Norway’s approach to fisheries and aquaculture management is placed under the spotlight in this article, with a focus on the thoughts of Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries Director General, Vidar Landmark concerning this area of policy
By way of an introduction, we know that The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries in Norway takes responsibility for designating industrial and seafood policy with an eye towards the future. (1)
Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries Director General, Vidar Landmark gave a presentation entitled Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, where he explains he heads up the Norwegian aspect of fisheries and aquaculture management policy. He underlines that while this is indeed a huge task, many resources are being put into this work in Norway. He says that the country has been living by and from the sea as long as people have been living in the region.
The importance of long-term environmental sustainability
In his speech, Vidar stresses that Norway is quite dependent on their fisheries and as such, they have been very important for the livelihood of the country’s coastal communities for many centuries and today, they play a very important role in the economy. Norwegian fisheries as an industry is a mature one, he explains, which is a very important economic sector in Norway. He goes on to expand this vital policy of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries in Norway in his own words, including his thoughts on the importance of long-term environmental sustainability.
“Our fishing fleet, both the ocean-going and the coastal fleet are well adapted to our resource base. The reason why I say this is because this is a situation that gives us the possibility of implementing the regulations necessary for secure long-term sustainability when it comes to the harvested stocks and the unavoidable environmental footprint that is left by the harvesting activity.
“This is possible just because of the economic strength of our industry, giving us the authorities the luxury of being able to implement the regulations that actually have a negative impact on the economic outcome for the industry in the short-term, but which are necessary to secure the long-term environmental sustainability.
“We have a very strong belief that long-term environmental sustainability is the best foundation for long-term economic and social sustainability. If we take care of the oceans, the oceans will take care of us.”
If you look at a map of Norway, there is, of course, a massive amount of ocean to take care of, Vidar explains to the audience. As the intriguing lecture continues, he underlines the importance of integrated ecosystem-based management plans for the ocean areas of the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the Lofoten Area. He adds that all relevant Norwegian authorities have cooperated on the development of these plans and that the purpose here is to provide a framework for the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems services derived from ocean areas. At the same time, maintaining the structure, functioning, productivity and diversity of marine ecosystems is important. Vidar then details more about the integrated ecosystem-based management plans in his own words.
“The integrated ecosystem-based management plans provide a cross-sectoral framework for the management of activities, to ensure that the total environmental pressure does not threaten the marine environment. These management plans are built on a very comprehensive set of knowledge, but they also reveal that there are considerable needs for further knowledge.
“The knowledge base will, therefore, be strengthened through mapping, research and monitoring. Since 2006, we have spent a lot more money than I would care to think about on The Norwegian MAREANO Seafloor Mapping Programme. I will just mention that MAREANO maps depth and topography, sediment composition, contaminants, biological communities, habitats and waters. Hence the MAREANO Programme is important to discover and document our marine ecosystems.”
Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems
The lecture then turns to focus on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME) and Vidar references, in particular, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), who have the mandate to adopt fisheries management measures in its regulations in accordance with the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach. In 2004, we find out that NEAFC ordered the closure of several areas in response to international calls for precautionary action to regulate deep-sea resources and their habitats, including VME’s such as corals and sea sponges.
Vidar says that NEAFC has adopted additional measures on bottom fishing areas activities in the regulatory space and that their general approach to VME’s includes the rule that regulatory bottom fisheries can only take place in areas that are defined as existing bottom fishing areas on the basis of actual fishing taking place there in a specific reference period. This concept of existing bottom fishing areas is an important concept, he stresses. Outside of these existing bottom fishing areas, only exploratory bottom fisheries can be authorised and these are subject to strict restrictions, a point that Vidar details further.
“An extensive review of NEAFC’s regulation of bottom fisheries was carried out in 2012, although it was concluded that the regulation was in general, consistent with the resolutions from FAO at the General Assembly of the United Nations where improvements were made. 2 This resulted in the new recommendation on the protection of VME’s, adopted in 2014. This recommendation includes all the general rules regarding the protection of VME’s, as well as the details of what areas are considered as existing bottom fishing areas and what are the areas closed to bottom fishing. It also includes a nexus on VME data collection protocol, the assessment of exploratory bottom fishing activities and on VME indicator species.”
These regulations are quite detailed but Vidar notes that many emanate from the work of at NEAFC and are then transformed into national regulations. He then tells us that the NEAFC recommendation has been implemented and adopted by Norway, who always flies their flag when undertaking bottom fishing activities in the areas as subject to these regulations. Furthermore, Norway has adopted a bottom fishing activity in the Norwegian economic zones, including the one in Svalbard, Vidar adds.
Act on the Management of Living Marine Resources
It’s important that the footprint within the harvesting is kept to acceptable limits, so we then find out that the Act on the Management of Living Marine Resources is built on modern principles which are incorporated into law, Vidar tells the audience.
“The law requires that we build a knowledge-based management and the fundamental principle is sustainable use, based on the best available scientific advice. Then you can ask what kind of sustainability are we aiming at? We are working to make sure that we can have continuous harvesting of viable stocks, in a such a way that we can meet the needs of the present without thereby compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“Our Act also states that all harvesting and other utilisation of wild living marine resources shall be carried out in such a way as to minimise impact. The law doesn’t only regulate the harvesting of fish, but it also regulates the environmental side of fishing.”
In short, we find out that the Act gives the necessary legal basis to take environmental consideration, as well as giving the legal tools to implement regulations based on environmental considerations. He also says that Norway’s Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture can prohibit harvesting in certain areas, as well as certain types of gear or they can regulate devices used in connection with harvesting. The design of gear is an important part of making an environmentally friendly future for fisheries, we discover.
“In 1999, we implemented our first regulation explicitly aimed at protecting cold water coral reefs in Norwegian waters which we had just started mapping. A number of these are now…marine protected areas, according not to the general legislation on the protection of nature but according to our own Act on the Management of Living Marine Resources.
“This is also an important part of the Norwegian management system, we have tried to apply a holistic approach – making sure that the use and protection of nature are two sides of the same matter – not competing interests. Shall we succeed in protecting nature? The protection must be an integrated part of the resource management, so those who manage and harvest from nature must respect the value of nature in itself. This is the core of ecosystem-based management, to see the interactions of the different parts of the ecosystem.”
Vidar concludes that in the same way, the core of knowledge-based management systems is just that – knowledge. It’s vital that the necessary knowledge is had by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries in Norway so that they can make the right decisions, taking the principle of a precautionary approach. He adds that the stocks rank amongst the best managed in the world, which is the result of management and cooperation between Norway and Russia based on more than 100 years of scientific work and cooperation.
“Based on the revision of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of the European Union (EU) we hope that we can achieve similar results in the North Sea. It all depends on the willingness to act according to scientific advice – that has been and will be the core element of our approach to fisheries management and sustainable fisheries.” (3)
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