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Fisheries cooperation with the EU

08.03.2010 // Norway has a well-established system of rules and regulations concerning fisheries cooperation with the EU. This is in addition to the Skagerrak Agreement with Sweden and Denmark on fishing operations in the Skagerrak and Kattegat waters. Similarly, Norway has an agreement with Sweden on fishing operations in the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone south of 62°N.

It was the implementation of exclusive economic zones in 1977 that led to the establishment of closer fisheries cooperation between Norway and the EU. Prior to 1977, both Norway and the EU had conducted fisheries in areas, which after 1977 were placed under national jurisdiction.

Reciprocal fishing, management and protection

The central provision in the agreement is that Norway and the EU are to permit fishing vessels from the other party to conduct fishing within areas in their respective jurisdictions. The parties undertake to cooperate on the management and protection of the living marine resources. The different fisheries operations are regulated in annual quota agreements between the parties.

In connection with the EEA negotiations, separate negotiation sessions on the further development of bilateral cooperation in the fisheries area were conducted. In this agreement, Norway assumes obligations that have an impact on the size of the reciprocal quota exchanges involved in the annual quota agreements. In keeping with the provisions of the agreement, the EU was granted a larger share of the overall quota for North-East Arctic cod in the Norwegian Economic Zone. However, Norway has to be compensated for this by means of quota allocations from the EU to Norway within the framework of the annual quota agreements.

Rational harvesting pattern and stable catch levels

On the basis of the bilateral framework agreement, Norway and the EU have entered into annual quota agreements on fishing operations involving commercial joint stocks in the North Sea. The agreement also includes Norwegian fishing operations west of the British Isles and off the coast of Greenland, as well as  EU fishing operations in the Norwegian Economic Zone in the Barents Sea and the Fisheries Zone around Jan Mayen.

Norway and the EU have cooperated closely on the management of resources, and this cooperation has gradually expanded to include new areas. Since 1998, Norway and the EU have had an agreement concerning North Sea herring. The agreement was intended to ensure a rational harvesting pattern and stable catch levels. In accordance with new advice from ICES (The International Council for the exploration of the Sea), Norway and the EU have revised the long term management plans for herring and saithe. Norway has also adopted a new cod recovery plan in order to rebuild the stock to a sustainable level. Currently, there are management plans for herring, saithe, cod and haddock in the North Sea. Such management regimes are intended, not only to ensure prudent management of fish stocks, but also to contribute to stable framework conditions for the fishing industry. Such management plans are important parts of our joint co-operation.

Norway and the EU have agreed on a number of measures directed at the reduction of discard. The objective is to minimize and through effective regulation, eradicate discards - including the consideration of a discard ban before 2012 as an element of the revision of the EU Common Fishery Policy. The Community has agreed to introduce a ban on high grading already from 2009. On 3 July 2009 Norway and the EU agreed to implement a joint system for Real Time Closures (RTC) of fishing grounds in the North Sea. The aim is to protect juveniles and under sized fish, as well as to reduce unwanted by-catch. The system entered into force 1 September 2009. In 2010 the system will be evaluated in order to secure the necessary efficiency of it. 

Moreover, the Norwegian surveillance programme in the Barents Sea has been in place for over twenty years. Here, large areas are closed, and the closure is based on the inspection of catches where the intermixture of undersized fish is too high. The positive state of the stocks in the Barents Sea indicates that such measures, combined with other measures, are important in order to achieve sustainable management. With the implementation of the RTC system in the North Sea, Norway and the EU seek to contribute to the rebuilding of the cod stock.

In 2009 The Faroe, Norway and the EU also agreed on a number of measures to reduce discard in pelagic fisheries (mackerel, herring, blue whiting).

Control and enforcement of fisheries regulations is addressed by the cooperation as well. Norway has close ties with the European Commission on the issue of addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). The collaboration with the EU and its member states regarding control of pelagic landings has proven fruitful and resulted in a number of measures. This has been done in order to further improve the control regime.

Fishing operations in the Skagerrak and Kattegat waters

When Norway’s fishing limit was extended to twelve nautical miles in 1961; temporary exceptions were made for the sea areas east of Lindesnes. The governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark resolved that fisheries from the three states should be given the opportunity to continue with traditional fishing operations in the Skagerrak and Kattegat waters.

Following negotiations, an agreement was made in 1966 between Norway, Sweden and Denmark on reciprocal fishing rights in the Skagerrak and Kattegat waters. Under the terms of reference, quota agreements are to be negotiated annually for fishing operations in the Skagerrak and Kattegat areas. After Denmark and Sweden became members of the EU, the European Commission negotiates with Norway on their behalf.

The agreement between Norway, Sweden and Denmark allows for fisheries to be conducted by the three states up to four nautical miles from the sea boundary in the area. Furthermore, the annual quota agreements encompass among other fish stocks quota regulations of cod, haddock, whiting, plaice, herring, sprat and shrimp.

The Skagerrak agreement was not in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Therefore Norway terminated the agreement in 2009, and has started the work to agree on a new modern regime to manage the fisheries in Skagerrak.

Swedish fishing in the Norwegian Economic Zone

Extension of Norway’s fisheries jurisdiction in 1977 also had an impact on Swedish fisheries. Fisheries that had traditionally been conducted by Sweden in certain areas of the North Sea became part of the Norwegian Economic Zone after 1977. Swedish fishermen had few opportunities for alternative operations along the Swedish coast. Due to this, Norway offered Sweden a so-called neighboring state agreement on fishing operations. This guaranteed Swedish fishermen the right to continue fishing in the Norwegian zone in the North Sea.  Since Sweden is now a member of the EU, the EU Commission negotiates annually with Norway on these quotas. Norwegian and Swedish authorities have stipulated that the quotas granted to Sweden is comprised of fixed shares of the overall quotas set in the North Sea - although with certain adjustments. Swedish fishermen are granted quotas for cod, haddock, whiting, pollock, saithe, herring, mackerel, shrimp and industrial species.

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