For the most important fish stocks quota levels are set in cooperation with other countries. This means that the most critical conservation decisions – the amount of fish that can be removed from a given stock – is a premise for the domestic decision-making process.
In terms of the knowledge base for resource management, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) plays a critical role in assembling and analyzing information about the status of fish stocks and the provision of scientific advice on conservation measures. After ICES has given its quota recommendations, the quota negotiations between Norway and other states take place. During the negotiations, the parties agree upon the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each fish stock, for the coming year, and how the TAC should be distributed between the parties.
After the international negotiations are finalized, the domestic regulation process for quota allocation begins. The Directorate of Fisheries first makes a proposal regarding how the Norwegian part of the TAC should be shared between various vessel groups and among the vessels within each group. The directorate also propose quotas for given periods as well as when fishing should start and end. These proposals then go to the The Regulatory meeting which review the proposals and give their recommendations to the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs.
The Regulatory meeting is the main tool to secure involvement and participation of stakeholders. It involves altogether twelve participants from i.e. fishermen’s associations, the fishing industries, trade unions, Sami Parliament and the Directorate of Fisheries.
As a final step in this process, the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs decides how the quotas should be shared between the vessels and how the fishing should be carried out the following year. Parts of the fisheries are subject to regulations in some form or other, and the regulatory arrangements deal with conservation as well as allocation issues. The domestic fisheries management regime employs three sets of regulatory instruments, as well as a comprehensive enforcement scheme.
One set of regulations limits access to fisheries. All fisheries of importance require vessels to hold a license that allows it to participate in the fishery. Limitations on access to fisheries are critical to conservation as well as to the economy of the fleet.
A second set of regulatory instruments is the quota regulations that specify how much a fishing vessel may catch. The quota regulations provide the actual fishing opportunities for a fishing vessel. A fishing vessel may hold a number of licenses and quotas, which provides its fishing rights. National quota regulations are established each year for the following species: cod, haddock, saithe, herring, mackerel, sprat, lumpfish, Greenland halibut, plaice, red-fish, blue whiting, shrimp, capelin, monkfish, sole, Norway pout, sand eel, red king crab, deep dea species .
The third set of regulatory instruments consists of technical regulations that restricts when, where and how fishing may occur. Such regulations are critical to conservation, and include prohibitions on discards of fish as well as flexible protected areas that can be closed for fisheries when undersize fish, or species for which quotas are exhausted, prevails in catches.