Norway includes traditional fishing, fish farming and processing of all kinds of seafood at onshore facilities. The traditional fishing method is still in use, while at the same time new technologies and modern methods have been introduced.

According to the FAO, Norway has a highly decentralised port structure, with landing sites for fish in many ports along the coast. These range from small fish landing sites to large industrial ports. The many landing sites and ports along the coast require large resources in terms of management, administration, maintenance and development. The Coastal Authority (Kystverket) is responsible for the development and maintenance of some 800 public fishing ports. 

Most of the landings are in the western counties and the three northernmost counties. The most important fishing county in terms of volume is Møre and Romsdal, followed by Sogn og Fjordanene and two of the northernmost counties, Nordland and Troms. This has to do with the proximity to fishing grounds, although a number of vessels registered in western counties are also very active in the Barents Sea. 

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