How we've created the most sustainable fishing in the world

How we've created the most sustainable fishing in the world

We introduced a ban on discarding fish that were dead or dying in 1987. It was part of a larger approach to cutting down the food we waste and the income we earn from our fish. 

Alongside the discard ban the measures we used then (and still use now) include mesh size, selectivity rules, restriction on the use of trawls and other gears, seasonal closures, by-catch rules and minimum sizes. Ultimately we created a system that spared recruits and undersized fish, and minimised any unwanted by-catch.

Protecting the future

We all collaborate across our industry to set stock quotas. We take recommendations from the International Council of the Sea (ICES), the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and other research institutions to guide our decisions.

This includes input from fishermen’s associations, the fishing industries, trade unions, the Sami Parliament, local authorities, environmental organisations and other stakeholders, who all share in the decision-making process.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs uses the data and insight we gain to define the quotas and technical regulations for how the fishing should be conducted year after year. It creates the bedrock for a predictable, stable and sustainable future.

Managing fish populations

Fish populations can vary from year-to-year, so we establish long-term responsible management plans for important species like cod. Fishing quotas ensure that fisheries operate at sustainable levels to allow stocks to grow and replenish their populations. 

In addition to stock depletion due to fishing, environmental factors — like predatory fish, limited food resources and disease — and variations in natural fish reproduction also affect the size and quality of fish stocks. 

Marine research

Our marine research vessels use sonar and catch research to estimate the size of fish stocks. Sonar helps scientists detect the size and location of fish swimming under the water, while trawling gives researchers the hands-on opportunity to study fish so that they can establish species, age and gender of fish. These estimates are then used to determine the total fishing quota (TAC: Total Allowable Catch) allowed for various fish species. 

To calculate safe fishing quotas, our scientists first determine a stock’s spawning threshold and how much fishing it can sustain before fishing becomes a threat to its survival. When that does happen, a stock is considered ‘outside safe biological limits’ and we would take quick actions to restore the stocks.

Setting an example

In 2007, the European Council of Ministers agreed gradually work to reduce discards. We welcome this as Norway and the EU both have a joint responsibility to manage fish stocks in the North Sea. From 2008 to 2010, our co-operation resulted in the introduction of a number of measures to reduce discards.

Discards of unwanted fish and other non-target species represent a significant proportion of global marine catches, and discarded by-catch is largely unregulated and unreported on a global basis. An important step was made by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) in November 2011, when it banned discards in its regulatory area of international waters.