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GLOBEFISH - Analysis and information on world fish trade

Total small pelagics landings expected to grow by 7 percent in 2017


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016 and the first quarter 2017.

Global landings of small pelagics are expected to grow by 7 percent in 2017 compared with 2016. The major reason for this growth is an expected higher catch of Peruvian anchovy. Atlantic mackerel and Atlantic herring are also expected to increase, although not as much as anchovy.

The combined increase for herring and mackerel landings in 2017 is expected to be about 4 percent more than in 2016. This could put some pressure on prices, but since the increase is relatively modest, no dramatic price changes are expected. Instead, currency exchange rates may place a greater role on price formulation.

El Niño, which for the past three years has affected the Peruvian anchovy fishery negatively, is now over. According to an analyst at a Peruvian fishing company during a presentation at the NASF in March, stocks are recovering quickly. 


The Scottish Fisheries Minister has decided to withhold 12 percent of the country’s 2017 mackerel quota pending an analysis of how much mackerel is landed in Scotland. According to the Minister, a significant part of the Scottish catch is landed in other countries, and he wants to change this. Although the Norwegians are calling this action “protectionistic”, they are well familiar with the problem, as they also want adequate amounts of raw mackerel material for their shore-based industry. Norwegian authorities are pressing for Norwegian vessels to land their catch in Norway, but they also want other nations to land in Norway to provide raw material for the on-shore processing industry.

East Asia is emerging as the major market for frozen mackerel. China, Japan and Republic of Korea together traded 595 000 tonnes of frozen mackerel in 2016. The species traded in Asia include both cheap Pacific mackerel and the more expensive European (Atlantic) mackerel. By value, the three Asian countries together imported as much as 54.3 percent of Norwegian mackerel in 2016. Other important markets for frozen Norwegian mackerel were the Netherlands (11.1 percent of total), Nigeria (4.2 percent) and Turkey (3 percent).  

In Peru, the Ministry of Production set the horse mackerel quota for 2017 at 100 000 tonnes, which is an increase of 7.5 percent compared with 2016. At the same time, Chile has increased its horse mackerel quota by 1 percent to 300 000 tonnes. While in Peru most of the horse mackerel caught goes for direct human consumption, in Chile, the horse mackerel is filleted and frozen, with large amounts of cut-offs processed into fishmeal. 

New Zealand annually catches about 36 000 to 50 000 tonnes of horse mackerel, and most of this (about half) ends up in the Japanese market. The main fishing period runs from December to January, and then again in June. Japanese consumers prefer the larger sizes, and in 2017, prices have increased by about 15 percent compared with last year, mainly due to tighter supplies.


There is a continuing dispute over pelagic quotas set by the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands have set their own quota for NVG (Norwegian spring-spawning) herring at 125 597 tonnes, which constitutes 19.4 percent of the total quota for this species. At the same time, the Faroe Islands have set their quota for blue whiting at 476 902 tonnes. Norwegian fisheries associations are protesting and saying that this unilateral action by the Faroe Islands does not contribute to long-term sustainable management of these resources.

In the beginning of January, the Norwegian herring fishery was well under way, and during the first week alone, landings amounted to 17 300 tonnes. Large catches have continued with the Directorate of Fisheries warning that there is a danger of nets bursting due to the large amounts of fish.

Good catches of herring, though with a significant amount of small fish, have put pressure on prices at the beginning of the year. The Norwegian minimum price for herring has been reduced several times already. On 22 February, the minimum prices were reduced to between NKr4.18 for Group 5 (125 g and less per piece) and NKr6.28 for Group 1 (350 g and more per piece).


Norwegian capelin fishers were reporting strong but varying catches off of Iceland in the beginning of the year. Prices to fishers were high, between NKr6.80–7.49 per kg. This is considerably more than what was paid last year, when first-hand prices varied between NKr3.00–4.00. According to fishers, the capelin is of good size and quality.

The total capelin quota in Icelandic waters was recently increased by 57 000 tonnes to 299 000 tonnes. Iceland’s quota is 196 000 tonnes, up from 100 000 in 2016, while the Norwegian quota is 40 000 tonnes in these waters. In the Barents Sea, there is no capelin quota this year.


The outlook for the South American anchovy fishery is positive for 2017. Landings are expected to increase significantly, despite reports of the stocks being in less than great shape.

Peru closed the second anchovy season of 2016 in January. At that time, the landed catch amounted to 1.73 million tonnes of a total quota of 2 million tonnes. The fishery was closed early due to the fact that the stock was showing signs of entering the reproductive phase. By the end of 2016, Peru had caught 68 percent of the anchovy quota. A total of 1.36 million tonnes had been landed in the country’s north central region.



In 2016, Norwegian exports of small pelagics amounted to 674 000 tonnes worth NKr7.8 billion (US$950 million). This represents a decline of 15 percent by volume compared with 2015, but an increase of 11 percent by value. The increases in value were caused by high prices for both herring and mackerel, while at the same time the quotas were low and demand was strong in Norway’s main markets.

Norwegian mackerel exports amounted to 309 400 tonnes worth NKr4.1 billion FOB Norwegian border. This represents a 12.2 percent decline by volume and a 6.6 percent increase by value. For herring, Norwegian exports amounted to 224 300 tonnes worth NKr3.0 billion, a 4 percent increase by volume and a 25.7 percent increase by value compared with 2015.

China’s exports of mackerel increased by a massive 57.9 percent in 2016 to total 262 400 tonnes. By value, the increase was also high, up by 55.6 percent, to US$462.1 million. The main market was the Philippines, which accounted for 19 percent of the total, followed by Thailand (15.5 percent) and Indonesia (15.2 percent).

Russian Federation frozen mackerel imports grew by 21.9 percent in 2016, to 76 800 tonnes. Previously, Norway was the main supplier, but since the embargo was introduced, no mackerel has been imported from Norway. The main suppliers in 2016 were the Faroe Islands (69.5 percent of the total), followed by Greenland (14.5 percent) and China (11.5 percent).

The Netherlands saw only a marginal increase in its exports of frozen herring last year, from 157 700 tonnes in 2015 to 159 400 tonnes in 2016 (+1.1 percent). The major markets included Nigeria (40.8 percent of total), Egypt (26.2 percent) and Malta (14.7 percent). Dutch export prices dropped slightly, resulting in Dutch herring export values falling by 3.3 percent in 2016 to US$131.9 million.

In contrast, Norway, experienced growth in both volume and value of its frozen herring exports. The exported volume increased by a meagre 0.4 percent, to 101 200 tonnes, while the value of herring exports increased by 10.6 percent to US$115.7 million. Main markets for Norwegian herring include Ukraine (34.4 percent of total), Lithuania (15.5 percent) and Egypt (12 percent).

Norway has managed to find alternative markets for its herring in place of the Russian Federation. Iceland, on the other hand, still needs to find and develop new markets.

Russian Federation frozen herring exports dropped significantly during 2016, from 136 900 tonnes in 2015 to 100 600 tonnes in 2016 (-26.5 percent). The main markets were China (76.4 percent of total), Republic of Korea (14.3 percent) and Ukraine (2.8 percent).

 apan imported 17.1 percent less fresh and frozen herring in 2016 (21 800 tonnes) than in 2015 (26 300 tonnes). Major suppliers to Japan were the United States of America (54.1 percent of total), the Russian Federation (21.1 percent) and Canada (13.3 percent).

In terms of sardines, trade in the US market is going fine, although prices have been falling. The volume of US imports of canned sardines in 2016 increased by 11.1 percent compared with 2015, to total 32 000 tonnes. Its value of US$118.6 million represented a decrease of 3.2 percent.


The report analyses the market situation over the year 2016 and the first quarter 2017.

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