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Foto: Erlend Vartdal

Fish for life

Because the sea is such an important part of our lives, we go to extraordinary lengths to ensure it will always sustain future generations. Norway has a long tradition of managing its fisheries and continuously works towards strong science-based management, balancing environmental responsibility and economic-sustainability. On this site you will find information about Norwegian fisheries in the Barents Sea.

Fiskebåt Seafood From Norway

Statement from Fiskebåt

Statement about Norwegian fisheries in the Barents Sea.
Read more ›

Industry Group Agreement

Industry Group Agreement to Cod fishery in the northern part of North-East Atlantic.
Read more ›

Video

Key industry members met on 5th April 2016 in London to clarify, discuss and align on how the Norwegian seafood industry operates in the Arctic.
Watch videos from the seminar here. ›

Q&A

Questions and answers about Norwegian fisheries in the Barents Sea.
Read more ›


More information

Cod Academy

On this website you can learn more about cod from Norway.
www.codfromnorway.com

MSC certified

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has written about MSC certified cod and haddock fisheries in the Barents Sea.
MSC_certified.pdf

Fisheries.no

The website fisheries.no is Norway’s official site for information about seafood safety, fisheries and aquaculture management.
www.fisheries.no


Our research and monitoring allows us to pinpoint the most vulnerable areas, and to customize management and conservation to each one. Targeted and tailor-made management is a better strategy for ensuring the conservation of vulnerable Arctic organisms than establishing vast marine protected areas.


Dr Erik Olsen, Dr Lis Lindal Jørgensen and Dr Harald Gjøsæter,
Institute of Marine Research, Norway

Norway has long traditions of managing its fisheries, and continuously works towards strong science-based management. The Norwegian Seafood Council trust that the managing coastal states in the north will keep their good track record in terms of habitat protection as new potential fishing grounds become available.


Jack-Robert Møller, UK Director,
Norwegian Seafood Council

MSC certified Barents Sea fisheries meet international best practice and have invested extensively in monitoring and management programs to protect sensitive habitats and prevent irreversible harm.


Camiel Derichs,
Director for Europe at the MSC

Statement from Fiskebåt
25th April 2016

The Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association (Fiskebåt in Norwegian) is heavily engaged in securing the fisheries in The Barents Sea and near Svalbard to still be sustainable through the effects of climate changes.

Fiskebåt
The Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association (in Norwegian: Fiskebåt) represents the oceangoing fleet of Norway, about 160 vessels, among them trawlers and longliners. Fiskebåt´s vision is an environmentally friendly and profitable fishing fleet that provides healthy food from well-managed stocks in the world's purest waters.

Well studied area

Fiskebåt appreciates that the Barents Sea area is among the most well-studied waters of the world. For decades, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and Russian colleagues at PINRO have cooperated in mapping bottom fauna through the annual Norway-Russian ecosystem surveys. Furthermore, Norway established the MAREANO project in 2006, a world-leading bottom habitat mapping project that gives unique knowledge of habitats in the covered areas.

Fishing for decades

Mapping of fishing activity shows that these areas have been fished for decades. It is not the first time there is little ice in the Barents Sea. Fiskebåt admits however that climate changes, together with a historic strong cod stock, have given the cod stock a more North-Eastern distribution in recent years. This has led to an intensified fishing activity far north in the autumn the later years. However, as fish stocks move to new areas, fishermen need to move with them in order to be efficient and avoid other negative environmental consequences. The less effort and fuel you have to put into fulfilling the quota, the smaller your carbon emissions are, as well as your overall sea bottom footprint. Fiskebåt points out that the fisheries in the Barents Sea are tightly regulated with a well-established science, policy and control regime, and are among the world’s most well-regulated fisheries.

Precautionary measure

Fiskebåt admits that demersal fish trawls may harm vulnerable benthic biota such as corals. In the Barents Sea there are no coral reefs, but other species vulnerable to being caught in bottom trawling. In the Svalbard region of the Barents Sea, two thirds of survey stations were classified as having low vulnerability to bottom-trawling. Fiskebåt recognises that the fisheries in the northern Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea, including the marine areas around Svalbard, are amongst the best regulated fisheries in the world. Most of these fisheries are independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as compliant with their standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Additionally there are many protected areas already established around Svalbard to safeguard ecological biodiversity.

Huge areas already protected

Fiskebåt has agreed that from the 2016 season the catching sector will not expand their Cod fishing activities with trawl gear into those areas where regular fishing has not taken place before. This is a precautionary measure until through initiatives such as those mentioned below the fishing activity in future years will be determined by improved knowledge replacing the need for this precautionary approach.

Bottom habitats in Norwegian waters are already protected through a host of measures:

  • A ban on all trawling at depths exceeding 1000 meters.
  • Specific trawling bans on 18 identified coral reefs.
  • 12 nautical mile nature reserves around most of the Svalbard archipelago, Jan Mayen, Bear Island and Hopen that protects habitat on both land and sea.

These regulations exclude trawling from a vast area of the Norwegian and Barents seas.

In the remaining area where trawling is permitted, further protective measures apply:

  • A general ban on fishing near all known habitats of corals that are not specifically protected.
  • A precautionary ‘move-on’ rule. If a certain threshold level of sponges and corals are caught in a trawl, the vessel must report this and move two nautical miles out of the area before resuming operations. Threshold levels have recently been reduced by 50% to increase this precaution.
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation established to address the problem of unsustainable fishing and safeguard seafood supplies for the future.

Certified by MSC

Fiskebåt points out that all major Norwegian Barents Sea trawl fisheries are 3rd party certified according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard. The MSC standard for sustainable fisheries is objective, science-based and widely accepted among science, industry and NGOs. Habitat impacts are a fundamental part of an MSC assessment. With the introduction of the 2.0 MSC standard, habitat impact criteria will be even more important than ever. The fisheries in question have consistently met the required level, and are certified to be sustainable and well-managed. The recent re-certification of Norwegian cod and haddock identified as usual some areas of improvement. Fiskebåt expect that Norwegian fisheries already are in the process of addressing these conditions.

Good strategy

Fiskebåt points out that Norwegian scientists proclaim that their research and monitoring allows them to pinpoint the most vulnerable areas, and to customize management and conservation to each one. Fiskebåt agrees that targeted and tailor-made management is a good strategy for ensuring the conservation of vulnerable Arctic organisms. Fiskebåt expects that Norwegian authorities continue and expand the Seabed mapping in the Barents Sea, in order to strengthen scientific advisory processes underlying spatially targeted protective measures, habitat mapping of benthos and benthic habitats in the northern Arctic. Fiskebåt also expects that the authorities will act upon scientific advice.

Fiskebåt expects, in a precautionary perspective, that Norwegian fisheries authorities on the basis of todays scientific knowledge implement measures to ensure a representative sample of sea pens and other benthic habitats in the Barents Sea a satisfactory protection. Fiskebåt expects that such measures are in place during the year.

Go to
Statement from Fiskebåt
Industry Group Agreement
Q&A
Videos

Status Industry Group Agreement to Cod fishery in the northern part of North-East Atlantic (FAO area 27, ICES division IIb2 and Ib*
March 30th 2017

Industry Group
The Industry Group is composed of the Norwegian oceangoing fleet, representatives for the Russian Barents Sea trawlers, big fish producers and retailers in the UK.

Nearly a year ago, we were contacted by Greenpeace following the publication of their ‘This Far – No Further’ report. They wanted the fishing industry to engage with the Norwegian government to adapt regulations for fishing activity above 77 °N due to the consequences of climate change in particular relating to the ice cap melting period when there is an opportunity to fish further north. There was and still is a lack of scientific data for these areas, therefore Greenpeace was arguing for a pre-cautionary approach and an updated management system for the area.


We had our first meeting in London to discuss how we as an industry should deal with these effects and the melting of the ice sheet in vast area around Svalbard related to fishing activities.


An Industry Group Agreement was published end May 2016. In summary, we agreed that from the 2016 season the catching sector will not expand their Cod fishing activities with trawl gear into those areas where regular fishing has not taken place before. We will use this precautionary approach until improved knowledge helps us determine if it is necessary in all areas and how to proceed if we are to expand the fishing footprint in future.


Many of the Norwegian and Russian harvesting companies are supporting this agreement and are signatories. We are aware that there are fishing activities from 3rd countries trawlers (EU, Faroes, Greenland and Iceland) in these areas and we are working to convince them to sign up to this agreement as well.

* The part of ICES Division 1b referred is West of the delimitation line as defined in the Treaty between Norway and Russia concerning maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean 2010


It is important to keep in mind that the Svalbard region is already subject to much focus and regulation. Fishing (and other) activities are subject to international and national management/regulation by Norway, Russia, the Joint Norwegian and Russian Fishing Commission as well as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). Note though the territorial limits of the Industry Agreement do not cover the Russian jurisdiction and NEAFC regulatory area. Additionally there are many protected areas already established around Svalbard to safeguard ecological biodiversity.


Most of the groundfish fisheries in the region are independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as compliant with their standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.


Fishing in the far north areas has the most opportunity to occur in October and November, which in recent history has shown the northernmost regression of the Ice sheet.


Following this initial round of activity we would now like to provide a short update on what has happened since the signing of the Agreement.


A High-Level Roundtable has been established and the first meeting was held September 20th 2016. At the meeting, the Norwegian and Russian catching sector presented initiatives already taken or in the pipeline. We had presentations from other stakeholders on subjects such as Fisheries Management, Scientific Research on environmental impacts etc.


Subsequently a smaller working group was initiated. Specifically it was tasked to reach agreement on the final definition of existing fishing areas, create a monitoring system for fishing activities in the region to ensure all activities are within these and establish criteria to begin fishing beyond the closed areas.


Based on data provided by the Norwegian and Russian catching sectors, we have created a map showing the existing fishing areas incorporating the already restricted areas within the region. Fiskebaten continue working with Institute of Marine Research and the Directorate of Fisheries to include potential VMEs on the map. This work should be completed the next quarter.


Finally, this initiative received the Responsible Business Oceans Award 2017 for an international agreement to protect the marine environment in the Northeast Atlantic.


If you need a list of harvesting companies signed up to the agreement or the map or simply have a question related to this process just send an email to Alex Olsen.


Read the old agreement
Go to
Statement from Fiskebåt
Industry Group Agreement
Q&A
Videos

Q&A concerning Norwegian fisheries in the Barents Sea

How is the Norwegian Barents Sea fishery regulated?

The fisheries in the Barents Sea are tightly regulated with a well-established science, policy and control regime. The main fish stocks in this area are shared with Russia and a unique formal cooperation for regulations, research and control has been implemented by the Norwegian-Russian fisheries commission since 1976. Informal scientific cooperation dates back much further. In Norway, the Minister of Fisheries is responsible for fisheries policy, regulations and quotas. Furthermore, the main resource for developing technical regulations, gear restrictions and day-to-day monitoring is the Directorate of Fisheries. This is all conducted on the basis of world-leading scientific advice from the Institute of Marine Research, which is collaborated internationally through the intergovernmental marine science organization, ICES. To ensure that all rules are obeyed, Barents Sea fishermen must adhere to a thorough electronic control regime, both at sea and at the dockside by the Directorate of Fisheries, the Norwegian Coast Guard and the fishermen’s sales organizations.

Are Norwegian fishing vessels fishing in new, previously ice-covered areas of the Barents Sea?

Climate change has resulted in the melting of ice sheets and as the distribution of ice changes, fish stocks move and fishermen need to adapt. Climate changes together with a strong cod stock, have given the cod stock a more north-eastern distribution. This has led to a north-eastern development in the fishing pattern of boats targeting cod over the last decade. Some of these fishing areas are indeed new, but scientific mapping of fishing activity shows that many of them are also decades-old, well-managed fishing grounds for cod and prawn trawlers.

Can’t Norwegian vessels simply fish in other areas?

Mainly, they do. However, as fish stocks move to new areas, fishermen must also move with them in order to be efficient and avoid other negative environmental consequences. All Norwegian vessels have a quota; the less effort and fuel required to fulfil this quota, the lower the carbon emissions, as well as the overall benthic footprint. The growing global population also means it is increasingly essential to utilise the sustainable and healthy food resources that the Barents Sea provides.

Why doesn’t the Norwegian government do as Greenpeace suggests and ban all fishing in the Northern areas of the Barents Sea?

A blanket ban on fishing in the vast area of the Barents Sea proposed by Greenpeace is not the most efficient measure for protecting vulnerable areas. 10 years of scientific monitoring of the Barents Sea indicates that the vulnerability among the benthic communities is not uniform across these areas. In the Svalbard region of the Barents Sea, two thirds of survey stations were classified as having low vulnerability to bottom-trawling. Thus full protection of the area would encompass huge areas that don´t require protection. The Norwegian management strategy is therefore based on targeted protection, supported by robust and objective science.

What is Norway doing to protect the fragile ecosystem in the Barents Sea?

The Barents Sea fishery is renowned to be among the best regulated fisheries in the world. Bottom habitats in Norwegian waters are already protected through a variety of measures:
  • A ban on all trawling at depths exceeding 1000 meters.
  • Specific trawling bans on 18 identified coral reefs.
  • 12 nautical mile nature reserves around most of the Svalbard archipelago, Jan Mayen, Bear Island and Hopen that protects habitat on both land and sea.
These regulations exclude trawling from a vast area of the Norwegian and Barents seas. In the remaining area where trawling is permitted, further protective measures apply:
  • A general ban on fishing near all known habitats of corals that are not specifically protected.
  • A precautionary ‘move-on’ rule. If a certain threshold level of sponges and corals are caught in a trawl, the vessel must report this and move two nautical miles out of the area before resuming operations. Threshold levels have recently been reduced by 50% to increase this precaution.

Is the industry itself taking further measures?

The Norwegian fishing industry is taking even further steps to speed up protection of the northern Barents sea and have agreed from the 2016 season not to expand cod fishing activities with trawl gear into areas where regular fishing has not taken place before. Meanwhile, the industry is pushing for scientific monitoring of the area to be further strengthened and for appropriate measures to be implemented. The industry group has also initiated a high-level roundtable with industry, Norwegian government, scientists, NGOs and other interested parties to further strengthen the management and continue meet MSC requirements beyond 2016.

Which programs are already in place to map, monitor and protect vulnerable areas of the Barents Sea?

The Barents Sea area is among the most well-studied waters of the world. For decades, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and Russian colleagues at PINRO have cooperated in mapping bottom fauna through the annual Norway-Russian ecosystem surveys.

Furthermore, Norway established the MAREANO project in 2006; a world-leading bottom habitat mapping project that gives unique knowledge of habitats in the covered areas at a granular level of detail. Many regulations, such as Norway’s coral reef protected areas are direct results of this mapping project.

Can authorities track where Norwegian vessels fish?

Yes. All Norwegian vessels have compulsory vessel monitoring systems and electronic reporting. Even the general public can track fishing vessels through sites such as marinetraffic.com and they can also see the fishing effort distribution at www.fiskeridirektoratet.no. This transparency makes public inspections possible, such as the recent Greenpeace campaign, and it is an important measure to assure sustainable and credible management in the future.

Are trawlers destroying coral reefs in the Arctic?

Coral reefs do not exist in the arctic, but other species of coral can form smaller aggregations, as well as species of sponges and sea pens. These are species that, to a varying degree, may be vulnerable to trawling, and precaution is taken to protect them both in national management, and as a part of MSC certification. However, the statement that trawlers “have destroyed up to half of Norway’s cold water reefs” must be debunked as a very subjective interpretation of an old report. Whatever the degree of destruction may have been, this is an historical issue. This possible historical ignorance from decades past has now been corrected. Coral reefs in Norway are today identified and protected through national legislation.

Is it true that trawlers are like «bulldozers of the sea», destroying everything in their path?

No. It is true that bottom trawling can impact bottom habitats, and that is why Norway for many years has identified and protected vulnerable habitats from trawling. However, the picture of trawlers as “bulldozers of the sea” is simply misleading. When performed on the right bottom substrate with modern trawling gear, it is a fishing method with moderate impact. Significant progress has been made over the last decades in trawl gear to minimize the impact surface and abrasion with the sea bed; to a large part because this has a substantial impact on the fuel economy of the fishing vessel. Some vessels are also developing and implementing gear that hovers just above the bottom. This eliminates bottom impacts altogether, and has the potential to be a valuable supplement to other modern bottom trawling gear. Another common misunderstanding is that trawls work by “scooping up all fish in front of it”, when they in fact function by “herding” fish into the net in the end. Escape panels and mesh size regulations are used to let undersize fish and unwanted species escape, making it a selective fishing method.

How can I be sure that I`m buying sustainable fish from the Barents Sea?

Norwegian fisheries, particularly in the Barents Sea, are frequently heralded to be among the world’s most well-managed fisheries to take example from.

All major Norwegian Barents Sea trawl fisheries are certified according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard. This is the most trusted eco-label scheme, and the sustainability of fisheries is assessed thoroughly according to objective science. The MSC is also a very strict environmental standard that addresses multiple areas of improvement for Norwegian management in the years to come.

Videos

Key industry members met on 5th April 2016 in London to clarify, discuss and align on how the Norwegian seafood industry operates in the Arctic. Watch videos from the seminar here.

Norwegian regulations for the protection of seabed habitats
Gunnstein Bakke, Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries

Operating schedule for the Norwegian trawlers in the relevant areas
Webjørn Barstad, Havfisk

Bottom fisheries and protection of vulnerable benthic communities: science perspectives on international and Norwegian approach
Odd Aksel Bergstad, Institute of Marine Research, Norway

The Norwegian approach to sustainable fisheries
Vidar Landmark, Director General, Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries & Aquaculture

How the MSC operates to protect vulnerable habitats
James Simpson & Megan Atcheson, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Operating schedule for the Norwegian long liners in the relevant areas
Paul Harald Leinebøe, Leinebris