January 2005




Value US $

Møre og Romsdal






Sogn og Fjordane




















































Source: Statistics Norway, Fisheries Statistics 2000-2001


The long Norwegian coastline is home to very rich fishing grounds, making Norway the biggest fishing nation in Europe, ranking number ten in the world measured by volume and third in export value. Aquaculture is an important part of the fisheries sector and the national economy. Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon accounts for over half of the world’s supply.


As stated in the annual report to the Storting (Norwegian Parliament, No 51, 1997-1998), the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries identifies the main objectives of Norway's fishery as:

· to ensure a commercially viable development of the fisheries industry;

· to preserve the resources by sustainable management;

· to provide stable employment opportunities and settlement in coastal areas; and

· to ensure economic sustainability through market orientation.

A master plan for Norwegian fisheries development was presented to the Norwegian Parliament in June 1998. Key policy elements include responsible management of resources, increased marketing effort and product development, more value-added production, and better utilization of secondary products, including heads and guts. In March 2002 the government produced a White Paper stipulating development in the fishing industry and the implementation of ecosystem based management.


The harvesting of fish stocks is managed under a system of quotas and licences. Fisheries are managed though various regulations including gear and mesh size restrictions as well as a ban on discarding.

Total Allowable Catch

The majority of Norwegian fisheries are managed by annual TACs in agreement with other countries, on the basis of recommendations by the International Council on Exploration of the Seas (ICES). Primary data on stocks are collated by the Institute for Marine Research and passed on to ICES, where advisory groups deal with individual stocks before issuing recommendations. National regulatory bodies administer geographical and temporal national quota allocations, and also among different groups of fishermen and types of gear. TACs are decided in December so that fishing can commence in the new calendar year.

The quota system

The Norwegian TACs are split into group quotas, which correspond to the different groups of vessels. The quota percentages correspond to a fixed allocation key, which is in accordance to a historical fee, but is open to revisions. The last revision was in 2001 and holds until 2007, when the division will be revised. Quotas are divided into Individual Vessel Quotas (IVQs), Maximum Quotas or groundfish quotas.

Quota distribution

Individual Vessel Quota (IVQ)

Quotas are fixed for each participating vessel holding a license or annual permit, which guarantees them a fixed proportion of the group quota. IVQs mainly apply to vessels with permits or licences.

Maximum Quota

Allocated to coastal vessels in open access fisheries, also called Olympic quota. Once the group quota has been reached, fishing is stopped, regardless of whether each vessel has reached its Maximum Quota. This system is used in groups where the efficiency of vessels varies widely and includes many small vessels.

Groundfish quota

Mainly regulate coastal vessels using conventional gear, rather than trawlers. Quota combining the quotas from cod, haddock and saithe from each vessel participating.


Individual Vessel Quota (IVQ)

Quotas are fixed for each participating vessel holding a license or annual permit, which guarantees them a fixed proportion of the group quota. IVQs mainly apply to vessels with permits or licences.

Maximum Quota

Allocated to coastal vessels in open access fisheries, also called Olympic quota. Once the group quota has been reached, fishing is stopped, regardless of whether each vessel has reached its Maximum Quota. This system is used in groups where the efficiency of vessels varies widely and includes many small vessels.

Groundfish quotaMainly regulate coastal vessels using conventional gear, rather than trawlers. Quota combining the quotas from cod, haddock and saithe from each vessel participating.

Some quotas are made transferable as a mechanism to reduce fleet overcapacity. A quota-transfer system called the Unit Quota System (UQS) and, for the larger coastal vessels, the Structural Quota System (SQS), was implemented from 2004.

Both the UQS and the SQS allows the owner of two vessels to transfer the quota of one vessel to another, and fish the entire quota on one vessel for a period, or part of the quota for unlimited period, on the condition that the one vessel is scrapped.

A new system called Quota Exchange System (QES) was developed and implemented as a temporary arrangement for parts of the coastal fleet in 2004. The QES allows two vessel owners to team-up and fish both quotas on one vessel for a limited period. If the arrangement is considered successful, it may be introduced nationwide from 2005.

The QES allows the owner of two vessels to transfer the quota of one vessel to another. The owner of a vessel will then control more than one quota for a period of 13 years, if the surplus vessel withdrawn from the fishing fleet is sold, and for 18 years if the surplus vessel is scrapped.

Quotas are also set for harvesting of minke whales and seals. All vessels participating in these fisheries are required to have inspectors on board to ensure that their hunting activities comply with regulations.

Technical measures

Technical measures are employed to reduce the impact of fishing on fish stocks and the environment. These include:

· Minimum fish and mesh sizes;

· Gear restrictions; and

· Discard ban.

Norway is one of the few countries to have a ban on discarding. Norwegian fisheries suffered from significantly increasing discarding up until the late 1980s when a discard ban was introduced. At first the ban applied only to cod, haddock and saithe, but it has since been applied to most species.

Vessels trawling for shrimp, and some cod trawlers, are required to use sorting devices, eg sorting grids. To address the problem of ‘ghost fishing’, the Norwegian fishing authorities are looking into programmes dealing with the removal of nets from fishing grounds.

Closed seasons and areas

Norway uses both closed seasons and closed areas within territorial waters. Fisheries are sometimes closed for one or more years at a time, allowing stocks to partially recover. Closed areas include a general trawling ban in areas where coral reefs, eg Lophelia banks, and similar structures are prevalent.

Licences and levies

Technically, there is still open access to Norwegian fisheries for small fishing vessels using passive gear. In practice however, an increasing number of fisheries are regulated with access limited to vessels, or vessel owners, with historical track records.

Licences represent a right to participate in a fishery. They are attached to a vessel and an owner and may only be sold with a vessel or transferred to a new vessel under the current owner after an application to the fishing authorities. In most restricted fisheries, the vessel owner has to be a full-time active fisherman to maintain the right to participate. In Norway it is necessary to have a record of active and professional fishing activity on a Norwegian fishing boat for at least three of the five previous years to buy a boat. When a company wishes to buy a vessel, at least 50 per cent of the boat owning company has to be owned by people who fulfil these requirements.

Only offshore fishing vessels require fishing licences. Generally, coastal vessels, defined as being shorter than 28 metres in length, operating with conventional gear (nets, long lines, hand lines etc) do not require a licence, but are regulated by permits. Licences are generally required for trawling and purse-seining fishing operations. The majority of the fleet, which are mainly coastal vessels, are regulated by permits. The difference between a licence and a permit is apparently subtle. In theory permits, which come in nine categories, are granted for a year, but in practise they are granted for an unlimited period of time.

The Government established a fee payable on landings on 1 July 2003. The revenue is used in a decommissioning fund for home-based vessels under 15 metres with annual permits. There are also various levies on exporting fish and fish products, which are reinvested in the industry via marketing programmes.

Monitoring and enforcement

Since 2000 all fishing vessels over 24 metres in length are required to have satellite tracking devices installed. The Joint Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission stipulates an exchange of satellite data and the introduction of a system for license refusal in response to serious quota overruns.

The Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) group was set up in cooperation with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1981. The MCS activities are aimed at ensuring fishing activities comply with national rules and regulations. Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and satellite communication are two examples of management options adopted by the MCS. The MCS use mobile units that monitor the catch in the Barents Sea and around Spitzbergen, especially shrimp fishing areas. Part of the scheme is to monitor the abundance of small fish in the catch. If it gets too high, then fishing in that area is immediately stopped. The fishing grounds are reopened only when catch composition has returned to acceptable levels, which may be a matter of days, weeks or months.

Logbooks and sales notes are used to monitor catch and fishing activity. All vessels are subject to logbook provisions, while smaller vessels only require simplified versions. Sales notes are contracts between the fishermen and buyers, which indicate the percentage of quota reached.


Ministry of Fisheries

The Ministry of Fisheries is the central fisheries management authority. The Ministry is responsible for the fishing and aquaculture industry, as well as ports, lighthouses, pilot services, electronic navigation devices and emergency preparedness systems in case of pollution.

Directorate of Fisheries

The Directorate of Fisheries is responsible for the administration of fisheries and fish farming. As of 1 January 2004, the regional fisheries administration, which functions under the auspices of the Directorate, consists of seven district offices, which have the responsibility over both advisory and control activities.

Marine Research Institute

The Marine Research Institute, also a government body, carries out research and monitoring of living marine resources. Their area of competence lies in the sea and coastal environment, fish farming and sea ranching. The MRI is an advisory body to the Ministry of Fisheries.

Norwegian Research Council

The Norwegian Research Council has primary responsibility in developing and implementing national research strategies as well as defining key areas or research to promote. The Research Council administers fisheries research funding in accordance with Ministry of Fisheries guidelines.

Norwegian Fishermen’s Association (NFL)

The NFL is a politically independent national organization based on voluntary membership of fishermen. It was established by the Basic Agreement for the fishing industry in 1964. Fishermen are represented in the NFL by their county association or group organisation. The NFL deals with economic, social and cultural issues and works in close cooperation with national authorities, eg on the General Agreement (see below under Subsidies and Investments).

Organizational chart of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries:


Other institutions:

· National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) carries out research in the field of nutritional matters and advises fisheries authorities

· Norwegian Seafood Export Council (EFF) coordinates marketing strategies for industry abroad as well as the domestic marketing of fish and fish products. It has representatives in important markets

· Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture conducts research into product development, marketing and aquaculture


Norway has around two million km2 of sea under its jurisdiction. A 200 nautical mile economic zone was established in 1977. Norway ratified the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Migrating Fish Stocks and the UN Convention on the Law Of the Sea in 1996.

Representatives of the Norwegian fishing industry and governmental authorities cooperate in the formulation of the regulatory regime. A regulatory council with representatives from both parties debate on the distribution of quotas within the fishing industry and provide advice for the Ministry of Fisheries. The Ministry then decides on the final management strategies.

There are three basic Acts upon which the management of fishing licences and other management options for the Norwegian fishing fleet are based:

· Act of 26 March 1999 relating to the Regulation of the Participation in Fisheries;

· Act of 3 July 1983 relating to Salt Water Fisheries; and

· Act 68 of 14 June 1985 on Farming Fish, Shellfish etc.

Under the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement (1 January 1994), Norway collaborates with other countries on trade policy, both in international organizations, such as OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and WTO (World Trade Organization), but also with individual countries and inter-governmental bodies such as the EU. There are also international working relationships on ensuring safe food under the FAO/WTO organization Codex Alimentarius.

Foreign Access and restrictions on foreign investment

Foreign vessels operating in Norwegian waters are subject to the same regulations that apply to Norwegian vessels with regards to logbooks and technical measures eg sorting grids. Foreign vessels are also required to submit regular catch reports for quota control purposes to the Directorate of Fisheries.

The right to buy a fishing vessel resides with Norwegian citizens or a body that can be defined as such. A company can have the same rights as a Norwegian citizen, provided that its main office is in Norway and the majority of the board, including the chairperson, are Norwegian citizens and have resided in the country for the previous two years. Furthermore, it is necessary for Norwegian citizens to own at least 60 per cent of the shares and have a minimum of 60 per cent of the votes.


Exploited marine stocks

Marine fisheries have traditionally been of great economic importance along the Norwegian coastline, especially in northern coastal regions. The North Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak yield herring, sprat, cod and other groundfish, and the Norwegian and Barents Sea are fished for Arctic-Norwegian cod, capelin, shrimp, herring and mackerel. The most important Norwegian cod stock is the Arcto-Norwegian cod, which migrates between the economic zones of Norway and Russia.

International cooperation

The majority of Norwegian stocks are shared, rendering bi- and multilateral agreements an important part of Norwegian fisheries management.

Cooperation in the fisheries sector between the EU and Norway dates back to a bilateral agreement established in 1980, which has since been subject to amendments. The agreement permits EU and Norwegian fishing vessels to conduct specific fishing operations in certain areas under their respective jurisdictions. The two parties cooperate in management and the protection of fisheries resources.

Russia and Norway share cod, haddock and capelin stocks in the Barents Sea, making cooperation between the two important. Bilateral cooperation began in the 1950s with collaborative stock assessment research. This developed into an Agreement on Fishing Cooperation in 1975 and a further Agreement in 1976. Together these formed the basis of joint management and established the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission. The Commission holds an annual meeting to decide upon Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and their distribution among Russia, Norway and third countries. The Commission also decides on access to fisheries in national zones and quota exchanges for joint and national stocks.

Norway participates as a member of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and as an observer at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Norway participates in the work of ICES through collaborative research programmes such as stock assessment working groups, and in NEAFC and NAFO at a management level.

Marine mammals

Norway has also been a member of the International Whaling Committee (IWC) since 1960 and a signatory of the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) since 1992.

The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission manages seal stocks in the East Ice. There are mainly two species of seal caught, harp and hooded seals. They are hunted for commercial, recreational and research purposes.

Commercial whaling ceased between 1988 and 1992 after the 1986-moratorium imposed by the International Whaling Commission on commercial whaling. However, whaling for research purposes was continued until 1991, when whaling completely ceased. As Norway opposed the decision and the moratorium was not binding, commercial whaling was resumed in 1993. Catch has since increased to 671 individuals in 2002. The number of vessels whaling remained relatively stable between 1998 and 2002 (34). Norway is seeking to increase the harvest of minke whales under framework of the International Whaling Committee (IWC). The NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission) Agreement on Cooperation in Research, Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals in the North Atlantic was signed by Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands in 1992. NAMMCO provides information and cooperation in research and conservation matters on marine mammals that are not covered by international agreements in the North Atlantic.

Inland fisheries

The commercial inland fishery is negligible, with most inland fish taken recreationally. The majority of fishing in rivers and lakes is managed by recreational fishing provisions. Most of the commercial activities in inland fisheries are connected to rental of fishing rights to recreational fishermen. Commercial inland fishermen are required to register their gear before each season begins.

Although most inland fishing is undertaken recreationally, regulations apply to both commercial and recreational fisheries. The fishing rights in rivers and lakes are attached to the adjoining land. The permission to fish must be sought from the landowner by commercial and recreational fishermen alike. There are no general restrictions on fishing gear used in different seasons, although there are local rules that may apply. Local fishing seasons are revised every year depending on stock assessments. These seasons subsequently vary between locations

Recreational fisheries

Recreational fisheries are regulated under Act of 3 June 1983 No. 40 relating to Salt-water Fisheries and Act 15 May 1992 No. 47 relating to Salmonids and Freshwater Fish. A new regulatory regime to manage the salmon fisheries by rationalising regulatory procedures was introduced in 2003. The management of the salmon fisheries is reviewed every year.

Recreational fishing may only be conducted using handlines, rod and nets with a total length of 210 metres, long lines with up to 300 traces and a maximum of 20 pots or traps. Any catch sold is subject to minimum size requirements. Recreational fishermen who are not Norwegian citizens are subject to further restrictions; they are only permitted to fish using hand-held gear, ie hand lines or rods, and they are not allowed to sell their catch.

Generally, anadromous salmonids are protected unless otherwise determined. Exceptions include regulations that permit the fishing of salmonids in rivers and lakes with rod and handline during fishing seasons determined by the local governor. All anglers over the age of 16 that wish to fish for anadromous salmonids in freshwater must buy a National Fishing Licence, which is annually payable to the Norwegian Government.


Fish farming requires a licence issued by the authorities. Licences are granted for a specific location, size of operation and species that can be farmed. Each licence usually covers two to three locations, as a precautionary measure to reduce disease and pollution. There is a limited entry system for sea farming of salmon and trout. No new licences were issued between the 1980s and 2000. In 2003 there were 848 licences for farming fish, 295 for producing smolt and 27 for brood stock.

Licence holders are obliged to keep logbooks recording the amount of fish held in the cages, the number of dead fish and escaped fish, and the amount of antibiotics and chemicals used in the production. Fish farmers using antibiotics are prohibited from selling fish until permitted by the fishing authorities. Feed quotas were introduced to the aquaculture industry in 1996. These quotas are designed to stabilize production and industry growth, and so avoid over-supply to salmon markets, particularly that of the EU. It is planned that the feed quota regime be replaced by a more holistic demarcation system for the production of salmon and trout by the end of 2004. Apart from controlling production, the system also includes environmental and fish health aspects.

Processing and marketing

Under the Raw Fish Act (14 December 1951), all first hand sales of fish and shellfish, with the exception of farmed fish, are conducted through the fisherman’s sales organizations. There is a levy on all first hand sales to cover the administrative costs of the sales organizations.

Processing plants need to be approved by the Directorate of Fisheries. Norwegian quality regulations relating to fish and fish products are based on international guidelines and are in accordance with standards specified by the Codex Alimentarius. More specifically, Norwegian seafood safety and quality legislation is based on European Economic Area (EEA) legislation and Norway has adopted European Union (EU) legislation relating to animal health issues and safety and quality of seafood production.


Under the Norwegian settlement policy the fishing industry of the northern regions was subsidised throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Fisheries subsidies peaked in 1981, when they amounted to nearly 70 per cent of the incomes of fishermen and boat owners. Subsidies were administered through the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund as interest rate subsidies and grants to support vessel modernisation.

Since 2000 there have been no new grants for building vessels or importing second hand vessels. There is however still financial support granted to fishermen who withdraw their vessels permanently from fishing activity and to those who withdraw their vessels and transfer their licence or fishing rights to a more efficient vessel and maintain fishing activity. In 2001 subsidies were continued through decommissioning schemes.

The General Agreement (1964), also known as The Agreement, between the Norwegian Government and the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association ensures that fishermen’s income would resemble that of an average industrial worker. The amount of the transfers was significantly reduced between 1990 (US $ 209 million) and 2003 (US $ 10.5 million). In the Revised National Budget of 2004, the Government suggested the termination of the General Agreement from 2005 onwards. There are four main schemes under which the transfers are distributed:

· income support;

· transportation support;

· support to long-line baiting centres; and

· support to the sealing industry


In March 2002 the government produced a White Paper on Protecting the Riches of the Sea. The Paper stipulates the need for management to be based on the principle of sustainable development. More specific targets set by the White Paper include further development of the fishing industry and the implementation of a precautionary approach and ecosystem based management, especially interactions between fish and marine mammals. The need to strike a balance between commercial interests, eg fisheries, aquaculture and the oil and gas industry. The need to protect the marine environment and biological diversity is also acknowledged. Other plans of the government aim to reduce fleet capacity to a level that will be able to efficiently harvest marine resources in a sustainable way.

In order to meet these objectives the government issued plans to place more emphasis on research into the marine ecosystem and to establish a new comprehensive legal framework (‘Marine Resources Law’), covering all living marine resources. It is proposed that fleet capacity reductions will be supported by structural adjustments funds. The need for increased knowledge on seabed structures is also expressed, especially relating to coral reef structures and the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs).

The last five years have seen a number of changes in the Norwegian fish processing industry driven by high costs, negative trends in exchange rates and deteriorating access to EU markets. There has been substantial investment in modern facilities and equipment, including quality assurance, skills development and marketing initiatives. The industry has rationalised somewhat with a concentration of ownership in the whitefish sector and the sector processing pelagic fish such as herring, capelin and mackerel. A number of producers also relocated to EU countries where costs were lower and market access more favourable.

Due to the heavy dependence of the Norwegian fishing industry on the EU market, the Norwegian authorities place great emphasis on health and hygienic measures to assure the protection of human, animal and plant life. The EU markets, both for farmed species and from the capture fishery, have become less accessible to Norwegian exporters due to trade barriers. Although the EU markets will remain important, it will subsequently become important to diversify into other markets such as the United States, South-eastern Asia and Russia.


Department of Fisheries:

Statistics Norway:

Institute of Marine Research:

Norwegian Institute of Fisheries: