Scientists at Nofima, which is one of the partners in CRISP, have mapped the development in the Norwegian cod trawler fleet over recent decades. CRISP is a centre for research-based innovation established to develop smarter technologies to meet future challenges for a sustainable and economically viable fishing industry.
The survey points to major variations among cod trawlers regarding catch rate, capacity utilization, fuel consumption and catch value. For instance, the fuel costs vary by almost NOK 2 per kilo caught.
The added value is directly linked to the quality of the end product of the trawlers, says Nofima Scientist Thomas Andre Larsen. The autoline fleet, which in the main sells fish frozen at sea, achieved more than NOK 2 more per kilo cod more than the freeze trawlers in 2010. If CRISP can contribute with new technology that improves the quality of the catch, so that the price difference between autoline-caught and trawler-caught cod, saithe and haddock frozen at sea is halved, the catch value for the trawlers could increase by more than NOK 200 million annually.
The combined fuel cost was estimated at around NOK 400 million in 2010. A 10 percent reduction as a result of new technology and changes in the operating pattern could lead to annual savings of around NOK 40 million.
The cod trawler fleet represents an important part of the Norwegian seafood industry, with a total catch in 2010 of 255,000 tonnes and a landed value of NOK 2.6 billion.
Two out of Three Trawlers Gone
The survey shows that the structure of the trawler fleet has changed significantly. Over the last decade, two of three cod trawlers have been withdrawn from the fishery and the rights have been moved over to the remaining vessels.
In 2010 there were only 41 active Norwegian cod trawlers. Seven of the 41 vessels supplied fresh fish and were classified as fresh fish trawlers. Seven vessels supplied more than 50 percent fillet and were classified as factory trawlers with fillet production.
The largest group comprised of 27 vessels that supplied round frozen fish. Four of these supplied some fresh and are therefore classified as combi trawlers, but the largest portion of the catch was supplied frozen.
The factory trawlers mostly have their home port in the county of Mre og Romsdal, while the county of Nordland has the majority of fresh trawlers. The freeze trawlers have a more even distribution between the four counties of Mre og Romsdal, Nordland, Troms and Finnmark.
The aim of the structural change over the last 20 years has been to reduce the number of trawlers and increase the utilization of the remaining vessels, says Larsen.
The restructuring wave is now levelling out. This is connected to the limit of three cod quotas per vessel. Together with this favourable quota development, the restructuring has contributed to the remaining trawlers annually landing more than three times as much fish as they did 10 years ago.
The survey showed that in 2010 the 41 cod trawlers were owned by a total of 15 different ownership groupings. The largest of these controlled around one-third of the rights, while the second largest controlled around 15 per cent.
This means that two ownership groups controlled around half the rights in 2010. In comparison, in 2004 the two largest owners controlled 34 percent of the rights.
Increased Profitability and New Boats
The oldest trawlers were built in the early 1970s and no new ones have been built since 2003. Several vessels are ready for replacement.
The positive quota development, structuring and turn towards the freezing of round fish at sea has contributed to the increased profitability. During the initial phase, the money has been used to purchase fishing rights.
But now many are approaching the maximum number of quotas per vessel and the investment is now to a larger extent being directed towards renewal of the fleet, says Larsen. This is reflected in several new trawlers entering the fishery this year and next year. They are to a larger extent equipped for production of round frozen fish. Several of todays factory ships are being replaced by vessels without plants for production of fillet and none of the new vessels are exclusively fresh fish trawlers.
Provisional findings at CRISP indicate that it is possible to keep trawled fish alive on board and that the quality may be improved significantly by adopting new and improved production lines.
However, there is little to indicate that new technology will be implemented to improve this in the trawlers that are already planned.
The objective is that the new technology developed at CRISP will gain entry in the next round of new vessels.