Responsible Fisheries Management
Strict control systems, advanced environmental measures and good knowledge of fish stocks are all important parts of responsible fishing.
In Norway, those responsibilities fall to The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, while the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research is a leading global institution for all information about the country’s fish and fishing.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea [ICES] conducts extensive research to secure wild fish stocks. Fish stocks are calculated based on fish species, age, number and weight. Then based on ICES estimates, the Norwegian authorities determine species-specific management plans to protect the most sensitive stocks. Conducting fisheries within “safe biological limits” is a very important aspect of maintaining viable fishing levels and securing fish stocks for the future.
Fish populations can vary from year to year; therefore, it’s important to establish long-term responsible management plans for important species like cod. Fishing quotas ensure that fisheries operate at sustainable levels to allow stocks to grow and replenish their populations.
In addition to stock depletion due to fishing, environmental factors—like predatory fish, limited food resources and disease—and variations in natural fish reproduction also affect the size and quality of fish stocks.
Norwegian marine research vessels use sonar and catch research to estimate the size of fish stocks. Sonar helps scientists detect the size and location of fish swimming under the water, while trawling gives researchers the hands-on opportunity to study fish so that they can establish species, age, gender, etc. These estimates are then used to determine the total fishing quota (TAC: Total Allowable Catch) allowed for various fish species.
To calculate safe fishing quotas, scientists first determine a stock’s spawning threshold and how much fishing it can sustain before fishing becomes a threat to its survival. When that does happen, a stock is considered "outside safe biological limits.”
Fishing "outside safe limits" can be corrected if actions are quickly taken to restore the stocks. As often when dealing with complex relationships, there are different opinions, especially about the rate at which the stocks must be built up to ensure a sustainable fishery. However, there is no disagreement that stocks must be safeguarded to ensure a profitable future.