The Norwegian government is transferring cod quota from the inshore fleet to the large trawlers and longliners, in an effort to harvest its portion of the one million-metric-ton cod quota in the Barents Sea, shared with Russia.
In Norway, the coastal fleet gets 58% of its portion of the total cod quota -- 446,740 metric tons -- and has been struggling to catch its portion of the allocation, leading to trawler owners calling for a speedy reallocation.
On Monday, the Norwegian directorate for fisheries announced a transfer of 170t of cod quota for each of the 89 trawler licenses, giving a total of 15,130t.
There are 31 permits for the large longliners, which are getting 46t each, giving a further 1,426t, taking the total to 16,556t.
The reallocation of quotas happens regularly, but not usually in such volumes.
“I can’t recall another time when it has been so big,” one veteran trawler owner told Undercurrent News.
The weather and location of the cod has made it tough for the coastal fleet to catch its allocation, another source with a trawler owner told Undercurrent. “The cod has been too far out to sea for the coastal vessels to catch.”
Fiskebat -- the Norwegian fishing vessel owners’ association -- welcomed the news, stating it is “strongly committed to achieving such a redistribution and to make the decision as early as possible with a view to getting fishing finished for Christmas”.
Not all longliners and trawlers are in position to fish the reallocated quota, but Fiskebat estimates that 10,000t-15,000t of the reallocated quota will be fished, Oddbjorn Skarbovik, of Fiskebat, told Undercurrent.
“The industry is annoyed, as we have known for the past few weeks that the coastal fleet will not be able to take all of the quota,” said the first trawler source.
Norway’s new government, he said, was afraid of being accused of overfishing the quota. There are also the political problems of reallocating from the coastal vessels to the larger trawler owners.
Havfisk, Norway’s largest cod quota holder, welcomed the news.
"The increase in quota for cod is very positive and gives the fleet a very good operating basis for the remaining of the year,” said Olav Holst-Dyrnes, its CEO.
Havfisk has 29.61 licences for cod and the re-allocation implies an increase in the total cod quota of 5,033t of cod, round weight.
This will be put into a mix of frozen headed and gutted (H&G) production and fresh, he told Undercurrent.
As to whether Norway can catch the full quota, Holst-Dyrnes said: “I am not sure if I’d like to make a prediction on that one.”
The first source claimed there are members of the coastal fleet sector that would rather see the cod quota go uncaught, than see it transferred to the trawler owners.
“Of course the coastal fleet would like to catch the quota themselves, but I think all of the sensible fishermen just want to see the quota harvested,” the second source told Undercurrent, downplaying this.
The coastal fleet would like to have higher quotas in March/April, when it is easier for them to catch more fish, he said.
For the government, who catches what and when is a “balancing act”, they don’t want the quota to be overfished, he said.
The move is causing some grumblings in Norway, where vessels will have to be out over Christmas, not usually the case, said the first source.