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– Many coastal fish stocks in Southern Norway are poorly managed

​Coastal sprat is near threatened, the status of coastal cod is weak and there is insufficient knowledge regarding the consequences of the sharp rise in wrasse fishing. "It is essential that the management of coastal fish stocks is strengthened," says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 5/2/2017 12:00 PM

​Document 3:9 (2016–2017) The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of fisheries management in the North Sea and Skagerrak was submitted to the Storting on 2 May.

"We consider it reprehensible that Norwegian fishery authorities have not monitored the sharp rise in wrasse fishing sufficiently closely as a result of the species being used for removing lice from farmed fish," says Foss. There is limited knowledge about how this fishing impacts on the ecosystems concerned. The decline in stocks of coastal cod and coastal sprat has not been adequately followed up with measures. Coastal sprat is near threatened and the status of coastal cod is poor. The Ministry of Trade, industry and Fisheries must ensure better monitoring and knowledge with the aim of restoring stocks," he stresses.

Many of the fish stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak were in a poor state in the 1970s and 1980s. More stringent regulations and controls have contributed to restoration.

"Cooperation between the authorities and the EU concerning appropriate controls and active regulation is essential to ensure sustainable management. Cooperation should be better," says Foss.

A sustainable status has been achieved for certain fish stocks where Norway and the EU cooperate. For other fish stocks, there is no agreement concerning management, and the EU and Norway establish fish quotas and regulations unilaterally in such cases. Management plans for many shared stocks are either lacking or in need of updating. This could lead to an overall management that is inconsistent with scientific recommendations and which is neither long-term nor predictable.

Norway and the EU have no practical cooperation regarding fishing controls and exchange few statistics concerning catches, quotas and controls. The scope of discards relating to unintentional catches is unknown, and fishing may therefore exceed scientific recommendations.

Furthermore, the Office of the Auditor General notes that the ministry and the Directorate of Fisheries do not make sufficient use of the available control resources.

"The ministry's poor follow-up of controls carried out by the fish sales associations is reprehensible. The sales organisations have a challenging dual role to play as both representatives of fishermen and enforcers of authority regarding fishery controls. Clarification of the ministry's expectations should be improved, and there needs to be better cooperation between the sales associations and the Directorate of fisheries regarding on-the-spot checks," says Foss.

The investigation indicates that the Directorate of Fisheries' controls contribute little to identifying infringements in all high-risk areas. The controls are largely carried out during the daytime on weekdays, and in municipalities close to the Directorate's regional offices.

"The controls are too predictable, and this may make it easier for parties in the industry to adapt to control patterns," highlights Foss.

Work has been under way to simplify the fishery regulations since 2013, but this has so far produced few results. The regulations are extensive and challenging to enforce, with many detailed provisions, a number of regulations all applying to the same issue and different provisions for the same species in the North Sea and Skagerrak. Norwegian fishery regulations are only published in Norwegian, and as a result of this, there is a risk of foreign fishermen failing to comply with them. The Directorate of Fisheries is not authorised to destroy unlabelled equipment that it seizes such as lobster pots, and so it must report such cases and invest substantial resources in cases that are later dropped.

"Further work must be done to simplify and improve the regulations in order to make the controls more effective," says Foss.

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