Technological change and motorization
Fisheries brought in a third of Norwegian export revenues in 1825 and large foreign exchange revenues, and in the years 1840-1865 the export value of cod and herring doubled. From 1840 to 1880, the export value of all fish tripled. At the end of the 1860s, 18 per cent of adult employed men participated in fishing.
At the end of the 19th century, however, the fishing industry was in a business crisis. Prices went down, the industry was overpopulated, and the individual’s yield from fishing was low. The crisis helped drive a technological change in the fishing fleet, led by fishermen in Western Norway.
The varying insight of herring led to the use of larger vessels that could follow herring along the coast, as well as conduct deep sea fishing with alternative fishing opportunities on the coastal banks.
From 1890 the herring returned along the coast and created a financial basis for modernizing the fleet. Development progressed gradually through the introduction of new trapping methods (first yarn links, later purse seines), as well as motorized vessels (first the steam engine, then the explosion engine). The industrialized fishing led to large catches in conflict with ordinary fishermen and the traditional operating methods. The Trollfjord battle in 1890 between several thousand fishermen in small boats and a few mighty shipowners with large steamships mirrored a time of wrestling.
There was strong opposition among the cod fishermen in Lofoten against the use of motorized vessels, especially in the years 1909-1911. By the start of the First World War, the conflicts had subsided, and over 1,000 motorized vessels participated in the lopot fishing in 1914, with 9,000 of a total of 16,000 participating fishermen.
In 1914, there were around 2,500 motorized vessels in the Norwegian fisheries. Motorization was now very fast, and by 1920 the number had increased to 6,000 vessels nationwide.
Economic crisis and organization
The modernization phase was replaced by the international economic crisis in the interwar period. The crisis led to price pressure at all levels of sales from fisherman to market. Competition between Norwegian exporters reinforced the negative price spiral. The price of raw material from the fishing fleet became an important competitive element.
Due to the lack of negotiating power vis-à-vis the buyers, the fishermen were subjected to the greatest financial strain during the market crisis. This helped the fishermen to organize themselves.
The Norwegian Fisheries Association, which was founded in 1926 as the fishermen’s professional organization and political speech tube, gradually became central to the question of organizing sales firsthand. The turnover from the fisherman to the buyer was gradually established as a fishing cooperation with exclusive rights to the turnover (fish sales).
The first-hand turnover of herring was organized through the Great Herring Team (1927) and the Great and Spring Herring Team (1928). The exclusive right to turnover was legislated in 1929 by the Herring Act. In cod fishing, organized first-hand turnover came a decade later by the 1938 Raw Fish Act.
On the basis of the crisis years 1933–1934, mass meetings were held along the northern Norwegian coast with demands for state guaranteed minimum prices for fish. The scheme was implemented from 1936, enacted in 1938, and organized for the cod fishery at the establishment of the Norwegian Råfisklag the same year.
In the last decade before the Second World War, a number of sales and export organizations were established, which gradually covered all fish species and extended along the entire coast.
The occupation period led to centralized import of fish in most markets, and from Norway an export committee was established which negotiated and entered into joint agreements for most important products. These export committees were not closed until the 1991 Export Act was amended.
Ownership of fishing vessels
Another key fisheries policy issue in the 1930s was the conflict between the fishing-owned coastal fleet and the emerging trawler fleet, and in particular the issue of ownership of fishing vessels. In 1932, it was stipulated by law that fishing with trawls was permitted only after the concession was granted (permanently in 1939), with the rule that only active fishermen could obtain such a license.
In 1941 by Regulation (enacted in 1947) established that only active fishermen might have ownership of fishing vessels. The Act on the Ownership of Fishing Vessels and the Raw Fish Act has on the part of the fishermen been regarded as the pillars of the fisheries policy.
An active public fisheries policy
In 1946, Norway was the first country in the world to create its own fisheries ministry. Fishery cases had until then been dealt with in the Ministry of Commerce. As a professional agency for fisheries, the Directorate of Fisheries was established in Bergen in 1900.
During the post-war period, there was great demand for fish and fish products on the international market. On the basis of discussions with the sales teams, the state set maximum prices for raw fish and also maximum export prices. Market prices were at this time tends to be higher than the maximum prices, and the difference was transferred to reserves, respectively for herring fisheries and cod fisheries.
Gradually, the market situation changed and costs began to exceed revenues, and funds were now added to the industry to maintain revenues. The price control funds were gradually emptied, and in the late 1950s the maximum prices were replaced by a minimum price system for raw fish. In order to keep the raw fish price and fishermen’s income up, while keeping the fishing industry’s operating costs down, negotiations between the state and the sales teams for subsidies became necessary.
In 1963, the Norwegian Fisheries Association was recognized as a representative of the fishing industry in the negotiations with the state. The negotiations were formalized by the main agreement between the State and the Norwegian Fisheries Association in 1964. These price subsidies were gradually phased out in the 1990s.