Norges Fiskarlag joins North Sea RAC

10th April 2014 in Advisory Councils, North Sea

The Norwegian Fishermen's Association, Norge Fiskarlag, joined the Demersal Working Group of North Sea Advisory Committee for its recent meeting in Paris. It is the second time that the Norwegians have joined the NSRAC in discussions, after an initial meeting in Trondheim last year.

The purpose of drawing the Norwegian Association into discussions on major policy areas, such as the EU landings obligation and multi-annual management plans, is in recognition that many North Sea demersal stocks are shared with Norway, and subject to joint management. It makes no sense at all to work up a plan to deliver to the Norwegians, only to have it blocked at the last hurdle. Better to work openly with the Norwegians from the outset in a spirit of cooperation, solving difficult problems together.

Besides, the Norwegians bring insight and experience that can be extremely useful in dealing with the discard ban.

During the meeting, the main conclusion of Norge Fisarlag on the implementation EU landings obligation was succinct: "You should start with fewer species and go more slowly."

Giving fisheries managers and the fishing industry a fighting chance to deal with the issues as they arise seems eminently sensible to both the Norwegian Fishermen's Association and the EU fishing industry - but that's not the way it's going to be.

The Norwegians repeatedly emphasised the need for a pragmatic approach. The penalties for discarding in Norway may be very severe but they seem to be applied only to the most entrenched repeat offenders. There is also some flexibility in discarding small amounts of unwanted catch. The discard ban in Norway applies to dead and dying fish unless they are damaged, either by predation or during fishing operations.

The latest generation of Norwegian fishing vessels have integrated fish meal plants aboard to deal with all "unwanted"fish.

Enforcement of any discard ban is acknowledged to be challenging. The Norwegian Coastguard monitors the fisheries by using direct observation, inspectors aboard some vessels, and by checking catch compositions against a reference fleet. But the Norwegians are adamantly against the use of CCTV cameras.

There are lessons to be learnt here without necessarily following the Norwegian system slavishly. Indeed Norge Fiskarlag explicitly recognised that the demersal fisheries in the North Sea are much more complex with many more species to deal with than the relatively “clean” fisheries at North Norway.

These were considered to be fruitful discussions by all parties and the intention is to find cost effective ways of working closely with Norge Fiskelag in the future.