The decision by the Norwegian Ministry for trade, industry and fisheries set set a mackerel quota at 298,299 tonnes for 2021, acting unilaterally in the absence of a coastal state agreements, has been welcomed by the Norwegian industry, and slammed by European fishing organisations as a quota grab.
At the heart of the debacle is the UK becoming an independent coastal state in its own right on leaving the European Union, leading to a failure in reaching a new coastal states agreement as the previous agreement between Norway, the Faroe Islands and the EU expired at the end of 2020.
“I regret that it was not possible to continue the coastal state agreement on sharing and management of mackerel after the UK became an independent coastal state,’ said Minister for Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen.
Norway has now taken a unilateral step in setting its own quota for 2021 at 298,299 tonnes, on the rationale that this equates to 35% of the TAC, based on estimates of the attachment of mackerel to Norwegian waters. Norway’s 2020 mackerel quota was 191,843 tonnes.
“Norway’s unilateral increase by 55% of its share in the Northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery is a new low in our fisheries relations and totally undermines the effective management of our shared and widely distributed pelagic stocks,” said Gerard van Balsfoort, speaking on behalf of the EU pelagic sector.
The decision by Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen has – unsurprisingly – been welcomed and supported by Norwegian industry federation Fiskebåt.
“A 35% mackerel quota corresponds to the mackerel’s attachment to the Norwegian zone,” said Fiskebåt director Audun Maråk.
“The Minister’s decision is in line with the recommendation from Fiskebåt and Fiskarlaget and the mackerel attachment to Norwegian waters. Nobody can blame Norway for fixing a share of 35%.”
“From the Norwegian side, we will continue to work for an agreement that encompasses all coastal states,” Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen said.
“The negotiations on the management of mackerel stock from 2022 and onwards are planned to resume during the autumn.”
Also unsurprisingly, the pelagic sector in the EU has reacted strongly to the Norwegian move, criticising the decision to unilaterally increase Norway’s share in the mackerel fishery by 55% from its 191,843 tonne quota in 2020 under the now expired coastal states agreement.
“It is extremely disappointing that Norway, which markets itself and its seafood products worldwide as the nation with the most prudent and responsible fisheries management system, now has chosen to act in such an irresponsible manner,” Gerard van Balsfoort said.
“It seems that Norway has left the path of constructive collaboration with other coastal states. The first signal of this was given already around Christmas last year when Norway unilaterally decided to unlawfully grab part of the Svalbard cod quota allocated to the EU for its own benefit.”