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Shortage of fresh fish

NORWAY - Despite increased demands for fresh fish, increasingly more frozen unprocessed fish is being exported. To increase the landings of fresh fish, one possibility is to redistribute quotas.

The fishing industry is not getting enough fresh fish.

From 2004 to 2005, exports of frozen unprocessed cod from Norwegian deep-sea fishing vessels doubled.

However, the demand for fresh fish products is increasing and is reflected in increasingly higher prices. Today, the manufacturers of fresh fish products are short on raw materials.

"For the Norwegian fillet industry, there is probably no future without fresh raw materials", says Scientist Bjørg Helen Nøstvold.

Redistribution of quotas

In a report from Fiskeriforskning, the possibilities for increasing deliveries of fresh fish by redistribution of quotas are being assessed.

One solution may be to reduce the quotas of vessels that deliver the fish frozen, while vessels that deliver fresh fish would be rewarded with larger quotas.

The scheme that is discussed in the report will also stimulate for increased deliveries of fish in the autumn, when the industry gets few fresh raw materials.

Today, large seasonal fluctuations make stable year-round deliveries to the markets difficult.

Quality is crucial

"However, a redistribution should be studied more closely to avoid negative consequences", says Nøstvold.

"The change must not, for example, result in that the fish that is delivered is fresh, but still several days old, such that the quality and value of the raw materials are reduced."

"And when the goal is top-quality fresh fish, one must also look at other conditions that can raise the quality, including the use of gentle fishing gear and proper handling of the fish on board the vessel."

Vulnerable strategy

On-board freezing is profitable for the deep-sea fishing fleet, which also delivers large quantities of frozen raw materials to the Norwegian clipfish industry - one of the most profitable sectors in the Norwegian fishing industry.

But this part of the Norwegian fishing industry is also vulnerable to competition when the raw materials are frozen and can thus be sent to other countries. Portugal has long imported frozen fish for production of clipfish.

"When the fish is frozen, the products for which it can be used are limited. But if it's fresh and of high quality, all kinds of fish products can be made", says Nøstvold.

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