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Fisheries collaboration with Russia

18.10.2011 // Norway and Russia share the stocks of cod, haddock and capelin in the Barents Sea. Close cooperation between the two countries ensures a rational joint management of these fishery resources. Bilateral cooperation in the fisheries sector was first institutionalized in the 1950s in the field of marine research, formalizing collaboration in marine research that already had a 50-year history.

In late 1970s, management cooperation was institutionalized through the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission. This long-standing bilateral cooperation has given substantial benefits to the marine ecosystem in the Barents Sea. The major fish stocks in the Barents Sea are now evaluated by the ICES as being managed and harvested in a sustainable manner. This, in turn, gives higher quotas for fishermen from Russia, Norway and third countries.

It is a key challenge for Norway and Russia to create the basis for an optimally effective management regime for our shared stocks. This will first and foremost be dependent on achieving a rational harvesting of the cod stock. The annual quota agreements are also a means of establishing important regulatory measures to ensure sustainable and rational management of resources, such as criteria for closure of areas due to excessive intermixture of juvenile fish, or utilization of sorting grids in trawl fisheries.

Broad-based agreements

In subsequent years, particularly from the late 1980s through the 1990s, cooperation has been successfully extended to include a number of different areas. The fisheries cooperation is founded on a series of broad-based agreements, and has been formalized through the Agreement of 11 April 1975 on fisheries cooperation and the Agreement of 15 October 1976 on mutual fisheries cooperation. Both agreements are reciprocal, balanced agreements concerning the regulation of shared fish stocks and the exchange of quotas on national stocks.

The results of marine research form the basis of the administrative decisions  annually made by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, and are thus of crucial importance for the management of shared fish stocks in the Barents Sea.

Under the Agreement of 11 April 1975, the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission was established. The annual meeting of the Commission fixes the total allowable catches and their sharing between Norway, Russia and third countries. The Commission also stipulates reciprocal access to fisheries in national zones and quota exchanges for joint as well as national stocks. The total allowable catch established by the Commission is based on recommendations on catch levels given by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), where both Norwegian and Russian scientists participate.

New management rules and the measurements against illegal fishing have given solid results

The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission set fish quotas according to a management rule for the Northeast Arctic cod. This management plan attends to the issue of stocks of cod, aiming at keeping fish mortality at a stable level, which also contributes to stability and predictability for the industry. The quotas for all joint stocks, Northeast Arctic cod, haddock and capelin are determined on the basis of agreed upon, sustainable management strategies.

In later years, the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing of cod and haddock in the Barents Sea has been the subject of thorough discussion, and special working groups are established to work exclusively on the issue of control throughout the year. Both parties are concerned about the situation, and agreement has been reached regarding further measures designed to bring a stop to illegal operations. Russia and Norway have also worked jointly in regional and global institutions to establish robust port state measure regimes to reduce overfishing. In addition, the industry and NGOs have stepped up their demands for measures to put an end to IUU fishing, and public and industry awareness of the IUU problem has been raised as a result.

The results of the regional Russian and Norwegian work have been very encouraging, producing a reduction of IUU fishing of cod in the Barents Sea by 84% from 2005 till 2008. At present, this trend of reduced overfishing seems to be strengthened even more, partly as a result of the introduction of port-state control by NEAFC.

The combined results of management plans and effective measures against IUU fishing have produced a substantial reduction of fish mortality. Therefore, the marine researchers of the ICES have concluded that the shared stocks in the Barents Sea are now managed and harvested in a sustainable way. This represents a remarkable example of how concerted action against IUU fishing can indeed be successful. Russia and Norway will be vigilant and act in a pro-active way against any signs of IUU fishing of the cod stocks in the future. Consumers can therefore be reassured that fish from the Barents Sea originates from sustainable fisheries.

Quotas for 2012

The total quota for north-east Arctic cod in 2012 is set at 751,000 tonnes. This is an increase of 48,000 tonnes on 2011. The total quota for cod is distributed between Norway, Russia and third-party countries according to the same pattern as previous years. Norway's quota for next year will be 339,857 tonnes, including coastal cod and research catches. This is an increase of 20,000 tonnes.

The stock of haddock is thriving, and the total quota for 2012 of 318,000 tonnes represents an increase of 15,000 tonnes on 2011. The Norwegian quota will be 153,253 tonnes, including the research quota, an increase of 4,503 tonnes.

The capelin quota for 2012 has been set at 320,000 tonnes, which is a reduction of 16% on 2011. The Barents Sea capelin is managed according to a harvest control rule that ensures a spawning stock of at least 200,000 tonnes.

The quotas are based on advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

In addition to the Norwegian quota of 191,000 tonnes, including research catches, the parties agreed a quota swap that involves Norway receiving a further 30,000 tonnes of capelin, while Russia receives 10,000 tonnes of Norwegian spring spawning (NVG) herring. This results in a total Norwegian capelin quota for 2012 of 221,000 tonnes.

The total quota for Greenland halibut in 2012 is increased by 3,000 tonnes to 18,000 tonnes.


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