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

How We've Created the Most Sustainable Fishing in the World

Discover how Norway created the most sustainable fishing industry on the planet… 

Reducing waste

We put a lot of love, time and energy into catching our fish and we hate the idea of even a single one going to waste. Discards are a global problem - they represent a significant proportion of global marine catches, yet discarded by-catch is largely unregulated and unreported.

Norway introduced a ban on discards in 1987. Now fishermen must land what they catch, but cannot make a profit on any fish caught outside of their quotas. This ban was part of a larger approach to cutting down on food waste. We also introduced strict regulations on mesh size, sorting grid on the trawl nets  the use of trawlers and other gears, and introduced seasonal closures, by-catch rules and minimum sizes. It’s a system that spares juvenile and undersized fish, and minimises unwanted by-catch.

Working together

The entire industry collaborates in bringing relevant data to set quotas, taking guidance from the International Council of the Sea (ICES), Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and other research institutions, while taking into account key stakeholders:

  • The fishermen’s sales associations
  • The fishing industries
  • Trade unions
  • Sami Parliament
  • Local authorities
  • Environmental organisations

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs uses the data and insight we gain to set quotas and technical regulations. Fishing quotas ensure that fisheries operate at levels that allow stocks to grow and replenish. This creates the bedrock for a predictable, stable and sustainable future.

Managing fish populations

Fish tend to migrate over the course of their lifetimes and populations can vary from year-to-year, so we established long-term responsible management plans for important species, such as cod. In addition to setting quotas, we monitor food resources, disease and the numbers of predatory fish, all of which have an impact on 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. Using sonar, scientists can detect the size and location of fish swimming under the water. By heading out with the trawlers, research teams get the opportunity to study the fish close up, so that we can establish the species, age and gender of the catch. 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 the species is threatened. If a fish is under threat, it is labelled ‘outside safe biological limits’ and we take quick action to restore the stocks.

Times are changing

At the beginning of this page we stated that Norway is a true pioneer when it comes to sustainability, and it is our hope that other countries will follow suit and start putting sustainability first.

We have already started to see the signs of progress. In November 2011, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) took an important step when it banned discards in the area of international waters it regulates. The EU is working towards introducing similar landing regulations before 2019.