Taking Tips From Iceland

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
9 September 2010, at 1:00am

NORWAY - Fishing quotas worth millions of Norwegian kroner must be transferred annually from the coastal fleet to the deep-sea fishing fleet as the coastal fleet is not catching its quotas. A solution may be copying the fishermen in Iceland.

The priority today for the coastal fleet is cod. Cod is easy to catch when it migrates along the coast to spawn and the price is better than for other fish species. The fishermen catch their quotas in the space of two hectic winter months.

But the rapid cod fishery reduces the coastal fishermen’s interest in other types of fish, such as saithe and haddock, which fetch lower prices. Each year the coastal fishermen are allocated large quotas for saithe and haddock that they never catch. At the end of each year, these quotas must be redistributed. This means they are transferred to other vessels wishing to fish them, in this instance the deep-water trawler fleet.

“It appears that many coastal fishermen are choosing recreation instead of fishing when their income reaches a certain level,” says Nofima Scientist Edgar Henriksen. ”The coastal fleet catches three quarters of the fish in the space of a few hectic winter months, then it’s a sudden stop. This is fine for the fishermen, but creates challenges for the fishing industry as it does not receive regular supplies year-round.”

From north to south

In recent years the coastal fleet has received increased quotas for both haddock and saithe. But this has only to a slight degree resulted in them catching more fish. Instead, large parts of the increased haddock quota are transferred to the deep-sea fleet each autumn. As a result, the haddock is being frozen and often processed abroad, which means Norway is missing out on large sums of money.

”The majority of coastal fishing boats are located in Northern Norway while many larger vessels are based in the south. Consequently, there is a large redistribution of fish from north to south,” says Mr Henriksen, adding: “But no one is taking anything from Northern Norway. It is Northern Norway which is giving away the fish.”


One solution to get the coastal fishermen to catch more haddock and saithe may be to look at Iceland where many have invested in autoline vessels. The autoline system baits the hooks automatically on board instead of manually on land. This results in high speed, smaller fishing boats and long lines with many hooks.

”Autoline is the quota winner in Iceland,” says Mr Henriksen. ”The disadvantage is that the equipment is more expensive than that used in traditional fishing. Autoline vessels also require larger crews as at least three people need to work on board. This requires the boats to be in operation year-round, but the Norwegian regulations do not completely accommodate this form of operation.”

”Saga K”

”Saga K”, which has its home port in Tromsø, is a coastal fishing boat that is nearly 11 m long. It was built in Iceland and is fitted with a 13,000-hook autoline system. In recent years, Nofima has followed the vessel through a research project about the use of autoline vessels in Norwegian waters.

”Last year the boat caught 489 tonnes of fish alone, which is several times more than the traditional fishing boats manage to catch,” says Mr Henriksen. “More than half the catch was haddock and more than half the catch was caught in the second half of the year. This research demonstrates that such vessels contribute to the coastal fleet catching more haddock and to the fishing industry receiving regular supplies of raw materials all year round.”

However, cod can be a problem for such boats.

“For large parts of the year the fishing grounds are ’blocked’ by species where that fishery is closed. It is also impossible to avoid catching too much cod in the winter and spring even if you fish for other species,” says Mr Henriksen. “The bycatch quota scheme permits you to catch some cod when you are fishing for other species, but what happens when you have caught your bycatch quota?”

New thinking

In order to prepare for new forms of operation such as autoline, Henriksen proposes changes to the fisheries regulations.

“A new approach is required if the coastal fleet is going to catch its quotas,” he says. “One possible solution is to reward those who catch a lot of haddock and saithe with larger cod quotas. Quota purchases and larger bycatch quotas can help too. Starting the quota year in September instead of at the start of the calendar year can also give larger catches of haddock and saithe.”