Capacity building and catch control
After the war, the state had, through the joint program, been at the forefront of “the development of modern fishing and production methods” which strengthened the development of an offshore fishing fleet and the development of a frozen fish industry in the cod sector.
The introduction of new technology such as sonar, power block and ring net had made the fishing fleet very efficient, and limits were reached on what the fish stocks could withstand from taxation. The build-up of the fleet’s catching capacity in herring fishing led to over-taxation and collapse of herring stocks around 1970. This led to a halt to the registration of ringnuts in 1970, the introduction of total quotas for herring in 1971, and a hitherto unthinkable total ban on catching Atlantic herring in 1972.
The cod trawl fleet had been subject to licensing regulations from the 1930s, but this was to a greater extent a commercial policy justification. In herring fishing, the licensing regulations under the 1972 Licensing Act were the result of fleet overcapacity, over-taxation and stock crisis. When herring disappeared, it led to increased taxation of mackerel and capelin and over-taxation of these species as well, which led to new and stringent regulations on fishing.
The introduction of catch and participation restrictions in fishing for herring formed the beginning of a new era in fisheries. From now on, it is the resource management that is increasingly forming the foundation of the fishing industry. Internationally, this was highlighted by the establishment of 200-mile economic zones from 1977 and by the Law of the Sea of 1982 (see Law on the Sea).
Furthermore, the most important Norwegian fisheries are subject to international bilateral agreements. In 1977, the authorities presented “Long-term plan for the Norwegian fisheries industry”, and here we find “sustainable resource management” as a new fisheries policy objective in line with “preserving the settlement pattern along the coast, as well as ensuring good and safe jobs with income in line with other industries”. In line with the objective of sustainable resource management, during the 1970s and 1980s, the fishing fleet was subject to increasingly stringent regulations for the practice of fishing.
In addition to provisions on property rights and licenses for fishing vessels, participation and gear restrictions, various quota adjustments and accruals of fishing were introduced (see the Saltwater Fishing Act).
The regulations initially had an impact on the seagoing fleet. The coastal fleet was less affected by the regulations and operated under virtually free fishing until the beginning of the 1990s.
In 1988, marine scientists found that the stock of Norwegian Arctic cod was greatly weakened. While the catches between 1980 and 1988 had been in the region of 290,000 tonnes, the quota for 1989 was set at 178,000 tonnes and for 1990 at 113,000 tonnes.
The sharply reduced quota meant that the coastal fleet had to stop fishing for cod as early as April 18, 1989, which led to crisis conditions in many cod-dependent fishing communities along the coast. In order to avoid a similar situation for the 1990 fishing year, fishing had to be distributed throughout the year and participation was limited. A system of vessel quotas for the coastal fleet was therefore introduced.
The greatly reduced total quota for cod created an increased level of conflict around the distribution of quotas between the sea and coastal fleet. In order to avoid annual dragon fights about the quota allocation, the Norwegian Fisheries Association agreed in 1989 on a distribution key between the sea and coastal fleet in fishing for Norwegian Arctic cod (the “trawl ladder”).
The trawl ladder works so that with a decreasing quota, the coastal fleet’s share of the total quota increases. On the other hand, this means that with increasing total quota, the trawler fleet’s share increases. Later, such distribution keys have also been introduced for Norwegian spring-spawning herring, Norwegian-Arctic haddock and saithe.
The fishing industry is reorganized
The organizational structure of the fishing industry has formed a relatively stable framework conditions for the practitioners for almost 50 years. The central legislation on the sale and export of fish came in the decade before the war. The main agreement of 1964 introduced a scheme whereby the state actually assumed an obligation to maintain the profitability of the industry, and through the negotiation of annual fisheries agreements, the support from the state was determined.
The fishing industry exports about 90 per cent of all fish produced, and this export dependence means that the industry must adapt to the rules of international trade. Within the GATT – and also within the EEA agreement – there was a demand for liquidation of subsidy schemes, which the fishing industry had to adapt to shortly.
Also export legislation with statutory export organization was abolished with new export law in 1990. In Ot.prp. No. 61 “On changes in fisheries legislation” (1991-1992), the political authorities introduced new framework conditions for the organization of the industry. For the fishermen, an important change came in that it allowed for the landing of fish from foreign vessels in Norwegian ports. This became particularly important in Finnmark, where landings of cod from Russian vessels in a short time passed 100,000 tonnes. In addition to the change in the Export Act, the repeal of the Manufacturing Act was of great importance to the fishing industry.
The Manufacturers Act, from 1971, had granted the Fish Producers’ Common Sale the exclusive right to turnover of dry fish, salt fish and clipfish produced by companies located on the Nordmøre – Finnmark section.
There has also been a trend towards larger integrated companies and networks of companies in the other fishing industry. The number of fish buyers in the Råfisklag district of Norway decreased from 641 to 400 in the period 1985–1995; a reduction of almost 40 per cent. The fishing industry underwent a shift in the course of a few years, in which organizational forms and framework conditions changed, and where a major restructuring followed in the wake. The number of fish buyers has continued to decline, and in 2004 there were about 260 fish buyers in the Råfisklag district.
Catch and catch development
During the period after 1950, Norwegian fish catches have undergone major changes with regard to the total quantity quantified, and there have also been large variations within the different species. On the other hand, the total value of the claimed quantity traded in the first hand has been increasing throughout the period, with few exceptions.
Fishing for Norwegian-Arctic cod has been regulated since 1975 by total quotas. The permissible total tonnage allowed this year was 890,000 tonnes, of which the Norwegian quota was 345,000 tonnes. The annual quotas were subsequently reduced and by the mid-1980s they were down to 260,000 tonnes in total. The stock base was at a low target (0.8 million tonnes), and taxation was substantially reduced in subsequent years with very low quotas and with major consequences for both the fleet and the industry.
The stringent regulations together with favorable natural production led to the stock base increasing to 2.8 million tonnes in 1993, and in the years 1994-1997 the annual total quotas were over 700,000 tonnes. After 1997, the stock has again been reduced, and the total quota in 2005 was 485,000 tonnes with a Norwegian share of 204,000 tonnes.
The catch of Norwegian spring-spawning herring (herring, vårsild, Fat Herring) was until 1968 an average of 1.3 million tons annually. Overfishing and weak year classes then led to a breakdown in the stock, and fishing has subsequently been strictly regulated.
From the late 1970s, limited fishing began (8,000-12,000 tonnes per year), which increased to over 100,000 tonnes during the 1980s. Weak year classes in the latter half of the 1980s led to a reduction in the stock so that the catch in 1990-1991 was below 70,000 tonnes. New strong year classes in 1990–1991 led to a sharp increase in catches from 1993.
For 1996, Norway set a unilateral total quota of one million tonnes, but other participants in the fishery did not comply with the regulations and partly set their own quotas. The Norwegian quota for 2005 was 578,000 tonnes.